Washington State has recently had some big changes to the laws that govern residential landlord-tenant transactions. The laws affect the way evictions are handled, the notices required for rent increases, limits on attorney fees and other aspects of rental property management.
Changes to rental property management landlord/tenant laws
Previously, when a tenant was even a day late with their rent, the landlord could post a three-day notice to pay or vacate. After this period, the landlord could file an eviction suit. One change to the eviction law is that judges hearing such cases can now create payment plans to help tenants catch up on rent arrears rather than be evicted. Previously, landlords did not have to accept partial payments or adhere to payment plans. Also, landlords are now required to give tenants 14 rather than three days to pay or vacate. The law requires that the notice be issued through a mandatory 14 Day Notice to Pay or Vacate form.
No eviction for related charges
Under the previous law, landlords could take monies paid toward rent and apply them to other charges. This included charges like late payment fees, repair bills and other charges and penalties. The new laws stipulate that money paid for rent must first be applied toward rent and specific charges like utility bills. Landlords can claim money for other charges in a small claims court but they cannot evict a tenant because of them.
Longer notices for rent increases and remodeling
Changes have also been made in regard to notice periods. A landlord used to be allowed to give a month-to-month tenant 30-days’ notice before increasing the amount payable for rent, but they now need to give 60-days’ notice. The new laws also dictate that a landlord cannot raise the rent in the middle of a rental period. The only exception to this rule is if the rental is a subsidized unit where the rent changes as a tenant’s income changes. The notice that a landlord needs to give a tenant before remodeling or making significant changes has also been increased from 20 days to 120 days.
Limited attorney fees
Real estate attorneys have also been affected by the new laws. Limits have been set on the amount of fees they can collect and when they can be collected. It used to be that even if a tenant lost an eviction case in a default judgement, the landlord could still claim and collect attorney’s fees. They were able to do this through eviction judgement. Attorneys can no longer collect fees in default judgements such as when a tenant moves out or cannot or does not respond to a suit. Additionally, attorney fees have been limited if the case they are dealing with involves a tenant who owes less than two months of unpaid rent or less than $1,200.
Serving eviction notices
Landlords typically taped an eviction notice on the door or mailed it if they couldn’t get it to the tenant personally. Previously, if these efforts weren’t successful, the landlord had to get a judge’s permission to serve eviction. Now, they don’t need to seek permission if three serious attempts were made over two days to serve a tenant personally at their home.
Rental property management has been dramatically affected by these changes. Failing to comply with them as a property owner means attracting various penalties, including fines. That is why rental property management is best left to the experts. A property manager will revise and disburse new rental agreements in keeping to the new laws so a property owner can rest assured that they are in adherence with all property management laws.
If you own rental property, you may be looking for a property manager. Son-Rise Property Management has been serving the property management needs of Bellingham and Whatcom County since 1996. Contact us today to see how we can help you find a rental property for your family or manage your rental properties.