While finding a new place to live is exciting, it isn’t always a risk free endeavor. 

Everything from a broken faucet to a careless landlord can complicate your living situation. 

Luckily, as a tenant you have certain rights that can make all the difference. Here is a list of some of your most important rights as a tenant in Seattle as outlined by Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws:

Obligations of Landlords:

Landlords in Seattle are required to provide tenants with living conditions that are clean, safe, and secure. This includes maintaining the structural integrity of the building, ensuring that utilities function, and keeping fire alarms in operation, as well as getting rid of rodents and changing the locks on doors when appropriate. However, landlords are not responsible for cosmetic improvements.

Obligations of Tenants:

Tenants are required to maintain the safety and cleanliness of the rental housing. This includes taking out garbage, avoiding the storage of dangerous materials in the building, and repairing damages caused by the tenant. It also mandates that tenants allow for inspection, maintenance, and pest control.

The Just Cause Eviction Ordinance: 

Landlords must have a just cause for evicting a tenant and must warn the tenant of the eviction at least 20 days before the next rental period. 

Just cause can include the tenant not paying rent within three days of receiving a notice, the tenant paying rent late four times in a single year, and the tenant failing to comply with the terms of the rental agreement or with their obligations under Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws within 10 days of receiving a notice. 

Other reasons that a landlord can evict a tenant include the tenant causing serious damage to the building, engaging in illegal activities within the rental housing, and the landlord wishing to demolish or personally occupy the building. 

Eviction During Covid-19:

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Mayor Jenny Durkin recently extended Seattle’s eviction moratorium until March 31, 2021. This means that renters cannot be evicted unless they present an immediate threat to life and safety. Late fees and rent increases are also prohibited for the duration of the eviction moratorium. 

Actions Considered to be Harassment or Retaliation:

It is considered harassment or retaliation for landlords to tamper with locks on doors; remove fixtures, such as windows; stop providing utilities; remove the tenant outside of a formal eviction process; enter the tenant’s unit without a two day notice; or increase rent without proper notice. 

It is also retaliation or harassment for a tenant to change locks on doors, remove fixtures from the unit, or purposefully damage the building. 

Increase in Housing Cost:

Landlords must give tenants a warning 30 days before a rent increase of less than 10 percent. A warning must come 60 days before an increase of more than 10 percent. Increases in rent can only occur at the beginning of a rental period. Additionally, rent cannot be increased if the unit does not meet the minimum habitability standards. 

Security Deposits:

The amount of a security deposit must be specified in the rental agreement and cannot be greater than the cost of the first month’s rent. The landlord must also provide the tenant with a list that specifies under what conditions the security deposit will be withheld. 

Pet Deposits: 

Pet deposits cannot exceed 25% of the cost of the first month’s rent and cannot be required if the animal is an assistance animal. As with security deposits, pet deposits must be specified in the rental agreement.

Move-in Fees:

Move-in fees cannot surpass the cost to obtain a background check or credit report and to pay to clean the unit after the tenant leaves. Additionally, move-in fees cannot exceed 10% of the cost of the first month’s rent. 

If you feel that any of your rights as a tenant have been or are currently being violated, you can go to Student Legal Services and schedule a free consultation. 


Reach reporter Asad Tacy at Instagram @asadtacy

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