Washington Security Deposit Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of attorney writers and editors.

Rental property security deposits are often a source of friction between landlords and tenants. The landlord wants a security deposit to ensure that the tenant fulfills their obligation to pay rent and doesn't unduly damage the rental property. The tenant, of course, doesn't want to pay a security deposit, but if they do, they'll want all of it back at the end of the tenancy and in a timely manner.

The state of Washington doesn't limit the amount of security deposit that can be collected, but some municipalities do. It's worth checking with your city government for local ordinances regarding security deposits, because they have specific requirements.

If a landlord does collect a security deposit, Washington requires that it be specified in a rental agreement. The agreement must state the terms and conditions regarding the retention of any portion of the deposit at the termination of the rental agreement. In addition to a written rental agreement, Washington requires a written checklist that states the condition of the property and its cleanliness at the time of move-in.

Learn more about Washington's security deposit laws, including the maximum amount a landlord may require, and rules for storing the deposits, in the sections below.

Washington Security Deposit Laws: The Basics

If you're wondering if or when you'll get your security deposit back from your last apartment, you may want to know what the law requires, but you probably don't want to wade through legal statutes. To help guide your research, we've summarized the relevant laws for you in the table below.

Statutes

Washington Revised Code, Title 59:

Security Deposit Maximum

Washington doesn't have a maximum amount that can be collected as a security deposit. However, local city ordinances may limit security deposit amounts. For instance, Seattle city ordinance 7.24.035 prohibits security deposits that exceed the first full month's rent.

Rules Regarding Security Deposits

  • No security deposit may be collected unless the rental agreement is in writing and specifies the terms and conditions under which any portion of the agreement may be withheld.
  • No security deposit may be collected unless a written checklist or statement describing the condition and cleanliness of the property at the time of move-in is provided.
  • If a written checklist isn't provided, the landlord is liable to the tenant for the security deposit and the prevailing party may recover costs and attorney fees.
  • A security deposit may not be withheld on account of normal wear and tear of the premises.

Storage of Security Deposit

  • Washington landlords are required to place security deposits into a trust account.
  • The landlord is entitled to interest from the security deposit trust account.
  • The landlord must inform the tenant of the the name and address of the institution holding the deposit.

Basis of Retention of Security Deposit

Within 21 days after the termination of the rental agreement, the landlord must provide a statement as to the basis for retaining any portion of the security deposit and refund any amount due the tenant.

Tenant Action for Nonpayment of Deposit

  • If the landlord fails to refund any amount due the tenant within 21 days, they may be liable to the tenant for the full amount of the deposit. The tenant may bring a civil action to recover the deposit and may be awarded up to two times the amount of the deposit. The prevailing party is entitled to the cost of the suit and reasonable attorney fees.
  • The landlord is entitled to proceed against the tenant to recover sums exceeding the security deposit for damage to the property for which the tenant is responsible.

Nonrefundable Fees

Landlords may not include any nonrefundable fees as part of the security deposit. Any such nonrefundable amounts are required to clearly specified in the rental agreement.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

  • Washington Law - Summaries of select state laws covering a wide variety of practice areas, including family, criminal, small business, injury, and consumer law.
  • Official State Codes - Links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and DC.

Washington Security Deposit Laws: Related Resources

Having Trouble With Your Security Deposit? Get Help From a Washington Attorney

Landlords are required to abide by Washington security deposit laws, including the timely return of what's owed. While sometimes simply contacting your landlord can clear up misunderstandings or mistakes, you may need to exercise your legal options. Find out more about these options today by contacting an experienced Washington landlord-tenant law attorney near you.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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