To be an excellent landlord, you need to understand the responsibilities you have to your tenant. You also need to understand the legal requirements of renting out a property in Washington. These laws change all the time, so make sure you’re educated and up to date. Otherwise, you could find yourself making avoidable and expensive mistakes.
Washington Security Deposit Laws
There’s no limit to how much you can collect in a security deposit as a Washington landlord. However, smart rental property owners won’t ask for too much, otherwise they’ll chase away good tenants who can pay a lower amount for a good home elsewhere. The equivalent of one month’s rent is pretty standard when it comes to security deposits.
The law does dictate the details surrounding a security deposit return, however. You need to return the deposit within 21 days of your tenant moving out. If you’re going to withhold money from the deposit, you need to explain why. Your lease agreement must also state why a tenant might not receive a full refund of the security deposit.
Federal and State Fair Housing Laws
Fair housing laws are designed to protect people from discrimination when it comes to marketing, tenant screening, leasing, or managing a property. While most landlords don’t set out to discriminate intentionally, it’s easy to make a fair housing mistake and find yourself in the middle of a complaint. There are several things to remember:
- Don’t use language in your advertising that might seem discriminatory. For example, don’t mention that the property is close to churches or synagogues. You don’t want to say it’s “perfect for single professionals.”
- Be consistent and document your screening process. Rental criteria should be in writing so that everyone knows what you’re looking at when you approve or deny an application.
- Treat every application, every tenant, and every lease the same way. Don’t waive a late fee for one tenant but not another.
The Americans with Disabilities Act also impacts the legal process of renting out a property. For example, if a tenant needs an accommodation such as a handicapped parking space or a wheelchair ramp, you’re required to make the accommodation. When a tenant needs a service animal or an emotional support animal, you cannot deny it, even if your property has a strict no-pet policy. You also cannot charge pet rent or a pet fee when tenants need a service or support animal.
Washington Landlords and Access to Property
Another area that’s easy to make a mistake is when you need to access your property. By law, you are required to provide at least two days’ written notice to the tenant before entering the property. Don’t show up and demand to go inside. Don’t enter the property when tenants aren’t home without providing the required notice. These things will get you in a lot of legal trouble.
To be an excellent landlord, you also need to pay attention to the laws surrounding when you can increase rent and how much notice you need to give. You’ll have to understand habitability standards and be responsible with the personal information and private data of your applicants and tenants.
We keep up with all local, state, and federal laws. For more information or to ask specific questions about landlord and tenant laws in Washington, contact us at People’s Real Estate.