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Before using any of this online tenant information, please read our OVERVIEW:
- Understanding Landlord-Tenant Law
- Tools for Tenants
- Best Practices and Tips for Renters
Solid Ground Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. To read specific laws in the Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, click on the RCW (Revised Code of WA) links throughout this site.
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What’s a “Good Cause” Law?
Landlords must have “Good Cause” for terminating a tenancy under the Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RCW 59.18.650), while in the City of Seattle there is the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance under SMC 22.206.160(C). Tenancy termination is different than eviction. Termination occurs when the landlord ends the rental agreement and asks the tenant to vacate the rental unit. A tenant can have their tenancy terminated and move out without being evicted. Eviction is the actual court process and lawsuit that has a tenant removed from the property if they fail to leave.
Washington landlords used to be able to terminate a month-to-month renter’s contract for any reason. Now, Washington state landlords are required to have a Good Cause reason for ending a rental agreement. If the landlord doesn’t have a Good Cause reason, then in most cases, they should not be able to terminate your lease.
However, don’t rely on the information on this page to tell you whether your landlord is doing things properly. Speak to an attorney as soon as possible if you get a termination notice from your landlord. See our Legal Assistance Guide webpage for more information.BACK TO TOP
Advance Notice Timeframes
Depending on their reason for terminating the agreement, a landlord could be required to give you advance notice of 20 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, or 120 days. If a tenant who receives a valid notice does not vacate within 20, 30, 60, 90, or 120 days, they become a “holdover” tenant, and the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against them. The landlord can terminate your agreement within the following timeframes if any of the bulleted items are true:
- You share a house with your landlord with a common kitchen or bathroom and the landlord wants you to leave (for any reason).
- The tenant has made unwanted sexual advancements to the landlord, another tenant, or an employee of the landlord.
- You are an occupant and resided with the main tenant for six months prior, but you’re not listed on the lease, and the main tenant has moved out.
- Your time in a transitional housing program is coming to an end.
- Your original application had intentional mistakes on it and you would have otherwise been denied.
- The building has been condemned.
- The landlord has served you with four or more 10-day notices within a 12-month period.
- The tenant was required to register as a sex offender and failed to do so – or failed to disclose a requirement that they are registered as a sex offender.
- The landlord has “other good cause,” defined as a “legitimate economic or business reason.”(In cases like this, it’s up to the judge to decide whether the landlord’s “other good cause” is valid).
- The owner or an immediate family member of the owner wants to move in.
- The owner wants to sell the building.
- The owner plans to demolish or rehabilitate the premises or plans to change of use.
- The owner wants to change the use of the building (e.g., from apartments to a hotel or condo).
If you have a lease for a specific time period and the landlord wants you to move out at the end, they must give you advance notice. In most cases, they must serve you properly with a Good Cause notice. In some cases, they might not need to list a reason for not renewing your lease, but they still must give you at least 60 days’ notice before the end of the lease. If the landlord wants you to sign a new contract with them at the end of your lease, they must give you at least 30 days to review their offer before the end of your lease.BACK TO TOP
Discrimination and Retaliation
Landlords cannot terminate tenancies for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory. Retaliation is illegal in Washington state (RCW 59.18.240, RCW 59.18.250), as is discrimination on the basis of any protected class status, such as race, gender, or disability. Landlords cannot discriminate against tenants who use Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers or other forms of government assistance to pay their rent. However, it can be extremely difficult to win a retaliation or discrimination claim, and filing one still may not be enough to stop an eviction lawsuit from proceeding.
Be sure to get as much written documentation as possible. Discrimination laws are governed by fair housing laws in your area. For more information, talk to your local civil rights office. See our Renters’ Resources or Legal Assistance Guide webpages for more details.BACK TO TOP