What Landlords Need to Know
If you are a landlord in Shoreline, you will want to be familiar with Shoreline’s new tenant protections.
On December 11, 2023, the Shoreline City Council passed Ordinance Number 996. Ordinance Number 996 establishes a new Chapter, Chapter 9.35 Residential Tenant Protections, of the Shoreline Municipal Code. This ordinance is currently in effect. Below is a summary of the changes Chapter 9.35 makes to current residential landlord-tenant law in the City of Shoreline.
What Notice is Required for a Rent Increase?
Chapter 9.35 requires landlords to provide adequate written notice of rent increases.
- If the landlord intends to increase the tenant’s base rent by 3-10%, the landlord must provide notice at least 120 days in advance.
- If the tenant’s base rent is being increased by 10% or more, the landlord must provide notice at least 180 days in advance.
- For rental agreements under subsidized housing, the landlord must provide at least 30 days’ notice for any increase in rent.
- For optional rent costs, a landlord must provide notice at least 60 days in advance .
- Chapter 9.35 defines “optional rent” as recurring and periodic charges identified in the rental agreement that are not required for use and occupancy but that a tenant voluntarily agrees to.
- Examples of optional charges: parking space, pet fees, etc.
Landlords should take care to comply with these requirements to ensure their notices of rent increases remain enforceable.
What Fees May a Landlord Charge?
Chapter 9.35 defines and provides clarification regarding the fees a landlord may charge, including: move-in fees, late fees, common area fees, and additional fees. It is important for Shoreline landlords to know how these fees are defined and what the new regulations are.
A landlord may charge move-in fees, defined as a one-time non-refundable fee or fees charged by the landlord to the tenant before a tenant takes possession of a dwelling unit. This term does not include the prepayment of the last month’s rent, or a one-time nonrefundable fee related any item considered Optional Rent. Chapter 9.35 states that the cost of all move-in fees and security deposits cannot exceed one month’s rent. This restriction does not apply to subsidized housing.
Tenants may also now enter installment payments for move-in costs, so long as they give the landlord a written request . A landlord must accept the request . Installment schedules must be in writing and installment payments are assumed to be paid at the same time as base rent, unless otherwise agreed to. Landlords may not charge any fees or interest because a tenant decides to do installment payments. The amount of months a tenant may request for installment payments is determined by the length of their rental agreement:
- Tenants entering lease terms lasting six months or more may opt to pay their move in fees in installments over the first six months occupying the unit.
- Tenants entering lease terms less than six months may opt to pay their move in fees in installments over the first two months occupying the unit.
A landlord may charge late fees; defined as any fee, cost, or charge by the landlord for the tenant’s failure to pay rent within five (5) full days following its due date. However, Chapter 9.35 caps late fees at 1.5% of the tenant’s monthly rent.
Additionally, tenants who receive a regular, monthly source of government assistance as their primary income may request the landlord to change the due date of the rent. This provision must be included in the rental agreement.
Common Area Fees
A main change Chapter 9.35 provides is that a landlord may not charge common area fees. Common area fees are defined as any charges for a tenant’s access to common areas , share of utilities for common areas, or for tenant services such as mail distribution.
A landlord may also not charge a tenant fees for other performance based on a landlord’s duty under Washington’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, RCW 59.18. Landlord’s duties under RCW 59.18 include, but are not limited to: removal of waste from common areas, maintaining structural components; keeping common areas reasonably clean, and providing reasonably adequate locks and keys to tenants.
A landlord may charge additional fees, defined as any fee other than Base Rent and Optional Rent. A landlord may only charge additional fees if such fee is put in an addendum to the lease agreement, acknowledged by the tenant. A landlord may not charge any fee related to the issuance of a notice to the tenant.
What Information Must a Tenant Provide for Tenant Screening?
Chapter 9.35 explains how a landlord may conduct tenant screening. The main change with Chapter 9.35 compared to previous law is that while a landlord can request a tenant’s social security number or tax identification number, a tenant does not need to provide this information, nor can they be denied tenancy because they do not disclose this information.
Can Provisions in Chapter 9.35 be Waived?
Chapter 9.35 provides only a narrow manner in which its provisions can be waived. More specifically, a landlord and tenant may agree to waive specific requirements only if such waiver is: (1) memorialized in writing that specifically identifies the provisions being waived, (2) the writing is in a document separate from the rental agreement, (3) the writing is signed by both the landlord and the tenant, and (4) the tenant is represented by an attorney who also approves, in writing, the agreement to waive. This last requirement presents unique challenges, as tenants may be unlikely to be represented by attorneys or involve attorneys in signing leases.
Tenant’s Remedies for Landlord’s Violation of Chapter
Chapter 9.35 provides a remedy clause for tenants whose landlords are in violation of this chapter. It states that a landlord who violates the chapter is exposed to liability for double the tenant’s economic and noneconomic damages or up to three times the tenant’s monthly base tenant, and reasonable litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.
Given the potential for such penalties, it is important landlords operating in Shoreline have a firm grasp of Shoreline’s Chapter 9.35 and experienced legal counsel to assist them as matters arise. Should you have any questions regarding these new laws or the ever-changing landlord-tenant landscape in Washington, please contact Briana Irani or one of Montgomery Purdue’s landlord tenant attorneys.