9 Security Deposit Rules in Washington State

The Basics Every Landlord and Tenant Should Know

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Since security deposits often cause problems between landlords and tenants, it is important to understand the laws in your state. If you are a renter or a property owner in the state of Washington, there are nine basic rules you should understand. Here are the important security deposit policies to become familiar with in Washington.

9 Basic Rules About Security Deposits in Washington:

  1. Maximum Amount- No Limit
  2. Requirements to Collect a Deposit- Written Agreement and Written Checklist
  3. Nonrefundable Deposit- Not Allowed
  4. Storing Deposit- Trust Account, Financial Account or Escrow
  5. Written Notice After Receipt- Required
  6. Keeping Deposit- Unpaid Rent, Damages or Other Breaches to Lease
  7. Walk-Through Inspection- Not Required
  8. Returning Deposit- 14 Days After Move Out
  9. Selling Property- Transfer Deposit to New Owner

1. Security Deposit Limit in Washington

There is no limit on the maximum amount a landlord in Washington can charge a tenant as a security deposit.

2. Before Collecting a Security Deposit

A landlord in Washington must do two things before collecting a security deposit from a tenant:

  1. Have a Written Agreement- A landlord must have a written lease or rental agreement with the tenant. This written agreement must include the reasons the landlord can withhold all or a portion of the tenant’s security deposit.
  2. Include a Written Checklist- This checklist must detail the condition, cleanliness and any existing damage to the property. Both the landlord and tenant must sign and date this statement. The tenant must also receive a copy of this checklist. A tenant could be entitled to the return of their security deposit, plus reasonable court costs and attorney's fees if a landlord does not include this written checklist.

    3. Nonrefundable Fees

    Landlords in Washington can charge nonrefundable fees, which are different from nonrefundable deposits. An example of a nonrefundable fee could be a fee for having a pet in the property.

    The landlord must have a written lease or rental agreement with the tenant to be able to charge a nonrefundable fee. In addition, these fees are only considered nonrefundable if they are clearly spelled out as such in the lease or rental agreement.

    A nonrefundable fee becomes a deposit and must be returned to the tenant at the termination of tenancy if:

    1. The landlord and tenant do not have a written lease or rental agreement.
      1. And/Or
    2. The nonrefundable fee is not clearly listed as nonrefundable in the lease or rental agreement.

    4. Storing the Security Deposit in Washington

    Washington landlords have three choices for storing a tenant’s security deposit:

    1. Place the deposit in a trust account, set up by the landlord, which is only for tenants’ security deposits.
    2. Place the deposit in a state or national financial institution, which includes banks, trust companies, savings and loan associations and credit unions.
    3. Place the deposit with an escrow agent, who is licensed and located within the state of Washington.

    Who Gets the Interest?– If the deposit is placed in an interest-bearing account, the landlord gets this interest unless the landlord and the tenant agree, in writing, to different terms.

    5. Written Notice After Collecting Security Deposit in Washington

    After collecting and depositing a tenant’s security deposit, Washington landlords must provide the tenant with written notice. This notice must include:

    • A written receipt which states the amount of the security deposit.
    • Name of the institution where the deposit is being held.
    • Address of the institution where the deposit is being held.

    If the landlord moves the security deposit to a different institution during the tenant’s tenancy, the landlord must again notify the tenant in writing with the name and address where the deposit is now being held.

    6. Reasons You Can Keep a Tenant’s Security Deposit in Washington

    In the state of Washington, a landlord may be able to keep all or a portion of a tenant’s security deposit to cover:

    7. Is a Walk Through Inspection Required in Washington?

    A walk through inspection is not required before a tenant’s move-out in the state of Washington. Before collecting a security deposit from a tenant, however, both landlord and tenant must sign off on a checklist describing the condition of the property.

    8. Returning a Tenant’s Security Deposit in Washington

    In Washington State, a landlord has 14 days from the date of lease termination or tenant move out to return the portion of the security deposit owed to the tenant.

    • Deductions:

    If the landlord has made any deductions from the deposit, the landlord must include a written notice stating the amount of money that has been withheld and why. With this statement, the landlord must return the portion of the security deposit, if any, that is due back to the tenant.

    • Delivery:

    The landlord is required to mail the security deposit and written statement to the tenant via Unites States first-class mail or must personally deliver it to the tenant. These documents must be sent or hand delivered to the last known address of the tenant.

    • Failure to Comply:

    A landlord who fails to follow these rules may have to return the entire security deposit to the tenant even if deductions would have been allowed. A landlord who wrongfully withholds all or a portion of a tenant’s security deposit may be liable for paying up to two times the tenant’s security deposit, plus court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. Different rules may apply if the tenant abandoned the premises. See the Revised Code of Washington Annotated §§ 59.18.310 for information regarding tenant abandonment.

    If the tenant's security deposit does not cover the amount of money the landlord is owed, the landlord has legal rights as well. The landlord can sue the tenant to recover the full amount owed. 

    9.Selling Your Rental Property in Washington

    If a landlord in Washington sells his or her investment property, or the property otherwise changes ownership, the landlord must transfer all tenants’ security deposits to the new owner. The new owner is then responsible for placing the deposits in the correct financial or trust account and for notifying all tenants in writing of the name and address where their deposits are now being held.

    What Is Washington's Security Deposit Law?

    For the original text of security deposit code in the state of Washington, please refer to the Revised Code of Washington Annotated §§ 59.18.260 - 285.