03 Jul Landlord Tenant Law: HB 1440 & SB 5600
Washington State recently enacted significant legislative changes to landlord-tenant law. These new laws introduced a fundamental shift in the way you should manage your residential properties, specifically in how evictions for non-payment of rent will occur. The purpose behind the changes is to avoid eviction on the basis of non-payment of rent. To that end, the legislature enacted comprehensive new laws affecting landlords and tenants.
These laws took effect on July 28, 2019, and it is important to understand how to update your forms and lease agreements. We can help you navigate these changes to ensure compliance with the new laws, as well as mitigating risk, and negotiating favorable outcomes when possible.
Summary of Changes Made by HB 1440 and SB 5600:
- Rent increases now require 60-day notices.
- Demolition, significant rehabilitation and change of use require 120-day notices.
- 3-day pay or vacate notice period for non-payment of rent is increased to a “soft” deadline of 14 days
- Under the old law, after three days the landlord did not have to accept rent. Under the new law, the tenant can still pay after expiration of fourteen days but may have to pay additional costs such as a capped $75 late fee and court filing fees if any.
- Limits evictions for non-rent charges such as late fees by specifically defining “rent” as recurring and periodic charges identified in the rental agreement.
- Specifically excludes non-recurring charges such as costs for late payment, damages, deposits, legal costs, or other fees.
- Requires payments received to be applied to rent before all other charges.
- Expands reinstatement options.
- Abolishes requirement for the landlord to get a court order to perform alternative service.
- Authorizes courts to consider tenant hardships and give tenants payment plans in their discretion.
- Limits awards of attorney’s fees.
- Creates fund to help when tenant falls behind on rent.
- Provides for ex parte stays of writs of restitution.
- This lets one party stop the court from ordering an eviction
This summary is obviously not all inclusive. For how it affects you specifically, please give us a call.
Generally, how do these changes affect landlords?
Rental agreements need to comply with the new law. Particularly, many rental agreements will need to be amended to provide that back rent is paid first.
As of July 27, 2019 you have to give 14-day Pay or Vacate Notices instead of the 3-day Pay or Vacate Notice. You also have to accept rent and certain fees if paid after the fourteen-day deadline.
Because judges will have the final say in whether to consider factors such as hardship or sickness, landlords may want to carefully consider whether to evict a tenant who has fallen on hard times but might recover. An alternative may be to just use a notice to terminate the tenancy if it is month-to-month. Along these lines, landlords may want to consider raising rents to mitigate the risk, and/or use shorter-term leases or only allow month-to-month.
The attorneys at the Kitsap Law Group have already helped landlords prepare for these changes. Contact us if you need assistance. We are happy to help.