03 Jul Landlord Tenant Law: HB 1440 & SB 5600
Washington recently enacted significant changes to landlord-tenant law in Washington. These changes are a fundamental change in the way you will manage your residential properties and how evictions for non-payment of rent will occur. The moving force behind changes describes their purposes in no uncertain terms – the purpose is to avoid non-payment of rent eviction. To that end, the legislature enacted sweeping new laws affecting landlords and tenants. These changes take effect on July 28, 2019, and it is important to understand the changes to the law as well as 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 ensuring favorable outcomes when possible.
Summary of Changes:
- 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 14 days. Fourteen days is a “soft” deadline. 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 and specifically excluding nonrecurring 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 landlord to get 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 summary is obviously not all inclusive. For how it affects you, please give us a call. Generally, though 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.
After July 27, 2019 you will have to give 14-day Pay or Vacate Notices instead of the 3-day Pay or Vacate Notice. You will also have to accept rent and certain fees if paid after the fourteen-day deadline.
Because judges will have discretion 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 Templeton Horton Weibel & Broughton PLLC have already helped landlords prepare for these changes. Contact us if you need assistance. We are happy to help.