This guide briefly discusses issues related to housing and landlord/tenant laws in Washington State. If you are interested in the eviction process specifically, see our Eviction Process Guide. Visit either of the following web sites for definitions of the terms used here:
Landlord Tenant (LT) matters are primarily governed by state law, but county and municipal codes, as well as federal statutes, may affect your issue. You should check each of these sources, including any supplements or pocket parts that incorporate recent changes to the law.
Washington Law Help. The Washington Law Help's website has lots of self-help material on landlord-tenant issues, eviction, and tenants' rights.
Tips (formerly known as Client Assistance Memos) are available from the City of Seattle about a variety of landlord/tenant issues. Look in the 600s for Tips specific to housing issues.
Model Documents for Landlords and Tenants are available on the Columbia Legal Services website. Included are a model lease, a move in/move out inspection checklist and a tenant request for repairs form.
The Washington Residential Landlord Tenant Act, found at Revised Code of Washington (RCW) chapter 59.18 imposes strict legal obligations on both parties to a residential lease. The RCW is kept on stack 20B.
County Codes and Municipal Codes may govern your lease. It is important to read the topical index to these codes, as they generally do not have a specific LT section even though they may affect state law. For example, the Seattle Municipal code places the duties of a landlord or tenant under Title 22-Building and Construction Code, while rental agreement regulation is found under Title 7-Consumer Protection. Unfair housing practices are under Title 14-Human Rights.
Federal statutes affect the state LT Act. Potentially applicable laws include the Federal Fair Housing Act (42 USC 3602 et seq.), the Americans With Disabilities Act (42 USC 12101) and the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC 701).
Case Law will explain how courts have ruled on issues similar to yours, as well as how the courts interpret particular provisions of statutory law. The secondary sources listed below will direct you to some relevant cases, or you may ask at the desk for a guide to using digests and annotated statutes to find other cases.
Sample Residential Rental Agreement
Forms for tenants can be found at the Washington Law Help's website.
For landlords, the Real Property chapter of the Washington Lawyer's Practice Manual referenced below has sample forms.
Books in the Library
Residential Landlord-Tenant Law, KF590 .A2 R47. This book contains material from a conference giving information on landlord-tenant law from the perspectives of landlords, tenants, and the courts. It has model forms for an unlawful detainer action.
Washington Practice, RES KFW 80 .W3. This series, written for lawyers, contains an in depth discussion of LT laws in Volume 17 (Real Estate: Property Law). The series includes useful forms and is updated annually.
Washington Real Property Deskbook, RES KF 570 .Z99 W36 1997. Volume 2 of this multi-volume treatise has a section devoted to LT law. These deskbooks are an excellent source written by prominent Washington attorneys.
Washington Lawyer's Practice Manual, RES KF 300 .W27 1986. The Real Property section of this series contains a brief discussion of the LT Act, and the Mobile Home Act. Written in outline form for lawyers, this series consists of a basic outline of the law, along with a few practice tips.
If You Need More Help
Housing Justice Project. The Seattle Housing Justice Project (HJP) is a homelessness prevention project managed by King County Bar Association’s Community Legal Services program. HJP is co-sponsored by Columbia Legal Services, the Northwest Justice Project, the Legal Action Center, the Tenant’s Union, and private volunteer attorneys. HJP provides free legal help to eligible low-income tenants who would otherwise appear without legal representation at their eviction hearings. Call 206-267-7090 for more information.
Tenants Union. The Tenants Union is a Seattle-based organization that provides information on tenant rights and also advocates for tenants.