Real Estate 2016

10 Things to Know Before Signing Your Lease

Washington’s Landlord-Tenant Act outlines the legal relationship between property owners and renters. Here are some of the important rights to remember before signing your John Hancock on that lease.

By Darren Davis April 22, 2016 Published in the May 2016 issue of Seattle Met

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Image: Dan Woodger

I. A year-long lease shall be written with a specific rental period end date listed. Landlords must inform tenants of any changes to the agreement within 30 days of this end date.

II. A month-to-month lease is exempt from writing unless the tenant pays any kind of deposit or nonrefundable fee.

III. No landlord shall charge a security deposit without a written receipt and a checklist outlining the rental unit’s condition prior to moving in. 

IV. No security deposit shall be used to repair normal wear such as worn carpet or faded paint—only tenant-specific damages like holes in the wall or broken windows.

V. A landlord shall not enter an occupied unit without at least two days’ written notice, stating the date, time of entry, and a phone number to call in case of objection.

VI. Crucial utility repairs shall be made within 24 hours, appliance and plumbing fixtures within 72 hours, and all other repairs within 10 days.

VII. If repairs aren’t made in time, tenants have the right to move out (with written notice), hire someone to make the repairs, or make the repairs themselves (with certain cost stipulations). Tenants shall not stop paying rent.

VIII. Utilities shall only be shut off to make repairs. Landlords shall not lock out tenants, even if tenants are behind on rent.

IX. Landlords shall not ask tenants to move out during a lease period unless they provide a reason in writing and that reason is listed in the signed lease agreement.

X. No stipulation shall be added to a rental agreement that bars any of the aforementioned rights.

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