Missing payments of late fees cannot lead to eviction

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Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

Tenants may owe late fees and other kinds of charges but cannot be evicted for not paying them if they are not "rent" or certain recurring, regular charges. #6341EN

Please Note

Eviction law continues to change. Read about the latest changes to the law.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • When missing a payment may lead to an eviction

  • How to get legal help

Under state law at RCW 59.18.283, a landlord cannot evict a tenant because the tenant did not pay charges or fees that are not rent or certain recurring charges.

In other words, while a tenant can be evicted for not paying rent, a tenant cannot be evicted for not paying other charges.

The law defines "rent" to include some kinds of regular, recurring charges, which may include utilities. "Rent" also includes charges that:

  1. occur regularly (usually every month or every two months)

  2. are listed in the rental agreement

  3. for use and occupancy of your home.



Rent charges which may lead to eviction if not paid

  • Rent

  • Utilities

  • Payment plan payments for a security deposit

Non-rent charges and fees which may not lead to eviction if not paid

  • Late fees

  • Pet fees

  • Charges for damages

  • Security deposits (without a payment plan)

  • Monthly deposit waiver fees

  • Legal costs and attorneys' fees

  • Other fees or penalties

No. A landlord must first apply any payment made by a tenant to rent before applying the payment to non-rent charges.

Example: You pay March rent late and owe your landlord a $75 late fee. Then you pay rent for April on time. Your landlord must apply that payment to April's rent and not to the late fee owed for March. Your landlord cannot first apply your payment to the late fee, then to rent, and then claim you owe a $75 late fee for April.

Yes. Your landlord can try to collect valid non-rent charges through other legal means. For example, they could send the bill to a collection agency or sue you in small claims court. They could do this while you live there or after you move out. Visit the Debt Collection area to learn more about debt collection and how to dispute charges you believe you do not owe.

Yes. If you entered into a payment plan for your security deposit at the beginning of your tenancy, your landlord may be able to evict you if you do not make the payments. However, if you agreed to pay a monthly fee instead of a deposit (sometimes called a "monthly deposit waiver fee"), your landlord cannot evict you for not paying the monthly fee.

Yes. There is an exception for court ordered payment plans in eviction cases. You should talk to a lawyer if you have questions about a court order payment plan.

If you get an eviction notice, try to talk to a lawyer to get legal help. You can also read My landlord just gave me a 14-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate.

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Get Legal Help

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

Last Review and Update: Nov 08, 2022
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