Rental housing laws have changed significantly across Washington in recent months. The just-cause eviction that Seattle has had since the ’80s became state law, Seattle updated its eviction rules, and numerous other legal changes came into effect across Washington. Here’s a recap of the new legislation:
Seattle’s Right to Counsel – Important New Notice Requirement
If you ever need to evict a tenant, you’ll need to comply with this new legislation.
In March, Seattle became the eighth city to pass a right-to-counsel law for tenants facing eviction. Council Bill 120007 provides legal counsel to low-income renters who cannot afford an attorney.
Effective immediately, all notices issued under SMC 22.206.160.C (Just Cause Eviction Ordinance) must contain the following language:
RIGHT TO LEGAL COUNSEL: CITY LAW PROVIDES RENTERS WHO ARE UNABLE TO PAY FOR AN ATTORNEY THE RIGHT TO FREE LEGAL REPRESENTATION IN AN EVICTION LAWSUIT. If you need help understanding this notice or information about your renter rights, call the Renting in Seattle Helpline at (206) 684-5700 or visit the web site at www.seattle.gov/
The language must appear with the first sentence in bold and capital letters in a font size no smaller than 12 pt. An additional page including the required language may be attached to the 14-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate form provided by the Washington State Attorney General.
SDCI is reviewing notices for this language and is requiring rescission of the notice if it is not present.
State Changes Summary
SB 5160 made sweeping changes to residential landlord-tenant law across the state. Here’s a quick summary of what the bill does:
- Establishes a statewide right to legal counsel for low-income tenants in eviction hearings
- Expands definition of tenant and new notice requirements to include some transient and transitional situations
- Expands tenant screening protections related to medical history and COVID debt
- Extends prohibition on late fees six months after the end of the State moratorium
- Requires mandatory payment plans for rental debt accrued during the public health emergency
- Requires payment plans be reasonable and that installments not exceed 1/3 of monthly rent
- Prohibits agreement terms that waive tenant rights, require a tenant to apply for government benefits, include charges other than rent, or provide for an automatic eviction in the event of a missed payment
- Requires dispute resolution prior to the service of an eviction summons and complaint
- Adds dispute resolution language required for 14-day non-payment of rent notices
- Adds language to termination notices informing tenants where they can seek legal help
- Adds language to eviction summons informing tenants of right to counsel
- Allows co-tenants to apply for tenancy after death or abandonment of primary tenant
Statewide Just Cause Eviction
ESHB 1236 created a statewide just cause protection for tenants. Much of the state law resembles Seattle’s existing just cause ordinance, so this will have little new effects on landlords within Seattle city limits. State-wide, just cause reasons now include:
- Failure to comply with a termination notice
- Habitual non-compliance with material lease terms
- Waste, nuisance, or repeated substantial interference with owner or other tenants’ quiet enjoyment
- Sexual harassment by tenant against owner or if the tenant is required to register as a sex offender
- Owner intends to sell, occupy as a primary residence, redevelop the property or convert to to a condo
- Owner no longer wishes to share a property which they also occupy and share common areas
- Owner is required to close the property due to health and safety violations
- Owner has a legitimate business or economic reason to end the tenancy
Fixed-term leases (including successive fixed terms) can be terminated if the owner gives the tenant 60 days’ written notice before the end of the rental period. Additionally, mutual terminations must provide a minimum of 60 days for the tenant to vacate.
If you’re a landlord, we strongly encourage you to read these new laws in their entirety and consult with an attorney before moving forward with any termination of tenancy.