Effective June 9, 2016, the Washington State Residential Landlord Tenant Act (Chapt. 59.18 RCW) was modified by the Washington State Legislature (ESB 6413) as it relates to issues of tenant screening, evictions and return of the security deposit. The Act (RLTA) regulates the rights and duties of residential landlords and tenants in residential rental housing.
21 DAYS FOR DISPOSITION OF SECURITY DEPOSIT
(Change from 14 days)
A landlord may collect a deposit from a tenant as security for the performance of the tenant’s obligations in a rental agreement. In order to collect a deposit, the rental agreement must be in writing and must include the terms and conditions under which the deposit may be withheld upon termination of the agreement. A written checklist signed by the landlord and the tenant describing the condition of the unit must accompany the rental agreement.
A landlord must give a former tenant a full and specific statement of the basis for retaining any portion of a rental deposit together with the payment of any refund due within 21 days after the termination of the rental agreement or abandonment of the premises. If a landlord fails to provide the required statement and refund to the tenant within 21 days, the landlord must return the entire deposit. This is a change from the prior law which granted 14 days for the disposition.
If a landlord does not send an itemized statement and deposit balance to the tenant within 21 days of the date the rental agreement is terminated or the tenant moves out, whichever is later, the landlord forfeits all rights to any of the deposit and to take further legal action against the tenant in a court of law. It really makes no difference how much damage there is if any.
There are specific steps and requirements that a landlord must meet regarding security deposits. If the landlord does not follow the exact letter of the law then their right to withhold ANY of the deposit is completely forfeited. In the State of Washington a tenant can force the landlord to return 100% of the security deposit.
COMPREHENSIVE REUSABLE TENANT SCREENING REPORT
Landlords may screen and evaluate potential tenants, either by conducting their own searches of public records or by using companies that provide consumer reports for use in screening tenants. RTLA provides that if a landlord uses a tenant screening service to obtain the report, only the landlord’s cost may be charged to the tenant. The landlord’s actual costs may be charged if the landlord conducts the screening. A landlord may not charge a tenant for obtaining background information unless the landlord first notifies the tenant of what the tenant screening will entail, the tenant’s right to dispute the information received by the landlord, and the name and address of the tenant screening service used by the landlord.
Prior to screening a prospective tenant, and in order to charge the prospective tenant for that screening, the prospective landlord must first notify the prospective tenant in writing of the following information:
- what types of information will be accessed to conduct the tenant screening;
- what criteria may result in the denial of the application;
- the name and address of the consumer reporting agency, if used; and
- the prospective tenant’s right to obtain a free copy of the consumer report in the event of an adverse action, and to dispute the accuracy of information in the consumer report.
If an adverse action is taken, the prospective landlord must provide this information to the prospective tenant in writing, in a form substantially similar to the one prescribed by statute. If the adverse action is based on information received from a consumer report, the contact information of the consumer reporting agency must be provided.
Prior to screening a prospective tenant, and in order to charge the prospective tenant for that screening, the prospective landlord must notify the prospective tenant in writing as to whether or not the landlord will accept a comprehensive reusable tenant screening report made available to the landlord by a consumer reporting agency. If the landlord accepts such a report, the landlord may still access his or her own tenant screening report, but may not charge the prospective tenant for that report.
Any landlord who maintains a website advertising the rental of a dwelling unit or as a source of information for current or prospective tenants must include a statement on the property’s home page stating whether or not the landlord will accept a comprehensive reusable tenant screening report made available to the landlord by a consumer reporting agency.
LIMITED DISSEMINATION OF A PRIOR EVICITON
A court may order an unlawful detainer action to be of limited dissemination for one or more persons if:
- the court finds the plaintiff’s case was sufficiently without basis in fact or law;
- the tenancy was reinstated; or
- other good cause exists for limiting dissemination of the unlawful detainer action.
When an order of limited dissemination of an unlawful detainer action has been entered, a tenant screening service provider must not disclose the existence of that unlawful detainer action in a tenant screening report pertaining to that person or use the unlawful detainer action as a factor in determining any score or recommendation included in a tenant screening report.