Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.
The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) regulates the relationship between residential landlords and tenants, and includes provisions regarding the duties of tenants and landlords and remedies for violations of those duties. With some exceptions, the rental of a dwelling unit for living purposes is covered under the RLTA.
Duration and Termination of Tenancy.
A tenancy for a specified time, sometimes also called a lease, is deemed terminated at the end of the specified period. A tenant who terminates a lease prior to the end of the lease period is liable for rent until the end of the period, although the landlord is required to mitigate his or her damages by attempting to re-rent the unit at a fair rental price. Alternatively, premises may be rented for an indefinite time, from period to period, or month to month. Such a tenancy is automatically renewed for another period until terminated by either the landlord or the tenant by giving at least 20 days' written notice prior to the end of any of the months or periods of tenancy. Landlords planning a change of use or demolition or substantial renovation must provide 120 days' notice.
The RLTA specifies the remedies available to a tenant for a landlord's violation of his or her duties. Generally, the tenant must provide the landlord with written notice and a reasonable opportunity to fix or comply with the duty, the timeframe for which varies depending upon the type of problem. If a landlord includes prohibited provisions in a rental agreement, the tenant may recover statutory damages up to $500 with costs of suit and reasonable attorney fees.
If the tenant is in unlawful detainer status, a landlord may bring a court action to evict the tenant. A tenant is in unlawful detainer status when the tenant:
On March 18, 2020, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-19 to prohibit a number of activities related to evictions by all residential landlords operating residential rental property in the state. Since then, the Governor has issued multiple extensions of the eviction moratorium. The eviction moratorium prohibits residential landlords, manufactured housing community landlords, property managers, and property owners from:
Cause Required for Eviction, Refusal to Renew, and Ending a Tenancy.
If a rental agreement provides for the tenancy to continue on a monthly or periodic basis after the agreement expires, a landlord may end the tenancy at the end of the initial lease term without cause if the initial term is between six and 12 months and the landlord provides the tenant with at least 60 days' written notice. When a rental agreement is for a specified period and does not provide that the tenancy will continue on a monthly or periodic basis after the specified period expires, the landlord may end the tenancy without cause only if:
A tenant may end a tenancy for a specified time by providing written notice 20 days' prior to the end date of the specified period.
For all other tenancies of a specified period, and for tenancies on a monthly or periodic basis, a landlord may not end the tenancy except for one of certain enumerated reasons.
Notices must identify the facts and circumstances known and available to the landlord at the time the notice is issued that support the cause or causes with enough specificity to enable the tenant to respond. The landlord may present other evidence regarding the allegations within the notice where the evidence was unknown or unavailable at the time the notice was issued.
Where a tenant permanently vacates for reasons other than the ending of the tenancy by the landlord, and occupants co-resided with the tenant prior to and up to the tenant's vacation with the landlord's approval, the landlord must serve a notice to the remaining occupants at least six months before the tenant vacates, requiring the remaining occupants to either apply to become a party to the rental agreement or vacate within 30 days. If the occupant fails to apply within 30 days or the application is denied, the landlord may commence an unlawful detainer action. These new provisions regarding occupants are not applicable to subsidized housing tenancies.
A landlord who removes a tenant or causes a tenant to be removed from a dwelling in violation of the provisions specifying enumerated causes for eviction or refusal to renew or end a tenancy is liable to the tenant for wrongful eviction and the greater of: (1) the tenant's economic and noneconomic damages; or (2) three times the monthly rent, as well as reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. The existing statutory damages available for inclusion in the rental agreement of prohibited provisions are increased from $500 to two times the monthly rent, and the landlord must have "knowingly," instead of "deliberately," included such provisions.
The terms "immediate family," "subsidized housing," and "transitional housing" are defined in the RLTA.
May 10, 2021