EHB 1694

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

As of February 26, 2020

Title: An act relating to allowing tenants to pay certain sums in installments.

Brief Description: Allowing tenants to pay certain sums in installments.

Sponsors: Representatives Morgan, Macri, Riccelli, Goodman, Jinkins, Cody, Stonier, Robinson, Appleton, Pollet, Gregerson and Frame.

Brief History: Passed House: 2/17/20, 54-44.

Committee Activity: Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade: 2/25/20.

Brief Summary of Bill

  • Authorizes tenants to pay certain deposits, fees, and last month's rent in up to three consecutive and equal installment payments for residential rental agreements three months or longer in duration.

  • Authorizes tenants to pay certain deposits, fees, and last month's rent in up to two consecutive and equal installment payments for residential rental agreements less than three months in duration.


Staff: Clint McCarthy (786-7319)

Background: Residential-Landlord Tenant Act. The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) regulates the creation of residential tenancies and the relationship between landlords and tenants of residential dwelling units. The RLTA establishes rights and duties of both tenants and landlords, procedures for the parties to enforce their rights, and remedies for violations of the RLTA.

Landlords often collect deposits and fees and other amounts prior to, or at the outset of, a tenancy:

  1. Tenant screening fee: The RLTA includes provisions governing the amount that may be charged and the information that must be provided to the tenant.

  2. Holding deposit or fee to hold the dwelling unit after the tenant has been offered the unit. If the tenant moves in, the landlord must credit the fee or deposit to the first month's rent or the security deposit.

  3. Damage or security deposit: The purpose of such a deposit is to cover any damage caused to the property by the tenant, in excess of normal wear and tear. Under the RLTA, deposits must be placed in a trust account. Any interest earned generally belongs to the landlord.

  4. Nonrefundable fee: This may include a cleaning fee; if that is the case, the landlord may not also charge the tenant for normal cleaning.

  5. First and last month's rent.

A tenancy may be for a specified time, such as one year. Alternatively, premises may be rented for an indefinite time, from period to period or month to month.

Summary of Bill: Upon the request of a tenant, a landlord is required to permit the tenant to pay any deposits, nonrefundable fees, and last month's rent in installments. If the total amount of deposits and nonrefundable fees do not exceed 25 percent of the first full month's rent and payment of the last month's rent, the landlord is not required to permit a tenant to pay deposits and non refundable fees in installments.

When premises are rented for period of time that is longer than three months, the tenant may elect to pay any deposits, nonrefundable fees, and last month's rent in three consecutive and equal monthly payments at the beginning of the tenancy. For tenancies that are less than three months, the tenant must pay all deposits, fees, and last month's rent in two consecutive and equal monthly installment fees.

A landlord cannot charge a fee to a tenant choosing to pay in installments. A fee or deposit to hold a dwelling unit is not to be considered a deposit or nonrefundable fee

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: None.

Creates Committee/Commission/Task Force that includes Legislative members: No.

Effective Date: Ninety days after adjournment of session in which bill is passed.

Staff Summary of Public Testimony: PRO: This is very important legislation. Rents have increased much faster than personal income. Increased rents have caused some of the homelessness in our region. Changing homes from one rental to another can cost as much as $5,000. There are rentals in the Puget Sound that require as much as $6,000 up front to secure the home. The city of Tacoma has passed ordinances that allow to pay some costs and fees in installments so that less money is required up front. This bill is a great start in continuing the work towards solving our state's homelessness crisis. This bill will help a lot of people get out of a state of homelessness, as well as get out of toxic living situations. Low-income people on fixed income have a difficult time getting enough money together to change their housing situation. Relationships and life situations change and sometime necessitate a change in housing situations, but a lot of people and families do not have the wherewithal to pay the high cost of moving and have to stay in place. The less money you have, the less likely you are to generate thousands of dollars to pay for a move. There is a loophole in this bill that does not limit the costs of holding fees. Four in ten adults would have a difficult time covering an unanticipated cost of $400—these costs can be in the thousands of dollars. People who can afford to pay rent cannot afford to pay the cost of moving in many cases. There needs to be an enforcement mechanism that creates consequences for landlords not allowing installment payments. One of the biggest barriers for individuals that are victims of domestic violence to get out of their situation is the cost of moving. Some supporters of the bill would like to see access to the Landlord Mitigation Fund be applicable to installment payments of rents and fees.

Persons Testifying: PRO: Representative Melanie Morgan, Prime Sponsor; Lisa Sawyer; Samantha Thompson, West Seattle Helpline; Dinah Braccio, Tenants Union; Sarah Nagy, Columbia Legal Services; Xochitl Maykovich, citizen; Michele Thomas, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance; Brett Waller, Washington MultiFamily Housing Association; Matthew Sutherland, Vice-President of Legislative Affairs, Graduate and Professional Student Association.

Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: No one.