With the recent adjournment of the Washington state legislature’s regular session for 2019, Governor Jay Inslee signed two landlord-tenant bills into law. Together, SB 5600 (eviction reform) and HB 1440 (notice of rent increases) are heralded as the largest overhaul of Washington’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act since its original codification in the 1970s.
Among the changes is a significant increase in the amount of notice a landlord must give to a residential tenant if the tenant has failed to timely pay rent, utilities, or other recurring or periodic charges. Previously, a landlord needed to provide a three-day notice to pay or vacate before starting an eviction action. Now, under SB 5600, that time is increased to 14 days.
Additionally, the new law provides that landlords who successfully pursue an unlawful detainer lawsuit against a tenant may not collect more than $75 in late fees. They also may not seek attorney fees from a tenant if the tenant failed to appear in the unlawful detainer action, or if the total amount of rent awarded in the judgment is equal to less than two months of rent or $1,200, whichever is greater.
Tenants may now seek a stay of eviction proceedings if the tenant can show good cause. In determining whether a tenant can show good cause, the court may consider:
- whether the tenant’s failure to pay rent was willful or intentional,
- whether it was caused by exigent circumstances that were beyond the tenant’s control and not likely to recur,
- the tenant’s ability to timely pay a judgment,
- the tenant’s payment history,
- any hardship on the tenant if evicted, and
- whether the tenant is otherwise in compliance with the lease.
Landlords who are unable to collect on a judgment against a tenant for unlawful detainer may seek reimbursement from the Department of Commerce in the event they qualify for a landlord mitigation program.
Under HB 1440, landlords must now provide a minimum of sixty days’ prior written notice of any increase in the amount of rent to each affected tenant. Previously, the law required only thirty days’ notice.
The new laws will take effect on July 28, 2019.