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4 Rental Laws Every Seattle Landlord Should Know


No matter what part of the country you’re looking to live in, rental laws can often be confusing. For landlords especially, it’s crucial to understand how the landlord-tenant laws operate in your area, in order to protect yourself from any unwanted conflicts. One place which has an array of quirky rental laws is the city of Seattle. With the most recent census data from Seattle finding that nearly 52 percent of housing units are occupied by renters, landlords would be prudent to brush up on their knowledge of local ordinance and steer clear of any complications.

The laws below are an overview of some key factors all Seattle landlords should keep an eye out for, especially as renters continue to flock into the city. By keeping a close tab on these laws, landlords can minimize their risk of running into obstacles in the future:

Specific Requirements in Landlord-to-Tenant Disclosures

One crucial component of the landlord-tenant relationship is the type of information that’s required to be disclosed by the property owner. These include, but are not limited to, any fees that may be refundable to the tenant, identifying any individual who may act on behalf of the landlord in his/her absence, or information regarding how to deal with issues surrounding mold in the property. You can find a full list of disclosure requirements here, to ensure you’ve got all bases covered.

Requirements to Return Security Deposits

Seattle rental laws do not necessarily place any limit on the security deposit amount a landlord can ask for, but they do have statutes of limitation on when the amount must be returned. As such, landlords must return the tenant’s security deposit within 21 days of the move-out date, otherwise the former tenant is authorized to take up the matter in small claims court.

Furthermore, certain disclosures that are required for the deposit need to be clearly written out to be valid in the lease agreement, and have specific reasons for which the security deposit may not be returned in full, or at all, depending on the condition of the property upon the tenant’s moving.

First Come First Serve Law for Tenants

This one is among the newer guidelines that Seattle landlords must follow, stating that those who express valid interest in the property first, also get the first option to rent out the home. In doing so, the “first-come” component is determined based on the date and time the applications were submitted, prioritizing the earliest applications first. Local Seattle rental property management companies can be useful in this case, helping landlords keep track of incoming applications from prospective tenants.

Restriction on Landlords Access to Rental Property

The majority of states have laws and guidelines which require a landlord to take certain actions before they are allowed to enter an occupied unit. For the city of Seattle and the broader state of Washington, this includes a two-day notice from the landlord to the tenant regarding intent of entering. However, this law is bypassed by a one-day notice to the tenant in the event that the landlord is showing the property to a new prospective renter.

The above laws, while only a quick overview of some of Seattle’s quirky renter guidelines are an introduction into many things that landlords need to keep tabs on. Whether trying to find the most qualified renter or trying to safeguard your property against unwanted future conflict, it’s crucial for landlords to have a grasp on what is expected of them when renting their properties. This way, the property owner remains within the legal boundaries to protect themselves, and tenants have a clear understanding of the guidelines they must abide by.

The Benefits of Renting Versus Buying


It’s a renter’s market, with the rate of home ownership having experienced a steady decrease over the past eight years. While some would argue that it’s cheaper over time to purchase a home than rely on rent prices to stay low, there are numerous benefits to sticking to the renter’s market. If you’re weighing the benefits of renting to those of purchasing a home, consider the following facets before taking the jump and signing yourself up for mortgage and a lifetime of responsibility.

The Flexibility Factor

Those in the millennial generation are more focused on the ease of flexibility, and are less and less entranced by the idea of putting down roots in a singular spot. You might not be convinced that your current city is where you want to stay. Life events like marriage and children could see you wanting to make a change, or a job relocation could have you bouncing from your newly purchased house to a new area. This crazy journey we call life is unpredictable, and renting allows more cushion for the unexpected. Renting gives you the freedom to leave. The longest of leases generally top out at around two years, which allows for a flexibility you wouldn’t find with a 30-year mortgage.

Financial Limitations

For some of us, buying a home just isn’t realistic monetarily, and for a lot of people, coming up with the lump sum for a down payment just isn’t a possibility. Small banks have tightened up the reins on giving out loans, and it may be an insurmountable challenge. Depending on the market you’re looking in, home prices may be astronomical. Consider locations like New York or San Francisco, in which finding an affordable home for purchase is similar to locating a needle in a haystack; it just makes more sense for residents in these locales to focus their money on renting a space in order to live in their desired location.

Less Responsibility

There is a large amount of responsibility that goes into owning a home, and much of it is found within maintenance issues. Whether you have a private landlord or your apartment or home is managed by a property management company, you generally won’t need to worry about structural issues being replaced, or fixing plumbing problems yourself. The majority of house repairs are covered under lease terms (as long as the issue wasn’t your immediate doing), leaving you clear of spending a fortune in both money and time on fixing any issues that come up. If you’re not a handyman, owning a home could mean shelling out a lot of money each year for the inevitable issues that tend to arise.

Amenities Bonuses

Renting can mean more amenities, especially if you’re renting in a large apartment complex. This may mean communal spaces like outdoor areas including pools and hot tubs, or it could be something like an onsite gym. While you generally pay higher rates for renting in spaces like this, the savings on a gym membership and pool access alone could mean saving money in the bigger scheme of things.

Simplified Payments

To those who argue that buying a home is cheaper over the long run, there seems to be a concentrated effort to avoid talking about the sheer amount of payments a homeowner is responsible for. Beyond a monthly mortgage, you’ll need to handle property taxes, maintenance costs, damages incurred by weather conditions or accidents, and much, much more. With renting, you have one payment each month and you’re settled–all of us can use more simplicity.

Staying Safe

You’ll have plenty of choices in front of you when it comes to renting, but always be sure to stay safe with your process. Scammers understand that the renter’s market is extremely competitive right now, and they’ve come up with plenty of schemes to cheat people out of their money by convincing them they’re offering the perfect home for rent. How can you protect yourself? Avoid using Craigslist and instead look at listings on reputable home rental websites. Once you find a place you like, don’t throw around your sensitive information; ask potential landlords to use a vetted screening processes like MySmartMove when they want to do a credit check. Taking these extra steps can keep you safe and protect your assets, so it’s worth your time.

Additional update…


Right after my last post I got a call from the leasing agent with the management company.  She seemed irritated that she found out from the owner’s agent that I was moving out.  I explained to her that I had not yet agreed to move out before the contract termination date of September 24, 2013 but that I was not interested in buying the house.  She wanted to be sure to remind me that I do not have to agree to showings on the house until the last 30 days of the lease.  She then advised that the owner’s real estate agent asked for my number so that she could set up a time to come take a look at the house to determine what needs to be done to get it on the market.

I then received a text from the owner saying April 30 could be the new exit date.  Showings would begin March 1.  I responded I needed to think about it and I’d be back in touch.

I’ve spent a lot of time today doing research and while the rental pickings are very slim if I want to keep the kids in their schools, I am encouraged by the money I will be saving!  As a reminder I currently pay $1795 in rent.  I have two options right now that I plan to look at tomorrow.  One is a rental house for $1,250.  It’s roomy with 3 bdrm/2 bath and 2,600 square feet.  That is a lot of house but it’s a very good area and a decent price.  It would be a $1,250 deposit and another $500 for the two dogs (and yes, I have given thought to the fact that I have two dogs and don’t need two dogs and could emotionally handle adopting one of the two out but for now I am planning on both of them moving with us–otherwise I feel irresponsible and like the grinch). The other option is a 2 bdrm, 2 bath apartment.  The rent is $1050, $500 for the pets but both are permitted and there’s a $49 deposit special going on right now.  The kids would have to share a room but that doesn’t give me much heartburn.  And DD still likes to come hang out with mom anyway. 

Right now I am leaning toward the apartment.  We’ll see how things look when I visit tomorrow.  The other thought starting to gain momentum in the back of my head is to sell my bedroom furniture and my too large breakfast room table for 8.  The bedroom furniture and that table will not fit in an apartment or a smaller house and I simply want to downsize my life!  I won’t rush out to list anything on craigslist but I’m definitely thinking!!!

I really can’t believe all of this is unfolding now and in this way.  I’m doing okay with it all but truly amazed.  I’ll take it as a helping hand from the universe to get me out of too much house and, hopefully, too much debt!