State laws govern the respective rights and duties between landlords and their tenants. In Washington, the Revised Code of Washington, Title 59, establishes their rights and duties. Chapter 59.18 of the Revised Code of Washington is known as the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. The Washington residential law governs the rights landlords and their tenants have when terminating their leases.
Tenants with month-to-month tenancies are generally tenants-at-will. These can terminate their tenancies by providing written notice to their landlords. Similarly, landlords-at-will can terminate their tenancies using the same notice requirements that tenants must follow. Landlords must receive their notice before 20 days of when their next rent payments are due. For instance, tenants who owe rent on the first of every month must provide notice by July 9 if they want to move out in August. Failure to provide adequate notice allows landlords to collect rent for the next 30 days after they establish a tenant has moved or for the month after a tenant moves out, whichever occurs first.
Written Lease Terminations
Tenants can terminate their leases only with their landlords’ consent if they attempt to move out before the end of their lease terms. Landlords can terminate their leases earlier than allowed under their agreements if their tenants violate their agreements or fail to pay rent.
Duty to Mitigate
Washington law requires landlords to mitigate their damages, if possible. A landlord’s duty to mitigate damages requires him to attempt to re-rent his apartment as soon as he realizes his tenant has moved out. If he rents the apartment within 30 days, the tenant only pays for the actual time his rental was vacant.
Although landlords can terminate their tenants-at-will without cause in most cases under Washington’s landlord and tenant act, cities such as Seattle prohibit landlords from terminating their leases without cause. Additionally, Washington law provides certain tenants with the right to terminate their leases without providing notice or obtaining consent from their landlords. The Washington Residential Landlord-Tenant Act allows domestic violence victims to move at any time, without notice and without obtaining consent from their landlords to terminate their leases earlier than provided for in their agreements. Specifically, if a tenant is a victim of domestic violence or receives violent threats from her landlord or other tenants, she may end her agreement immediately. Similarly, Washington law allows members of armed forces to move out with notice but without obtaining consent to terminate their agreements.
Since Washington laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in Washington.