The City of Seattle has made important changes to the City’s Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance. Future rental agreements in the City of Seattle must follow these requirements. This is a summary of the key changes.
Security Deposit, Pet Deposit, and Move-in Fee Limits – New limits on deposits and fees that can be charged at the beginning of a new rental agreement include:
- Security deposit plus move-in fees cannot exceed the amount of the first full month’s rent
- Pet deposits are limited to 25% of the amount of first full month’s rent
- Non-refundable move-in fees are limited to only tenant screening reports, criminal background checks, credit reports, and cleaning fees.
- Total non-refundable move-in fees are limited to 10% of the first full month’s rent
Payment Plans Required –Landlords must allow an installment plan to pay a security deposit, a pet deposit, move-in fees, and last month’s rent. The payment plan must be structured as follows, unless otherwise agreed to by the landlord and tenant
- For rental agreements of 6 months or longer—6 consecutive and equal payments
- For agreements between 30 days and 6 months—4 consecutive and equal payments
- For month-to-month agreements—2 equal installments; except for pet deposits, which can be paid in 3 equal monthly installments.
Security Deposit Returns – The requirements for security deposit returns have not changed. However, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections may now investigate and take action if a landlord improperly withholds a deposit return or in other cases where the City’s rental agreement regulations are not followed. Important points in the existing security deposit return requirements are:
- The tenant and landlord must have signed a move-in condition checklist.
- Security deposits must be returned within 21 days of the tenant leaving the property.
- The reasons for withholding any portion of a deposit return must be itemized in writing and provided to the former tenant within 21 days of tenant vacating the property.
The new deposit and move-in fee limits and payment plan requirements do not apply to tenants in an owner-occupied single family dwelling, including attached accessory dwelling units.
Read the new law. Updated detailed information will soon be available at www.seattle.gov/rentinginseattle. Information for Tenants, pages 4 – 7, has most of the detailed information. A new version of Information for Tenants must be provided to each tenant household with each new rental agreement.
The changes are effective January 15, 2017. The City recognizes that these changes are significant and have come quickly. As we carry out the new law, we will follow our usual approach of offering assistance and information to rental property owners, working with property owners to voluntarily correct the situation if the rules are not followed, and only taking enforcement action when voluntary corrections are not made. To increase awareness of the new requirements we are funding a landlord training and education project in 2017 and significantly increasing City outreach efforts.
As always, SDCI staff are available answer questions regarding any of the City’s rental housing ordinances. Please call (206) 615-0808 and ask for assistance.