Tenant Screening Guide for Washington Landlords

The most important laws you need to know when renting in Washington State. Understand the basics on researching tenants and how to prepare rental agreements.

Table of Contents

  1. Washington State Landlord Tenant Law

  2. How to Screen Tenants in Washington State

  3. Washington State Landlord Resources

  4. Choosing the Best Screening Service in WA

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Fast Facts: Washington State Landlord-Tenant Law

Washington State

General

LEGAL CLIMATE

Tenant Friendly

Laws

DEADLINE FOR RETURNING SECURITY DEPOSITS

21 days if no deductions

TERMINATION FOR A MONTH-TO-MONTH LEASE

20 days

INTEREST IN PAYMENTS ON DEPOSITS

Not required

NOTICE OF RENT INCREASE

60 days

REQUIRED NOTICE BEFORE LANDLORD ENTRY

48 hours

LIMITS ON LATE FEES

No

TERMINATION NOTICE FOR NONPAYMENT OF RENT

14 days

CHANGE OF PURPOSE NOTICE

120 days

How to Screen Tenants

Washington State Rental Law Updates

In July 2019, the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act received several updates. This article will help you understand the key differences, including:

  • Required notification times
  • Changes in the eviction process
  • Animal breed restrictions
  • Summary of other important changes

Stay current on important Washington State Rental Law Updates and get the information you need.

Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws

In addition to the Washington State laws, landlords in the Seattle area have additional regulations. We’ve created a guide to help you understand vital details about:

  • Just Cause Eviction Ordinance
  • Fair Chance Housing Ordinance
  • Keeping your building up to code
  • Discrimination on the Right to Organize
  • Tenant Relocation Assistance

Go more in-depth on requirements around Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws and get the information you need.

Tenant Relationship

The relationship between the landlord, their property, and the tenants can be complicated. With both city and state regulations, there can be a lot to keep track of. Fortunately, our researchers have created and procured a number of resources to help you out. It is important to keep these things in mind as you’re choosing a screening service and conducting other business with your assets. Whether this is the first space you’re renting out, or you’re a seasoned property manager with a range of housing options, we’ve got you covered.

Washington State Landlord Resources

Washington Multi-Family Housing Association

The WMFHA specializes in helping property managers in Washington state. Their website has a wealth of information for landlords. It can help you connect with industry suppliers and well-informed professionals. They also have membership options available if you’d like to engage with and learn from the local community.

Rental Housing Association of Washington

If you’re looking for an organization that focuses more on individual rental properties, the RHAWA is right for you. Their website offers a variety of resources, including downloadable forms and referrals. You can use these to help you locate nearby vendors that will ensure your investment is well maintained.

Washington Law Help

Certain situations might require you to research the laws around the tenant and landlord relationship. These are sometimes dense topics, which can be difficult to understand and navigate. It’s not uncommon for a property manager to seek outside assistance to ensure that you’re correctly handling these sensitive situations. Washington Law Help is a great resource to study up on the fine details, and even seek help from a legal professional if needed.

Seattle.gov Landlord Responsibilities

In the city of Seattle, there is additional legislation around landlord and tenant protections. In addition to understanding state laws, it’s important to know the regulations specific to Washington’s largest city. Our blog offers a great summary, but if you want information directly from Seattle.gov, we recommend their Know the Law article.

National Association of Residential Property Managers

The NARPM is another organization you may want to check out. They cater more broadly to any residential property managers, which includes leasing out a single investment property. Here you can find educational courses and documentation associated with maintenance, repair, and being a better property manager.

IRS Publication on Residential Rental Properties

Tax laws around rental properties can be complicated. The Internal Revenue Service has created a publication that outlines several important elements of managing your property. These include rules on reporting income, possible deductions, and special situations that apply to different types of buildings and communities.

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Choosing the Besta Tenant Screening Service

There are plenty of tenant screening services available in the market, so how do you pick the best one?
Here are several factors to keep in mind.

Tenant Screening and Washington State Law

Just because you’re buying an FCRA-compliant report doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s been tailored to the laws of your city and state. In many cases, you will be responsible for understanding those rules and ensuring that those are not affecting the decision to accept a potential tenant. Look for services that tailor your report to the area you’re renting in so that you can avoid costly disputes.

For example, the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance in Seattle prevents landlords from denying applicants for having a criminal history. When reviewing tenant screening services, make sure that the report has relevant disclaimers for your area. Some services, such as Whitepages TenantCheck, will automatically remove this information to comply with local laws.

It is also important to know how often the screening service updates their records:

  • Credit reporting is a highly regulated industry, which means you’ll usually have up to date information no matter which tenant screening company you use.
  • Criminal records aren’t always as reliable, so you’ll want to ensure you’re using a service that stays up-to-date. Before deciding on a tenant screening service, make sure that they are regularly updating their records with new information from courthouses and sex offender registries.
  • The applicant’s eviction history can also be included with certain reports, sometimes as part of an enhanced package. Along with best practices for Checking References, this is a great way to see if there were problems with a previous rental.

How Screening Services Score Tenants in Washington State

To help you quickly understand if a tenant is going to be right for your property, many services provide a summarized score. The most common rating provided is a credit score, which reviews the individual’s ability to pay on time. While this is definitely an important measurement, there are other factors you will want to examine.

By default, credit scores don’t necessarily track a person’s income, the rate at which they are paid, and how those correspond to your rent requirements. These are important factors to consider since they paint a larger picture of what you can expect from the tenant’s stay. TenantCheck includes these additional complexities in the calculation, providing you with a Resident Score.

This is important because certain cities have rules against using certain information - Seattle doesn’t allow you to use a criminal history for denying a tenant, for example. In cases where you have fewer details to analyze, this score will be an essential factor in making your decision.

How to Read a Washington State Tenant’s Credit Report

Reviewing a person’s credit history is often as easy as confirming they make timely payments to their bank, credit card, and any personal loans. However, sometimes their lenders will make special remarks about the individual’s account or payment history. These terms are often fairly straight-forward; “Account closed for refinance” is self-explanatory, but other terms can be confusing. For example, there are multiple ways to file for bankruptcy that you may want to know about. Or what about the difference between a forbearance and foreclosure?

While you can likely find answers to some of these questions online, you probably want to hear explanations directly from the team that’s delivering the report to you. This article was written for Whitepages TenantCheck, but it might act as a useful primer no matter which service you’re using.

What to Expect from a Tenant Background Screening Report in WA

Curious about what a report looks like? For new landlords, you’ll probably want to familiarize yourself with what to expect. This will help you avoid surprises after you or the tenant pays for it. Reports will always include a credit history. Criminal records are provided when permitted by the city or state, but we recommend familiarizing yourself with local laws before using these records as a deciding factor.

See a sample Whitepages TenantCheck report.

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