Your lease or rental agreement should spell out your landlord’s key rent rules, including:
- the amount of rent (there are no limits to how much a landlord can charge in Washington since there are no communities with rent control in the state)
- where rent is due (such as by mail to the landlord’s business address)
- when rent is due (including what happens if the rent due date falls on a weekend date or holiday)
- how rent should be paid (usually check, money order, cash, and/or credit card)
- the amount of notice landlords must provide to increase rent
- the amount of any extra fee if your rent check bounces, and
- the consequences of paying rent late, including late fees and termination of the tenancy.
Washington state law does not cover most of these rent-related issues.
Washington Rules on Late Fees
Rent is legally due on the date specified in your lease or rental agreement (usually the first of the month). If you don’t pay rent when it is due, the landlord may begin charging you a late fee. Washington state law does not cover late rent fees. If your lease or rental agreement does not say anything about late fees, your landlord may not impose one, no matter how reasonable it is.
Washington Rule on Bounced Check Fee
Landlords in Washington may charge a bounced check fee of 12% interest plus the cost of collection (not to exceed $40 or the face amount of the check, whichever is less). The landlord must first send the tenant a notice of dishonor, and wait 15 days before imposing the fee.
Amount of Notice Washington Landlords Must Give Tenants to Increase Rent
Washington landlords must give tenants at least 30 days’ notice (in writing) to increase rent or change another term of a month-to-month rental agreement. If you have a long-term lease, however, landlords may not increase the rent until the lease ends and a new tenancy begins—unless the lease itself provides for an increase.
Rent Increases as Retaliation or Discrimination
Washington landlords may not raise the rent in a discriminatory manner—for example, only for members of a certain race. Also, Washington landlords may not use a rent increase in retaliation against you for exercising a legal right—for example, in response to your legitimate complaint to a local housing agency about a broken heater.
Washington State Laws on Termination for Nonpayment of Rent
States set specific rules and procedures for ending a tenancy when a tenant has not paid the rent. Washington landlords must give tenants at least three days in which to pay the rent or move. If the tenant does neither, the landlord can file for eviction.
Washington Guide to Tenant Rights
For an overview of tenant rights when it comes to paying rent under Washington landlord-tenant law, see http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/documents/1593216300EN.pdf?stateabbrev=/WA/.
Washington State Laws on Termination for Nonpayment of Rent and Other Rent-Related Issues
Here’s where to find Washington rent-related rules:
State rent rules and procedures on issues such as raising rent: Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 59.18.200 and 59.18.140.
Washington law on service fees for bounced checks: Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 62A.3-515.
Washington laws on termination for nonpayment of rent: Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 59.12.030(3).
See the Laws and Legal Research section of Nolo for advice on finding and reading statutes and court decisions.