Washington State Rent Increase Laws 

By PropertyClub Team
May 17th 2023
Rents are getting so high in certain markets that states are being forced to implement rent control laws to keep prices affordable for average residents. Although it still varies from greatly state to state. Here is a look at rent increase laws in Washington state and what you need to know.

hash-markHow Much Can a Landlord Raise Rent in Washington?

Rent control is illegal in Washington State, which means that a landlord can raise the rent as much as they like as long as there are tenants who will pay. Washington is one of the states with a preemptive measure against rent control, which means that individual cities and counties are prohibited from enacting their own rent increase limit. However, landlords are bound by whatever terms are agreed upon in the lease and must keep rates on par with the rest of the market to attract paying tenants.

hash-markWashington Rent Control Exemptions 

Although rent control is illegal in Washington, Federal Housing laws preempt certain behaviors, specifically the Fair Housing Act, which outlaws discrimination in housing markets. So, the rent increase cannot be driven by any animosity toward the tenant due to their race, nationality, origin, age, familial status, or disability. Acts of retaliation are also prohibited; for instance, if a tenant reports the landlord over a code violation, they cannot raise the rent to get back at them.

hash-markHow Often Can a Landlord Raise Rent in Washington?

Despite the prohibition on rent control, Washington State still requires landlords to comply with the terms outlined in the lease agreement. So, they can only raise the rent at the end of a lease term and allow the tenant to move out if they feel the new price is unreasonable or cannot afford it. For a 12-month lease, the landlord can only raise the rent once every year. However, if it’s a month-to-month agreement, they can raise it monthly if they so choose, as long as they provide adequate notice.

hash-markHow Much Notice Period is Required When Raising Rent in Washington?

According to state law, landlords must give tenants at least 60 days’ notice of a rent increase. However, it only goes into effect the first full month after the information is provided. So, if your landlord notifies you that the rent is increasing on January 15th and rent is due on the first of the month, you will not have to pay the increase until April 1st. However, it’s up to you to notify your landlord if they attempt to raise the rent sooner; because payment implies that you accept the increase without proper notice.

hash-markLimits on Additional Fees

Although the state does not set any rent increase limit, they have guidelines for other costs, such as late fees and bounced check fees. The limit for late payments is either $20 or 20% of the total monthly rent, whichever amount is greater and within reason. However, it must be stated in the lease which amounts the landlord chooses to charge for late fees and how many days are considered late. Landlords are also permitted to charge 12% of the month’s rent or up to $40 for a bounced check if the rent remains unpaid for 15 days or more. This should also be clearly stated in the lease.

hash-markSeattle Rent Increase Laws

Seattle is the major outlier regarding rent control laws in Washington State. Although they are prohibited by state law from setting a maximum rent increase limit, they have imposed new restrictions on landlords, which make it more challenging to raise the rent, especially for low-income residents.

As of July 2022, landlords in Seattle must give tenants at least 180 days’ notice before raising the rent, which is three times the amount of time required by the state. The local government is also offering free legal representation in eviction lawsuits to tenants who cannot pay their rent due to a substantial increase.

They’ve also set new restrictions on landlords planning on increasing the rent by 10% or more. The new legislation requires landlords to create a packet of information with a clause describing the reason and amount for the rent increase, along with information about the free legal counsel and economic displacement assistance program provided by the city. This packet must be delivered in the mail or by hand at least 180 days before the rent increase goes into effect. So, while they can’t legally set limits on a maximum rent increase, they have made it more challenging and provided additional resources to struggling tenants.

hash-markWashington Rent Increases Bottom Line 

Even though rent control is illegal in the state of Washington doesn’t mean landlords can simply charge whatever they want whenever they want. They are still required to provide the proper notice, and tenants always have the option to negotiate or find new housing if the increase is unreasonable. So, if your landlord is planning to increase the rent, study the laws and understand your rights so you have the maximum leverage to negotiate.