One of the hardest parts of being a landlord is keeping up with all the laws that govern landlord-tenant relations. Yet, it’s very important to do so and it’s one of the reasons so many landlords choose to enlist the services of a professional rental property management company. If you’re a landlord trying to make sure you always stay on the right side of the law, we’re here to help. These are the top 10 Washington Landlord Legal Responsibilities that all landlords in Washington need to know about.
Top 10 Washington Landlord Legal Responsibilities
- Comply with anti-discrimination laws. This is a big one, and it’s one of the areas where a surprising number of landlords make mistakes. While it’s perfectly reasonable to reject a tenant for legitimate reasons (i.e., bad credit history, negative references) you may not do so based on race, religion, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or familial status. RCW 49.60.222
- Have a legal, written rental agreement or lease. The lease or rental agreement is the contract that governs the relationship between landlords and tenants. Not asking your tenant to sign one is not only a huge mistake, but could also be construed as failing to inform your tenants of their rights and responsibilities.
- Keep rental properties livable. This might sound like it goes without saying, but many landlords fail to keep up with repairs and maintenance. If your property doesn’t meet the standard of habitable housing, your tenants may have the legal right to withhold rent.
- Follow state security deposit laws. Landlords and tenants get into all kinds of disputes regarding security deposits. In Washington state, landlords have up to 14 days to return a tenant’s security deposit after they move out.
- Respect tenants’ privacy. Be sure to understand your legal responsibilities to tenants’ privacy. For example, in Washington state, landlords must provide tenants with two days’ notice before entering their rental property.
- Carefully follow eviction laws and procedures. Landlords should always know when (and how) they may evict a tenant. In Washington state, a tenant who has violated their lease must be given 10-days-notice before terminating their tenancy.
- Make legally required disclosures. Landlords are required to make a variety of disclosures to tenants. These range from disclosures of safety information and damage to the property, to landlords’ and tenants’ rights. Ultimately, these disclosures are beneficial to both parties, and are usually included in the lease or rental agreement.
- Follow state laws on late fees and charges. Did you know that the maximum amount landlords in Washington state can charge tenants for a bounced check is $50? That’s just one of the laws governing late fees and charges you need to be aware of.
- Never retaliate against a tenant. It is against the law for landlords to retaliate against tenants (for example, raising the rent of a tenant who makes too many complaints). It’s also important for landlords to take measures against being falsely accused of retaliation.
- Make use of the resources available to landlords. Keeping track of all the laws you have to follow is one of the hardest parts of being a landlord. That’s why it’s so important that you make use of all the resources that you have available to you.
One of the best ways for landlords to stay on top of all their legal responsibilities is to work with a rental property management company. In addition to leasing, rent collection, maintenance, accounting and a host of other jobs, one of the most important things property managers do is always making sure their property owners are following all landlord-tenant laws.
Contact us today to learn more about rental property management, and talk with our team about the benefits that property managers bring for landlords and tenants alike.