The following tip will address landlord entry detailed in Washington State law, in particular, subsections 5-9 of RCW 59.18.150 of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. These subsections address landlord right of entry and the recent changes that were made to this section of the law. This is important information for tenants to understand, because landlords often violate this section of the law, and it seriously impacts the privacy of the tenant.
Sections 1-4 detailing information about search warrants, fire officials’ right of entry, and written notice requirements will not be covered. For information about search warrants and the responsibility of the landlord and tenant pertaining to this issue, you can read the entire section of the law and seek legal advice from an attorney.
The following information is a general summary of the law and the changes. It does not interpret or analyze what the law states. For exact language of the law, tenants can access RCW 59.18.150 in the WA State Legislature’s webpage where a link to the Bill of Changes will also be available.
In order to enter a tenant’s unit, landlords are required to provide tenants with written notice. The notice needs to include specific dates and times that the landlord intends to enter as well as a phone number for the tenant to contact the landlord in case the dates and times listed do not work for the tenant. This notice is meant to inform the tenant ahead of time as well as to give the tenant time to contact the landlord in case there are time conflicts. Previously the law stated that the landlord could give verbal notice. It is now required by law that the landlord give written notice.
Some reasons why a landlord can enter a unit after giving at least 2 days’ notice in writing are:
- to make repairs as requested by the tenant
- inspections (often specified on the rental agreement)
- other agreed upon reasons
In addition, the landlord can enter the unit by giving the tenant 24 hours notice in writing to show the unit to a prospective tenant or buyer.
In cases of emergency or abandonment, the landlord can enter the unit without notice. A landlord cannot interfere with a tenant’s right to enjoy their dwelling unit or abuse their right to access the unit to harass the tenant.
Tenants often ask about the landlord’s right to enter common areas such as a yard, a porch or other areas in close proximity to a tenant’s dwelling unit and if the landlord is required to give notice for such entry. Because every situation is different including complicated situations where a landlord and tenant share the same house and common areas, tenants with these questions may want to consult with an attorney.
If the times a landlord has listed in writing do not work for the tenant, then they can address their concerns with the landlord. While the landlord is required to list a phone number in the notice to enter, tenants can choose to respond to the notice in writing to address the conflicts they may have with the times and dates given by the landlord. The tenant can keep a copy of the letter for themselves for documentation.
A tenant may not be unreasonable in withholding entry to the landlord. If a tenant does not make reasonable efforts to allow the landlord entry, the landlord can recover damages in court including attorney fees. A tenant can choose to provide the landlord with alternate dates and times that will work for the tenant in order to give options so that they address potential concerns of unreasonably refusing to allow the landlord to enter.
Likewise if the landlord unreasonably abuses their right of entry, the tenant can pursue legal action such as Small Claims Court to recover damages. If a landlord has entered without proper notice or is in other ways violating this section of the RLTA, the tenant can send a letter to their landlord to address the violation. If the landlord continues to violate the law after the letter is sent, the tenant can take the landlord to Small Claims Court for $100 per violation.
Because this is a very brief and general overview to a very complicated section of the law, tenants who have questions about privacy and landlord’s right of entry can contact the Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767 on M, W or Th from 10:30 am-4:30 pm to receive more information, including sample letters and potential referrals to free legal services.
The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767 Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.