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.
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.
Washington regulates how landlords may collect deposits. Landlords must allow tenants to pay the deposit and fees in installments (does not apply if the deposit and any nonrefundable fees are less than 25% of the monthly rent, or the landlord has not demanded the last month's rent). Tenants with tenancies of three months or more may pay in three equal and consecutive installments, beginning at the start of the tenancy; two installments for shorter tenancies. Installment schedules must be written and signed. These rules do not apply to holding deposits (which may not be more than 25% of the first month's rent).
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.
Under Washington law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 21 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.
Yes. Landlords in Washington must disclose in the lease or rental agreement 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. In the lease, the landlord must disclose the circumstances under which all or part of the deposit may be withheld. No deposit may be collected unless the rental agreement is in writing and a written checklist or statement specifically describing the condition and cleanliness of or existing damages to the premises and furnishings is provided to the tenant at the start of the tenancy.
The landlord must provide tenants with a written receipt for the deposit and provide the name, address, and location of where the deposit will be kept; if the location changes, landlords must notify tenants.
Nonrefundable fees must be identified as such in a written rental agreement. If landlords fail to provide a written agreement, tenants are entitled to the return of the fee. If the written agreement does not specify that the fee is refundable, it must be treated as a refundable deposit.
Yes.The rules explained here do not apply to a lease of a single-family dwelling for a period of a year or more, or to a lease of a single-family dwelling containing an option to purchase by the tenant, but only if an attorney for the tenant has approved on the face of the agreement any lease that purports to be exempted from the security deposit rules.
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. To access your state law, check out the Library of Congress's legal research site.
Updated: July 2021