Staying up to date on developments that affect property management in Seattle is one of the things we do best, so today we are talking about an important legal change that local landlords need to be aware of. Effective June 9, 2016, the state of Washington made a revision to the Landlord Tenant Law.
Security Deposit Timelines
This revision increases the amount of time from 14 days to 21 days after the tenant vacates for the landlord to account for the tenant’s security deposit. For as long as I can remember, landlords and Seattle property managers have always worked within that 14-day deadline because it was law. But it was a time crunch. If there was damage to your property, it was up to you or your property manager to get the work done and invoiced or to get a bid for the work that was needed. You had to put all this together in a letter or itemized spreadsheet and sent to the tenant postmarked by the 14th day. If you missed this deadline, the entire deposit would have to be returned to the tenant. The court could award up to twice the amount of the deposit if it was ruled that the landlord intentionally did not send the accounting or return the money.
These extra seven days will give us the time to issue more complete security deposit reconciliations and help avoid confusion and frustration. There are some things to remember.
Security Deposit Requirements
Twenty-one days after the lease terminates or the tenant vacates, you must refund the complete security deposit or give an itemized statement that explains why any or all of the deposit was kept. If you are waiting for final bids from contractors, provide estimates and then follow up with a final statement within a reasonable amount of time. There is no legal definition of “reasonable amount of time,” but we try to keep the entire process to 60 days or less, even for complicated move outs.
You need a signed move in inspection to accompany the move out disposition so you can have grounds for withholding even any part of the deposit. The security deposit or disposition letter must be delivered or mailed to the tenant’s last known address within 21st days. Always keep a copy of the postmarked letter.
If you have any questions, or you’d like to speak with a member of our Seattle property management team, please contact us at Real Property Associates.