Security deposits are an important part of giving the landlord at least some peace of mind that the property will be taken care of, or that funds will be available for repairs if the tenant fails to maintain the property. The return of the security deposit, or how to legally withhold all or part of the deposit, is one of the most important aspects of a landlord's duties.
With the help of an experienced Washington landlord/tenant attorney, you can know that you are in compliance with the law and are better able to protect the condition of your property.
Returning A Security Deposit: The Law
Washington's law regarding the return of the tenant's security deposit is found primarily in R.C.W. 59.18.280.
One of the most important rules to follow is to provide the tenant with a "full and specific statement" of the basis for keeping any or all of the deposit funds and any amount owed to the tenant within twenty-one (21) days of:
- the termination of the rental agreement and the tenant vacating the premises, or
- if the tenant abandons the premises, within 21 days after the landlord learns of the abandonment.
The Itemized Statement
Once the tenant has moved out, the landlord should inspect the premises for damages. After inspecting the property, the landlord should list each of the issues they discover which did not exist before the tenant took possession of the property. Importantly, Washington law does not allow a landlord to charge for "wear resulting from ordinary use of the premises."
The itemized statement could include deductions from the deposit for unpaid rent, repairs, substantial cleaning, and damage to the property above normal wear and tear (i.e., holes in walls, broken tiles, large stains, etc.).
Next to the item should be the specific amount for that deduction. Attach copies of receipts for work already done, or reasonable estimates of costs for work yet to be finished.
Sending the Statement to the Tenant
The landlord complies with Washington law regarding the itemized statement when he or she delivers the required statement, payment, or both to the tenant by personal delivery, or deposited in the U.S. mail properly addressed to the tenant's last known address with first-class postage within the 21-day period.
If the landlord fails to provide the statement together with any amount of security deposit due to the tenant within the 21-day period, the landlord is responsible for returning the entire amount of the deposit back to the tenant.
If the landlord intentionally refuses to provide a statement or refund due to the tenant, a Washington court has the discretion to award up to two times the amount of the deposit as damages.
Consult a Washington Landlord/Tenant Attorney
As a landlord, you want to make sure that you comply with Washington law regarding the return or use of security deposit funds. You do not want to be punished with two times the deposit amount in damages. You can legally keep security deposit funds if you comply with Washington law.
Experienced landlord/tenant attorney Quinn Posner represents landlords in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, and the rest of Clark County. Contact Quinn Posner today to schedule a free consultation.