2022 Changes to Washington State’s laws affecting tenants
Two new laws affecting tenants in Washington State went into effect in June, 2022. Landlords cannot require tenants to pay electronically (they must accept checks and money orders for rent). Also, landlords may offer tenants the option to pay a monthly fee instead of a security deposit before moving in. #6317EN
Washington has changed its landlord-tenant laws in two big ways:
- Landlords can no longer require tenants to pay rent electronically (through a website or a mobile device app) and must now accept checks or money orders.
- Landlords may now offer new tenants the option to pay a monthly fee along with their rent instead of paying a security deposit.
Keep reading to learn more details and exceptions to these two new laws.
Changes to how you pay rent
Landlords cannot require tenants to pay electronically.
Starting June 2022, a landlord must allow you to pay rent by personal check unless one of your rent checks bounced in the last 9 months. Landlords must also accept rent paid by cashier’s check or money order.
Landlords cannot require you to make rent payments by electronic means only.
Example: Using an app on a mobile device or a website.
You can read this law at RCW 59.18.063.
Landlords may provide an accessible location on the property to pay rent (like a dropbox) and may require you to pay rent at that location as a term of a rental agreement.
If they do not provide an accessible, on-site location to pay rent, then your landlord must accept rent paid by mail.
Landlords may refuse to accept cash for rent.
However, if they accept cash for rent, they must give you a written receipt.
If you request a receipt for a rent payment, your landlord must give you a receipt, no matter the form of payment: cash, check, money order, or electronic payment.
New monthly fee option
Landlords may offer tenants the option to pay a monthly fee instead of a security deposit
Starting June 2022, a landlord may give you the option to not pay a security deposit, but instead pay a monthly fee on top of the rent. It is called a “monthly deposit waiver fee.”
You can read the new law at RCW 59.18.670.
Your landlord must make it clear that this is optional and must give you the choice to pay a deposit instead of a monthly fee.
The money paid in fees is different from a deposit because it will not be returned to you after you move out, even they do not damage the rental unit.
Whether you choose to pay a deposit or a monthly waiver fee, your landlord cannot use your decision against you and deny your application for that reason.
Landlords who offer the option to pay a fee instead of a security deposit must offer it to all applicants and not just certain tenants.
Example: They can’t offer to only certain tenants based on their income or credit score.
If you decide to stop paying the monthly waiver fee, you must pay the full amount of the security deposit instead.
You will not get back the waiver fees you have already paid.
- Read more about this: Getting Your Security Deposit Back
A “monthly deposit waiver fee” is not considered “rent,” but is a payment on top of rent.
As long as you are current in rent, you cannot be evicted just for failing to pay the waiver fee. However, your landlord may use other legal ways to try to collect the unpaid fees.
Example: They may sue you in small claims court or pass the debt to a collection agency.
Also, if your landlord serves you with a 10-Day Notice to Comply or Vacate, you should try to get legal help (see below) and read more about this: My Landlord Just Gave Me a 10-Day Notice to Comply or Vacate.
Your landlord may decide to end the monthly fee option at the end of a lease term and then require a security deposit. However, the landlord must give you 60 days written notice before ending the fee option.
Also, the amount of money that you have paid in monthly fees counts towards the amount owed for the security deposit.
Example: If you’ve paid $1200 in monthly fees, and the new deposit amount is $1500, you should get credit for $1200 and only have to pay $300 for the deposit.
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