Topics on this page:
Before using any of this online tenant information, please read these Overview page sections:
- Understanding Landlord-Tenant Law
- Tools for Tenants
- Best Practices & 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.
Questions? Contact Us
Community Resources BACK TO TOP
- Washington State 2-1-1: Also 206.461.3200, 1.800.621.4636 or 206.461.3610 for TTY/hearing impaired calls – Clearinghouse for all community resources, including rental assistance and low-income housing.
- City of Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI): 206.615.0808 – Code Enforcement Inspectors respond to tenant complaints regarding housing conditions and permits.
- Dispute Resolution Center of King County: 206.443.9603 – Trained mediators can assist tenants and landlords in resolving conflicts.
- Manufactured Housing Dispute Resolution Program: 866.924.6458 – Washington State Attorney General’s assistance for owners of mobile homes and manufactured housing to resolve disputes with landlords.
- Washington State Human Rights Commission: 800.233.3247 – Enforces the law against discrimination and investigates complaints regarding civil rights violations.
- Seattle Office for Civil Rights: 206.684.4500 – Enforces civil rights protections and investigates discrimination complaints for Seattle residents.
- King County Office of Civil Rights: 206.296.7592 – Fair Housing enforcement and information for tenants in unincorporated King County.
- Fair Housing Center of Washington: 888.766.8800 – Provides support and education for renters filing discrimination complaints or requesting reasonable accommodations from their landlords.
- King County Tax Assessor Parcel Viewer: 206.296.3850 – Find a mailing address for your landlord by looking up the property in the Tax Assessor database.
Legal Resources BACK TO TOP
See our Legal Assistance Guide for information on the five primary ways to make legal assistance work for you in resolving landlord-tenant matters.
Some of the following resources are specific to King County. For resources in your area, see Washington State 2-1-1 (also 206.461.3200, 1.800.621.4636 or 206.461.3610 for TTY/hearing impaired calls).
- Washington LawHelp: www.walawhelp.org (an online resource; no phone) – Provides self-help legal information for renters, including detailed packets on repairs, deposits, Small Claims Court and the eviction process. Materials are created and updated by attorneys from the Northwest Justice Project.
- CLEAR Line Legal Help: 1.888.201.1014 – Northwest Justice Project’s free legal help and assistance over the phone for low-income Washington state residents. Open Mon–Fri, 9:15am–12:15pm.
- Housing Justice Project: 206.267.7090 – King County Bar Association’s walk-in legal information and assistance. Priority service for renters facing evictions only. Open Mon–Fri, 8–10:30am, in the King County Courthouse in Seattle and Kent Regional Justice Center. Seattle location also open Mon, 4–6pm.
- Tenant Law Center: 206.324.6890 – A part of Catholic Community Services, Tenant Law Center offers legal advice and assistance for low-income renters in King County who are facing eviction, repair problems, deposit loss, subsidy termination, lockouts and other issues.
- Volunteer Legal Services (VLS): 206.461.3200 – King County Bar Association’s pro bono lawyer referral service. Eligibility for VLS is screened through Washington State 2-1-1 (also 206.461.3200, 1.800.621.4636 or 206.461.3610 for TTY/hearing impaired calls).
- CLEAR*Senior Legal Help: 888.387.7111 – Northwest Justice Project’s free legal help and assistance for persons over 60 years of age of all income levels. Seniors can call the CLEAR Senior Line starting at 9:15am and leave a message. The line will close for the day once the voicemail message system is full.
- Neighborhood Legal Clinics (NLC): 206.267.7070 – King County Bar Association’s legal clinics located across King County, NLC attorneys can provide a free half hour of legal advice to renters, regardless of income.
- Northwest Justice Project: 206.464.1519 – Legal help for tenants in public housing or with Section 8 vouchers facing subsidy termination or eviction.
- Lawyer Referral Service: 206.267.7010 – King County Bar Association attorneys for hire at regular rates.
- Legal Voice: Empowers women with knowledge about their legal rights and tools to help them navigate the legal system.
Rental Assistance Resources BACK TO TOP
If You Cannot Pay Your Rent
Contact your landlord as soon as you realize you may not be able to pay your rent. Clear communication is essential. Let your landlord know that while you may not be able to pay on time, you are looking for help. Ask if he or she will accept partial payments until the rent is paid in full – and write out a payment plan that you can afford.
Where to Turn
Start by calling Washington State 2-1-1 (also 206.461.3200, 1.800.621.4636 or 206.461.3610 for TTY/hearing impaired calls). You’ll be asked to explain your situation and give your address and zip code for referrals to agencies serving the area where you live. 2-1-1 staff will tell you about agencies that can help with rental and move-in costs. They can also refer you to other resources such as financial education classes.
- Do not wait to call once 2-1-1 gives you referrals. You may need to call a number more than once – or call back at a specific date and time – to get an answer.
- Be clear about what help you need when calling agencies for assistance. Explain what happened that put you at risk of losing your housing. For example: “I lost my job last month, but I’m starting a new job in a week. I need help with this month’s rent.” Most rental assistance programs will expect you to have income to pay rent. If you do not, 2-1-1 will help you find resources to assist you. If you have children, ask for the number of the closest DSHS office.
- Be prepared if you are given an appointment with an agency to apply for rental assistance. Bring paperwork documenting what you owe, income verification, your lease and your landlord’s contact information. Some programs will have you create a budget or set goals to help you stabilize your housing.
- Try to stay calm and patient. The process can be frustrating. Be organized and politely persistent to find the help you need.
Code Enforcement BACK TO TOP
Many cities have code enforcement offices that will send inspectors to take a look at any rental housing code violations. Availability and responsiveness vary from city to city, and not all municipalities do inspections. Some inspectors will follow up directly with a landlord to ensure that housing codes are being met and permits are up-to-date. Typically Code Enforcement will want you to first go through the initial repair process of notifying the landlord in writing of the need for a repair and to wait the appropriate timeframe.
Be aware that if your unit lacks water or electricity, it could be condemned by the city. Call Code Enforcement to describe your situation and ask them what actions they are likely to take so that you can balance the decision to file a complaint.
Some municipalities will be able to impose fines on the landlord, or otherwise penalize code violations. If the city provides inspections, be sure to ask for a copy of their report as this documentation can be very helpful.
The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) can be reached at 206.615.0808. Search for your city code enforcement office online or call City Hall and ask for the office that enforces building codes. They are otherwise known as the Planning, Community Development, or Building Code Enforcement departments.
Dispute Resolution BACK TO TOP
Mediation and dispute resolution are invaluable tools to assist renters in solving problems with landlords. Since there is no enforcement for landlord-tenant laws in Washington state, negotiation with landlords is one of the best ways to solve problems and assert your rights.
Every county in Washington offers free dispute resolution and mediation services. For more information and a detailed list of organizations, go to Resolution Washington or the Washington Courts Dispute Resolution Centers listings.
Sample Letters BACK TO TOP
The following is a compilation of all of the Sample Letters found on these Tenant Services webpages:
- Disputing a Debt with a Collection Agency
- Foreclosure – for Non-Section 8 Tenant to Send to New Owner
- Foreclosure – for Section 8 Tenant to Send to the Landlord
- Housing Denial for Criminal History
- Improper Rule Change / Fee or Rent Increase
- Improper Termination
- Notice of Intent to Vacate
- Notice of Intent to Vacate Because of Unmade Repairs
- Notice of Privacy Violation
- Notice Requesting Repairs
- Request for Deposit Return
- Request for Holding Deposit Return
- For Tenants to Send to Public Utility Companies to Transfer Bills to Tenants’ Names
- Request for Reasonable Accommodation
- Section 8 Hearing Request