Did you know security and damage deposits (refundable) have rules landlords and tenants need to follow to make sure they are in compliance with RCW 59.18.260-280? This statute has teeth against a landlord who may get a little lax and violate this law when it comes move out time for a tenant!
Greetings! My name is Bjorn Hess and I am an attorney in Washington and Oregon. I currently serve as Chief of Operations Officer at Sterling Properties Real Estate Services. Our company has decided to begin a new series on ORS 90 and RCW 59.18 / 59.20 collectively the landlord tenant acts in both Oregon and Washington. The purpose of this blog is to provide guidance for landlords and tenants in navigating what can be a complex area of law.
I was recently approached by a colleague and recent law graduate with an issue she and her client are facing surrounding return of security deposits. This article applies specifically to RCW 59.18.260-280 under the Washington Landlord Tenant Act.
Landlords under the Act must provide a written accounting to tenants on move-out within twenty-one days of move out. This applies to landlords who have collected a damage or security deposit which is refundable. Failure to provide an accurate accounting can result in award of damages DOUBLE the amount of the security deposit and an award of attorney’s fees and costs for violation of this law.
Keep in mind any time a new tenant takes occupancy of a unit and a security deposit or damage deposit is placed on the property a walk-through inspection with a checklist must be completed with the new tenant prior to move in. This provides peace of mind for both the tenant and the landlord when it comes time for move-out. Did Fido eat the bannister or was it already damaged?
To prevent finger pointing a month, a year, or more after a move-in we strongly suggest that landlords maintain photographs of all areas of the property – preferably time stamped and included with the initial walk through inspection.
Next, as soon as the tenant gives notice to vacate give them a notice of the date and time for final inspection, or better yet complete the inspection with them when they hand in the keys. Go through the property and diligently note any damage to the property that goes beyond normal wear and tear. Twenty-one days is only three weeks to assess damage and make the repairs and it can pass in the blink of an eye for a landlord who may not be on top of their properties.
Be sure to get an itemized list of repairs completed and postmarked by the twenty-first day! Failure to follow this rule can result in penalties of double damages and attorney’s fees. No one wants to have to pay what could be more than one months rent back to a tenant who damaged their property and then be responsible in their individual capacity for the repairs to the property!
Remember each landlord tenant situation is different and this blog is not intended to serve as legal advice. If you have a legal issue you should always consult with your attorney or property management company for direction.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or post a question in the comments section of the blog.