Rental Agreement Regulation

See also: Deposit Returns, Move-In ChargesRenting in SeattleRental Agreements

What Is It?

The Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) regulates parts of the rental agreement between a landlord and a tenant. Please call SDCI code compliance for more information.

Our ordinance:

  • Prohibits penalties in month-to-month rental agreements if the tenant stays for only one month
  • Regulates the amount of security deposits and move-in fees a renter can be required to pay at the beginning of the rental agreement
  • Requires signed and dated move-in checklists when landlords collect security deposits
  • Requires landlords to give a copy of the Renter's Handbook to each applicant and to each tenant every year
  • Requires return of security deposit and/or a full statement regarding any retained portion within 21-days of move out
  • Requires at least 180 days' written notice before increasing a renter’s housing costs
  • Requires landlords to offer a reasonable renewal for fixed-term rental agreements 60-90 days before the end of the lease term, unless just cause exists
  • Permits tenants to add family member and non-family member roommates to their leases
  • Prohibits a landlord from charging a domestic violence survivor for damages to the property caused by the abuser

What It Isn't

Our ordinance does not prevent a landlord from increasing rent. Washington state law does not allow rent control.

Read the Code

Our Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) and Washington state law (RCW) outline the rules for month-to-month rentals.

Renter's Handbook

SDCI developed a new Renter's Handbook to replace "Information for Tenants." The handbook is easier to read and provides additional tips and resources to help in the rental relationship. 

Landlords must provide a copy of the Renter's Handbook to the renter:

  • When a renter applies to rent
  • When a renter signs a rental agreement
  • Annually to month-by-month tenants
  • Whenever the handbook is updated by the City

Landlords should provide a hard copy of the Renter's handbook at the initial signing. After the initial rental agreement, landlords can provide electronic copies of the handbook. We understand that 'Information for Tenants" was in broad circulation. However, now only the Renter's Handbook meets the ordinance requirement for providing this information to renters.

While City offices remain closed to the public during COVID-19, we cannot safely provide and distribute printed copies. To use our print-friendly version of the handbook, try selecting 2-sided in a landscape setting. Black and white is fine if you do not have a color printer. Visit www.seattle.gov/rentinginseattle for more information or call our helpline at (206) 684-5700.

Proposed Changes

None