New protections for Tacoma renters

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

Learn about Tacoma's new eviction protections. #6319EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Yes, you should read this if you rent the place where you live inside Tacoma, Washington, city limits. The city of Tacoma passed new protections for renters that will start (that will take effect) December 8, 2023.

Maybe not. A landlord cannot evict you during the school year if you or anyone in your household is a child or student, someone with legal custody of a child or student, or an educator. An “educator” here means anyone who works at a school or for a school district.

This protection covers you if anyone in your household is under age 18 or is in school.  “School” includes childcare or early childhood education through 12th grade. It also includes special education plans extending beyond 12th grade.

There are exceptions to this. We explain them below.

Maybe not. Under the new laws, the landlord cannot evict you if it means you must move out between November 1 and April 1.

There are exceptions to this. We explain them below.

Yes. A landlord can still evict you for any of these reasons:

  • The owner or the owner’s immediate family is going to move into the rental.

  • The rental has been condemned.

  • You and the landlord are roommates. The landlord owns the rental and wants you to move out.

  • The landlord claims you’ve sexual harassed them, someone working for them, or another renter.

  • The landlord claims you’ve created a drug-related nuisance at the rental.

  • The landlord claims you’ve committed waste or nuisance at the rental, or you’ve engaged in unlawful activity there.

  • The landlord claims your behavior has a real harmful impact or is an “immediate threat” to the health or safety of other renters or the owner.

It depends. Under the new laws, a landlord cannot raise your rent if the city government says the landlord has violated habitability requirements (the rental is in disrepair), or you’ve asked for repairs to the rental.

You can ask for repairs any time before the rent is set to go up. The landlord must finish the repairs before the rent is set to go up.

If the landlord takes you to an eviction hearing, it’s a defense to the eviction that the landlord hasn’t made repairs by the time of the hearing.

You must now get at least 6 months’ notice that the rent is going up. The landlord must also send you a second reminder notice 3 to 4 months before the rent is set to go up.

If the rent will go up between 5 and 10%, and you decide to move instead of paying the higher rent, the landlord must give you 2 months’ rent as moving assistance. The landlord must pay you within 30 days of you asking for this assistance. If the rent will go up 10% or more, the relocation assistance is 3 months of rent.

*This section doesn’t apply to renters with subsidized housing when the subsidy amount changes.

The new laws limit most charges or fees.

  • Late fees for late payment of rent are capped at $10 per month.

  • The only rental application fee the landlord can charge is the actual cost of renter screening. Read Tenant Screening: Your Rights to learn more about renter screening.

  • The landlord can only charge you up to 25% of a month’s rent for a pet deposit. Of that 25%, your landlord can only keep actual damages your pet caused.

  • Tacoma has now banned all other non-refundable fees, except for those allowed under state law. The fees Washington allows include screening fees, monthly deposit waiver fees and, in some cases, cleaning fees. Read the section on fees in Your Rights as a Tenant in Washington State: An Overview to learn more.

  • When totaled up, your move-in fees cannot be more than one month’s rent.

It depends. The new laws aim to prevent “discriminatory” evictions against military members, first responders, seniors, family members, health care providers, and educators. If the landlord bases an eviction on you or a household member being one of these, it is against the new laws and can be a defense to the eviction.

Under the new laws, the landlord also cannot evict you for having an “immediate family member” living in the rental with you who isn’t on the lease.  An immediate family member is a spouse, domestic partner, partner in a committed intimate relationship, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, niece, and nephew. You can be related by blood, marriage, domestic partnership, or committed intimate relationship. There is an exception to this if the family member or members in the rental violate federal, state, or local occupancy limits.

Any violation of the initiative could lead to a landlord paying a penalty of $500 and up to 5 months’ rent, and attorney’s costs and fees.

  • For a violation of a rent increase, the landlord could pay a penalty of at least 3 months’ rent.

  • For not paying moving expenses, the landlord could pay a penalty of at least 3 times the moving assistance amount.

Read Renting in Tacoma at the City of Tacoma’s website to learn more.

Get Legal Help

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

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Last Review and Update: Dec 07, 2023
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