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Deposit Returns

See also: Move-In Charges
  • Icon showing renter receiving a security deposit.

What Is It?

In Seattle, a landlord may withhold some or all of a renter’s deposit to cover actual damages to a unit, unpaid rent, and other charges owed to the landlord. A landlord must refund the renter’s total security deposit if:

  • The landlord and renter did not sign a move-in checklist when the renter moved in
  • The landlord does not return the deposit and/or a full and specific statement explaining the reasons for withholding any portion of the deposit within 21 days after the renter moves out 

SDCI can issue citations or notices of violation to landlords who do not return the deposit under these circumstances.

What It Isn’t

Disputes about whether damages are beyond normal “wear and tear” or about the amount charged for damages are decided by the Washington State courts. Nothing in this ordinance prevents a landlord from bringing a case in court against a renter to recover damages and vice versa. Generally, these types of disputes involving amounts no greater than $5,000 are resolved with a small claims suit in King County District Court.

Rules to Follow

If a landlord collects a deposit, our ordinance requires:

  • A written rental agreement that describes the deposit
  • A written checklist describing the condition of the rental that must be signed by both the landlord and the renter at the time of move-in
  • Landlords to return the security deposit and provide a statement of any withholdings for damages within 21 days of the tenant moving out (see RCW 59.18.280 for full requirements)

Read the Code


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