Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tenant's Rights - The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act

The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) was enacted by the Washington legislature in 1973.  Most tenants who are renting a dwelling unit for living purposes are covered by the Act, however most tenants have never even heard of the Act.  Here is an overview of who is covered, what is excluded, and the protections that it affords.

  • What is a dwelling unit?  A dwelling unit is defined as "a structure, or that part of a structure which is used as a home, residence or sleeping place by one person or by two or more persons maintaining a common household, including but not limited to single family residences and units of multiplexes, apartment buildings and mobile homes."
  • Does a dwelling unit include a mobile home?  Yes, however if the tenants are renting only the space in a mobile home park (i.e. the tenant owns the mobile home and is only renting the space to put the home on), they are covered by the Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act, not the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.  

The RLTA does not cover the following types of living arrangements unless they were established primarily to avoid its application:
  • Institutional living arrangements such as nursing homes, dormitories, hospitals, jails and monasteries.  
  • Residents under purchase and sale agreements who constitute purchasers. 
  • Residents in hotels, motels, and other transient accommodations as defined in RCW 19.48.010.
  • Residents in single family dwellings on property rented mainly for agricultural purposes.  
  • Seasonal farm-worker housing in conjunction with employment. 
  • Employees of the landlord whose right to live in the dwelling unit is conditioned upon their continued employment around the premises.  
  • The RLTA governs how the landlord-tenant relationship is created, i.e. it states how a tenancy is created and what makes the tenancy valid. 
  • The Act governs what kind of fees and deposits can be collected.  
  • The Act governs how the deposits are collected.  
  • The Act governs the refund of deposits. 
  • The Act provides remedies for tenant's whose deposits are not returned. 
  • The Act sets out the duties of the landlord. 
  • The Act provides remedies for tenant's if their landlord violates certain duties.  
  • The Act sets out the duties of the tenant. 
  • The Act gives the tenant certain privacies and sets out the procedure the landlord must follow before entering a tenant's home. 
  • The Act defines illegal landlord conduct and provides remedies for the tenant. 
  • The Act governs how a tenancy can be terminated.  
It's important for every tenant to know his or her rights under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.  I suggest you spend some time looking over the provisions of the Act and making sure that you (as the tenant) know what your rights and duties are under the Act.  If you are visiting from a state other than Washington, check to see if your state has a Landlord-Tenant Act, most do!  Please feel free to email me at with any questions or concerns you have!  

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