Property Management Blog

SB 5600 amended the Washington Landlord Tenant Act in the following ways:

System - Thursday, August 15, 2019
  • Amending the eviction process and creating a fund to pay monetary judgments for reinstated tenants
  • Extending the notice period for a pay or vacate notice from three to 14 days, before a landlord can file a summons and complaint for an unlawful detainer. Nothing in the bill language mandates a grace period before a landlord can issue a pay or vacate notice for nonpayment of rent in a particular month.
  • Defining ‘rent’ to include recurring charges in the rental agreement and utilities. The definition excludes non-recurring charges (e.g. deposits, utilities (billed back individually as RUBS for example), damage fees, late fees, and attorneys’ fees). Security deposit payment plans are specifically allowed under the definition of rent.
    • If at the commencement of the tenancy, the landlord has provided an installment payment plan for nonrefundable fees or security deposits and the tenant defaults, the landlord is allowed to treat the default as rent owing.
  • Preventing a landlord from obtaining a writ of restitution to remove the tenant from the unit for charges that are not contained in the new definition of rent, although they are still owed by the tenant and may be pursued in other civil actions, like small claims court.
  •  Creation of a new easy to read pay or vacate notice in statute, modernizes the language of the standard form Summons and Complaint, and requires the Attorney General’s office to maintain a website that contains common notices in the 10 most common languages (in Washington) and provides reference to tenant legal services.
  • Removing the requirement for a court order to serve an unlawful detainer summons and complaint by posting. The landlord may now post the summons and complaint after three attempts at personal service. The judge will address the issue of appropriate service before entering a judgment. Service by posting still only allows for a writ of restitution and does not create jurisdiction for monetary judgments.
  • Removing language requiring the tenant to place the amount of a monetary judgment into the court registry in order to stop execution of a writ of restitution.
  • Caps the amount of money that can be awarded in a monetary judgment for unlawful detainer to $75. All late fees are owed and may be pursued in other civil actions.
  • Creating standards by which a judge can award reasonable attorneys’ fees. If the parties appear for a show cause hearing, the judgment must be for an amount more than two month’s rent, or $1,200 (whichever is greater) for the judge to order reasonable attorney’s fees. If the tenant files a motion for reinstatement, attorneys’ fees for the proceeding may be awarded if the tenant is reinstated but may not be awarded if the tenant is not reinstated by the court.
  • Allowing for a tenant, who has had a judgment finding them guilty of unlawful detainer, to request that the court reinstate the tenancy and set up a payment plan for the tenant to pay off the monetary judgment. Current law allows for reinstatement of tenancy if the tenant is on a rental agreement and the tenant pays the monetary judgment, in full, within five days.
  • If the tenant makes this request of the court, the judge must apply seven factors to determine reinstatement and terms of any payment plan. The judge may take into account the following:
    • the tenant’s willful or intentional failure to pay rent;
    • whether the nonpayment was caused by exigent circumstances that are not likely to recur;
    • the tenant’s ability to pay rent;
    •  the tenant’s payment history;
    • whether the tenant is otherwise in substantial compliance with the rental agreement;
    • the tenant’s hardship if evicted; and
    • Conduct related to other notices within the last six months.
  • Reinstatement through judicial discretion can only be ordered for nonpayment of rent and not for other violations of the lease agreement. A tenant may not be awarded reinstatement if the tenant has received three pay-or-vacate notices within the last 12 months.
  • Any payment plan for the monetary judgment between landlords and tenants must be paid off in 90 days. The bill creates a $50 penalty to the tenant for each subsequent unlawful detainer after reinstatement has been awarded.
  • The tenant must pay off one month’s rent in the monetary judgment within five business days to be eligible for the plan. The tenant then pays the cumulative amount of at least one month’s rent within 30 days of the reinstatement. After that the tenant pays the cumulative amount of at least one month’s rent within 60 days of the reinstatement. The tenant must then pay the balance within 90 days. If the tenant defaults on any of these benchmarks to the payment plan, the landlord may execute the writ of restitution from the original unlawful detainer with three days’ notice to the tenant.
  • The tenant must also stay current on new rent owed during the payment plan period or the landlord may execute the writ from the unlawful detainer. If the judgment is ordered after the 15th of the month, the tenant has the option to prorate the first month’s new rent into the payment plan, under the existing benchmarks for timely payments.
  • Landlords will be able to submit a request to have the entire monetary judgment paid by the Department of Commerce Landlord Mitigation Program. After submitting the application, the Department of Commerce will take 30 days to approve the claim, and another 15 days to pay the landlord. The tenant will then be responsible to pay back the state, independent of the landlord-tenant relationship.
    • If there are insufficient funds in the Landlord Mitigation Program for the payment of the monetary judgment, the landlord may execute the writ to remove the tenant, and may hold the request for payment to be paid by the state on a first come, first served basis, when the fund is replenished.
    • The 2019 State Legislature has appropriated $1 million dollars in the capital budget for the Landlord Mitigation Program. Future legislatures will need to appropriate further budgetary funds in the supplemental budget process and in future budget cycles.

In addition to SB 5600 there were other changes to the Washington Landlord tenant Laws with the approval of HB 1440, HB1138 and HB1462.

HB 1440 is a new statewide law that changes the increase in rent notice for from 30 days to 60 days for any amount of rent.  The law also prohibits the increase from becoming effective before completion of the term of the rental agreement.

In HB 1138, the Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA), language updates the regulatory framework around the legal termination of a lease agreement by a member of the Armed Services and their spouse or dependent.

It allows a member of the Armed Services (and spouse or dependent) to give a 20-day notice to their landlord if they need to break their lease obligation under specific circumstances, such as being released from active duty or assigned to a new permanent change of station that is more than thirty-five (35) miles from their current location or they have received deployment orders.

Finally, HB 1462, requires a landlord give 120 days’ notice for termination of a month-to-month tenancy when the termination is for the property to be substantially rehabilitated, has a change of use, or is demolished.

Substantial rehabilitation is defined as, “extensive structural repair or extensive remodeling of premises that requires a permit such as a building, electrical, plumbing, or mechanical permit, and that results in the displacement of an existing tenant”.

Change of use is defined as conversion from residential to non-residential, or to another form of residential use.

Displacing a tenant due to an owner or their immediate family occupying the unit does constitute a change of use. A property owner in violation of the policy is liable in a civil action up to three times the monthly rent.

You can see that SB 5600HB 1440HB 1138, and HB1462 make significant changes to the rules and laws in Washington State.