Tenants are protected from discrimination based on source of income

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

Find out how it is illegal for landlords in Washington state to discriminate against tenants and would-be tenants based on their source of income, and what you can do if it happens to you. #6323EN

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Yes, you should read this if you are a tenant or looking to rent a place to live in Washington State.

You will learn how it is illegal for landlords in Washington State to discriminate against tenants and would-be tenants based on your source of income.

A landlord may not want to rent to you if your income is from public or charitable sources like:

  • Federal, state, and local public benefits, such as Social Security, Veteran's benefits, retirement, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD)

  • OR

  • if you get help paying your rent from:

  • Rent subsidies from federal, state, or local housing programs, such as the Section 8 voucher program or Housing and Essential Needs (HEN)

  • Short-term rental assistance, for example from organizations like Catholic Community Services, Salvation Army, or Community Action Programs

You can read the state source of income law at RCW 59.18.255.

A landlord cannot:

  • Refuse to rent to you because of the source of your income.

  • Cannot charge you more rent than they do someone who does not get benefits.

  • Tell you the unit is not available when it is.

  • Advertise a property for rent only for tenants with certain types of income.

Yes. Your landlord cannot:

  • End your lease or evict you just because you now get benefits.

  • Treat you differently than any tenant who does not get benefits, just because you are now getting benefits.   For example, your landlord cannot raise your rent or move you to a different unit.

Not exactly. It applies to all landlords as defined by the state Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA). It does not apply in situations such as:

  • Farmworkers living in employer-provided housing

  • People getting housing in exchange for work

  • People living in hotels or motels

  • People who own their mobile home but rent the lot

*If a tenant is renting both the mobile home and the lot, this law does apply. The landlord cannot discriminate based on their source of income.

You can read the state law at RCW 59.18.040 for the full list of who is not covered by the source of income law. 

Yes. A landlord can refuse to rent to you if all of these are true:

  • The property must pass inspection for you to keep your rental assistance.

  • It will cost more than $1,500 to make sure the property will pass that inspection.

  • The landlord has not received money to make the improvements.  

Read Tenant Screening: Your Rights to learn more about your rights when applying for a rental.

Yes. A landlord who uses the amount of your household income to decide whether to rent to you can include only the portion of rent you are responsible for in determining if your income is enough. 

Example: Maria applies for a unit that rents for $1,000/month. Maria's Section 8 voucher will cover $600 of the rent. The landlord requires all tenants to have a monthly income that is twice the rent amount.

Before, Maria's income would have to be $2,000 to qualify for the apartment. Under this law, the landlord must subtract the voucher amount ($600) from the total rent ($1,000) before calculating if Maria's income is enough. 

In this case, Maria's portion of the rent is $400. So 2x Maria's portion of rent = $800. Maria's monthly income only needs to be $800 to qualify.

You can take the landlord to court. If the judge agrees that the landlord illegally discriminated against you because of your source of income, you could win up to 4.5 times the amount of the monthly rent, plus costs and attorney's fees.

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Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Last Review and Update: Feb 16, 2023
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