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.
Deposits and Fees.
Under the RLTA, a landlord may collect deposits, fees, and other amounts before, or at the outset of, a tenancy such as:
A landlord may collect a damage or security deposit to cover any damage caused to the property by the tenant in excess of normal wear and tear resulting from ordinary use. The RLTA requires that the deposit be placed in a trust account.
To collect such a deposit, the rental agreement must be in writing, and the landlord must provide the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy a written checklist or statement specifically describing the condition and cleanliness of, or existing damages to, the premises and furnishings, including walls, floors, countertops, carpets, drapes, furniture, and appliances.
Within 21 days after the termination of the rental agreement and vacation of the premises, or after abandonment by the tenant, the landlord must give a full and specific statement of the basis for retaining any of the deposit and pay any refund owed to the tenant. No portion of any deposit may be withheld on account of wear resulting from ordinary use of the premises.
Upon written request from a tenant, and if the total amount of the deposits and nonrefundable fees exceed 25 percent of the first full month's rent and payment of the last month's rent, a landlord must permit the tenant to pay any deposits, nonrefundable fees, and last month's rent in installments, as follows:
A landlord may offer the tenant the option of paying a fee in lieu of a full security deposit. The landlord may not use the fact a prospective tenant opts to pay the fee in lieu of a security deposit as a criterion in determining whether to rent to that tenant. Any landlord who offers the fee in lieu of the security deposit must offer the choice of the fee to every prospective tenant whose application for occupancy has been approved, without regard to certain protected class statuses as well as income, household size, and credit score. Any tenant that agrees to pay a fee in lieu of a security deposit may opt out of the continuing fee and instead pay a security deposit that is otherwise in effect for the tenant's unit at the time the tenant chooses to opt out of the fee. The landlord must provide the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy a written checklist or statement specifically describing the condition and cleanliness of, or existing damages to, the premises and furnishings, as required when the tenant provides the security deposit to the landlord.
When a landlord offers the tenant the choice of paying a fee in lieu of the security deposit, the landlord must disclose to the tenant in writing:
Every disclosure form to the tenant must be substantially in the same form, as provided in the bill. The landlord must provide the disclosure form with any lease and renewal. The Office of the Attorney General must make this form available in the 12 most commonly spoken languages in Washington.
Any fee in lieu of a security deposit:
In the event the landlord fails to purchase or maintain the insurance, and if the tenant pays the monthly fee as agreed, the landlord must credit the total insurance coverage stated in the disclosure to any indebtedness owed by the tenant when the tenant vacates the unit. The landlord may not discontinue or alter the terms of insurance during the term of the rental agreement. However, if the landlord decides to discontinue providing the option of paying a fee in lieu of a security deposit, the landlord must:
If an insurer compensates a landlord for a valid claim associated with the landlord's losses pursuant to the lease:
If the insurer or any other collector seeks reimbursement from the tenant pursuant to any subrogation rights available to the insurer, with any request for reimbursement, the party must provide the tenant by first-class mail and electronic mail at the last known address as provided by the landlord:
If the tenant fails to pay a request by an insurer or collector for reimbursement, the party seeking reimbursement may not commence collection activities against the tenant less than 60 days after sending a request for reimbursement and providing documentation. However, if the tenant has disputed the claim, the party seeking reimbursement must defer any collection activities for an additional 60 days to resolve the dispute.
The landlord may not send an invoice to a tenant or undertake collection activity against the tenant for any amounts after submitting a claim to the insurer if:
The landlord may invoice the tenant and undertake collection activity against a tenant for the landlord's losses if the insurer denies the claim because the loss is not covered pursuant to the insurance agreement, including if the value of the loss exceeded the insurance coverage loss limit.
Any action or other collection activity against a tenant to recover for unpaid rent, fees, or damages must begin within one year of the termination of the rental agreement or the tenant's abandonment of the premises and must comply with certain deposit requirements for the documentation of damage, standards for normal wear and tear, or other standards of proof required to make a claim against a deposit.
Prior to undertaking collection activity for damages arising out of the tenancy after the tenant vacates, the landlord must:
Where the tenant has opted into paying a fee in lieu of a security deposit, the landlord must not undertake collection activities against the tenant unless 60 days have passed after the landlord has submitted a claim to the insurer. Nothing prohibits the landlord from sending an invoice to the tenant before submitting a claim to the insurer.
A landlord found in violation of this Act will be held liable to the tenant in a civil action up to two times the monthly rent of the real property at issue, as well as court or arbitration costs and reasonable attorneys' fees.
"Collection activity" is defined as attempts by the landlord or other third party to collect any monetary obligation or damages from the tenant, including threats or notice to collect any such amounts through a collection agency, filing of a judicial action, and withholding any portion of a security deposit. It does not include the transmission of an invoice to the tenant by the landlord along with any supporting detail of unpaid rent, unpaid fees or the costs to repair damages beyond wear resulting from ordinary use of the premises.
"Wear resulting from ordinary use of the premises" is defined as deterioration that results from the intended use of a dwelling unit, including breakage or malfunction due to age or deteriorated condition. Such wear does not include deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises, fixtures, equipment, appliances, or furnishings by the tenant, immediate family member, occupant, or guest.
The statute requiring the tenant be current in rent and utilities before exercising any remedies under the RLTA is repealed.