Receiving Notice from Your Landlord

There are several kinds of notices you can receive from your landlord, some more urgent than others. Consider any written notice from the landlord important and worth your immediate attention. Review it right away and take quick action if necessary. Notices requiring action usually provide a short window of time to comply. Not responding in time may lead to serious consequences such as eviction. This section explores the most common kinds of notices.

Notices from your landlord must comply with both state and City regulations and they must meet basic technical requirements to be valid. Call the Renting in Seattle helpline (206) 684-5700 if you would like assistance reviewing a notice. You can also call 2-1-1 for information about free or low-cost legal services.

Notice of a Housing Cost Increase

"Housing costs" include rent and any monthly fees you pay your landlord, like storage or parking. Utility charges based on usage are not included in this type of notice. An exception is if your landlord was previously responsible for paying them and now wants to charge utilities directly to you. In that case, the landlord is required to give you notice of this type of housing cost increase. If you already pay for utilities, but there is going to be a change in the billing, like paying a different company, for example, your landlord is required to provide you with a notice to change your rental terms.

One of the major differences between a fixed-term rental agreement and a month-to-month rental agreement is the steps the landlord must take to increase your housing costs. If you have questions about the type of rental agreement you have, see the types of rental agreements.

If you have a rental agreement for a specific term, the landlord cannot change your housing costs for the duration of that term. If your rental agreement gives you the choice to stay as a month-to-month tenant at the end of the term, and the landlord wants to increase your housing costs at that time, the landlord must follow the rules below to send you a housing cost increase notice before the term expires.

  • The landlord must give you written notice a minimum of 60 days prior to a housing cost increase. 
  • The notice must include language about how to contact the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections for information about your renter rights. Notices that do not include this information cannot be enforced in Seattle.
  • Increases can only begin at the start of a rental period.
  • No increase can take effect if your rental unit does not meet the minimum housing code requirements under the Residential Rental Inspection Ordinance program (See the RRIO Checklist). 

Notice of Changes to the Terms of your Rental Agreement

If you have a written rental agreement for a specific amount of time, the terms cannot change until the rental period ends unless both you and your landlord agree otherwise. If you have a month-to-month rental agreement, the landlord may change the terms with a notice 30 days before those changes can apply. Changes might include rules around smoking, guests, or pets to name some examples. Any changes that increase your housing costs must comply with the housing cost increase notice requirements

Notice of Intent to Enter Your Unit by Your Landlord

Your rental agreement gives you a possessory right over your home. That means the landlord cannot enter without your permission and proper notice unless there is an emergency situation. The landlord has a right to seek access for making repairs, inspections, or showing the unit to prospective tenants or contractors. Your landlord needs to give you:

  • At least 2 days' notice for repairs or inspections
  • At least 1 day's notice for showing the unit

Notices to enter must include:

  • The date the landlord wants to come in
  • The earliest and latest time that they may arrive
  • A telephone number you can call in case you do not wish to allow the entry on the date or time in the notice

If the date or time does not work for you and you have a valid reason for not wanting to give the landlord access, you should provide dates and times that will work. A valid reason might be that you have already planned a family event in your home at that time or simply that you wish to be there during the access and need more notice to take time off work. You should do this in writing to document your attempts to cooperate with the landlord's request. Both you and your landlord must be respectful and reasonable about access to the unit.

In cases of an emergency a landlord can enter the tenant's unit without notice.

Examples of an emergency may include:

  • A major plumbing leak
  • A fire
  • Police wellness check of the tenant (that requires the landlord to allow officers to enter the unit)

In cases of abandonment, a landlord can enter if they have given notice to enter and received no response after several attempts and evidence exists to show abandonment is more likely than not.

Examples of evidence of abandonment include two more of the following:

  • Your landlord has not received a rent payment
  • Your mail has not been collected
  • Your utilities have been disconnected for non-payment
  • You have indicated by words or actions that you have abandoned your unit

Notice to Comply of Vacate (10 Days)

A landlord will use a 10-day notice when you violate the rental agreement or when payment other than rent is due. Examples might include:

  • Smoking in a non-smoking unit/building
  • Keeping a pet when no pets are allowed
  • Sub-letting your unit or a room in your unit
  • Failure to pay your utility bill
  • Creating loud noise during quiet hours
  • Fees for late rent payment

The notice needs to state clearly what you have done to violate the rental agreement or what you owe and what you need to do to comply with the notice. The 10-day period for compliance starts from midnight on the day you receive the notice. If you are a month-to-month tenant, receiving 3 or more 10-day notices in a 12-month period can be a reason for the landlord to terminate your rental agreement.

Notice to Pay or Vacate (14 Days)

A landlord will use a 14 day notice when rent is late. It allows a very small window of time to pay the rent you owe. You should do whatever you can to pay within that time. If you anticipate not being able to pay your rent on time, it is usually best to let your landlord know beforehand . Your landlord may even consider agreeing to a payment plan or forgiving late fees so you can get caught up. You have nothing to lose by asking the landlord to work with you; the worst that can happen is that your landlord says no. Often, your landlord will appreciate you being proactive when you have an issue paying your rent if it is not an ongoing problem. If you need help with paying your rent, call 2-1-1 for a list of resources that may be able to help. See pledges of rent assistance. If you can secure some financial help from a third party, it may also give you a little extra time

Pay attention to the date rent is due on your rental agreement. Rent is usually due on the first of the month. It's common to see late fees assessed on the third or fifth day. This does not mean you get a "grace period" which is a common misconception some renters have. It just means you can't be charged a late fee until then. You can receive a 14 day notice any time after midnight of the day the rent is due.

Notice to Quit for Waste or Nuisance (3 Days)

A landlord will use this 3 day notice in very serious situations, such as conducting criminal activity on the property or if you've caused severe damage to the unit. There is no cure for this notice. The only way to comply is to move out or remain and seek legal counsel immediately. The landlord must send a copy of these kinds of notices to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. The landlord should have clear evidence that this type of notice is appropriate for the circumstances.

Notice to terminate tenancy for Just Cause

There are 18 "just cause" reasons a landlord can use to terminate a month-by-month rental agreement in Seattle. The notice period required depends on the specific just cause. See more details under the Moving out section.