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Bellingham Lawmakers Pass New Landlord Tenant Law Requiring Landlords to Give More Notice for Rent Increases

Posted by sonrise on March 8, 2023
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One of the greatest challenges that comes with owning a rental property is the need to always stay on top of changing landlord/tenant laws. A rather significant new landlord tenant law was recently passed here in Bellingham, WA, and its effect on local landlords and renters alike could be significant.

As Cascadia Daily recently reported, landlords in Bellingham are now required to give tenants a four-month notice for any rent increase. Let’s take a deeper dive into why and how this change was made, and the ways that it may impact both landlords and tenants going forward.

New Landlord Tenant Law for Bellingham Landlords

As of February 27, 2023, landlords in Bellingham must notify tenants at least four months in advance of any rent hikes. The Bellingham City Council voted unanimously to pass this measure, which doubled the amount of time previously required for landlords to give notice.

Previously, notice was required 60 days in advance, and only if the rent increase was 10 percent or more. The new requirement of 120 days’ notice is intended to ease some of the challenges faced by renters in a tight rental market with already high rental rates because they will have more time to adjust their budgets.

Councilman Dan Hammill, a landlord himself, noted during a recent committee meeting that, “About half of Bellingham residents are renters, and they are offered few protections at the state level.” In fact, 54 percent of Bellingham households are renter-occupied according to recent census data. Bellingham renters face two main challenges: 1. the current rental vacancy rate is very low at 3 percent, which means there is stiff competition for properties and 2. rapid increases in rental costs have become burdensome in recent years. As Cascadia Daily reported last year, the median rent in Bellingham increased 41 percent between 2018 and 2022, which matches a nationwide trend.

Part of a larger trend

The Bellingham City Council is also considering additional protections for renters based on protections that are offered in other jurisdictions. These include caps on move-in fees, late fees, application fees, and pet deposits. There is also a possibility of instituting escrow accounts to withhold rental income from landlords pending repairs.

The changes that have already been made, and those that are still on the table, reflect a broader trend of increasing protections for renters on both a state and national level. Bellingham is not alone in that wages have not kept up with rent increases over the last decade.

A trio of bills are currently making their way through the state legislature here in Washington, with the intention to prevent excessive rent increases, prohibit rent increases during the first year of tenancy, and require landlords to provide at least 180 days’ notice for any rent increase over five percent.

Meanwhile, on the federal level, the Biden-Harris Administration has released a Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, which is aimed at improving quality of life for renters and easing housing costs.

Learn more

Landlord/tenant laws are in a constant state of change, and keeping up isn’t easy. As professional property managers, we ensure our rental property owners and renters are kept informed of any changes to landlord tenant laws at the local, state, and federal level. This protects our clients from making a costly mistake.

Contact us today to learn more about the effects this new law will have on the way you manage your rental properties and how property management can help landlords manage these changes. We are here to help!

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