Most residential leases and rental agreements in Washington require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month's rent, that's intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of Washington landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.
Does Washington law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?
No. In Washington, there's no statutory limit on security deposits at the state level, but check your city and county laws to see if your municipality has set a cap on security deposits for residential rentals.
To learn more about steps that tenants can take to protect their security deposit after they've paid it, check out Nolo's article Protect Your Security Deposit When You Move In.
What about when a tenant moves out? What is the deadline in Washington for returning a security deposit?
Under Washington law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 14 days after the tenant has moved out.
Learn more about tenants' rights and landlords' obligations when it comes to the return of the security deposit in Nolo's chart Cleaning and Repairs a Landlord Can Deduct from a Security Deposit and Nolo's article Get Your Security Deposit Back.
Is there additional information that Washington landlords must provide to tenants when it comes to security deposits in Washington?
Yes. Landlords in Washington must disclose in the lease the circumstances under which all or part of the deposit may be withheld and must provide a receipt with the name and location of the banking institution where the deposit is being held. No deposit may be collected unless the rental agreement is in writing and the landlord has provided the tenant a written checklist or statement describing the condition and cleanliness of or existing damage to the premises and furnishings at the start of the tenancy. If a landlord collects a nonrefundable fee, the rental document must clearly specify that it is nonrefundable.
Are there any exceptions to Washington security deposit rules?
Yes. Security deposit rules do not apply to a lease of a single-family dwelling of a year or more, or to a landlord's employees (such as a manager) whose right to coccupy is conditioned upon employment in or about the prmieses.
Where can I look up Washington law on security deposits?
If you want to go right to the source and look up Washington law on security deposits -- or if you're writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law -- the relevant statute(s) can be found at Washington Revised Code Annotated §§ 59.18.260 to 59.18.285. Your city or county might have different landlord-tenant and security deposit laws than those at the state level in Washington. For tips on looking up Washington state and local laws, check out Nolo's State Laws & Legal Research
You may also find useful information on tenant rights in the guide available at http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/documents/1593216300EN.pdf?stateabbrev=/WA/.