City of Federal Way Law Summary

Posted By: Denise Myers Law, Management,

The citizen’s initiative, The Federal Way Stable Housing Initiative was approved by voters at the November 2019 election and certified into law on November 26, 2019 as the Federal Way Good Cause Eviction Ordinance. This article provides a summary of these Federal Way policies related to rental housing codified at: Federal Way Good Cause Eviction Ordinance (FWMC 20.05). Applicability to tenancies under RCW 59.18 and 59.20 is assumed based on the included definition of "dwelling unit".

Good Cause to Terminate 
Tenancy (20.05.020)
Federal Way was the first city to mimic Seattle’s decades old Just Cause Eviction Ordinance. Shortly thereafter, state law and several other cities followed with similar lists of “just causes” 
for ending tenancy. As the Federal Way initiative was drafted by a citizen group, the language can be difficult to interpret and many of the causes fail to specify notice periods. In many cases, only by correlating them to similar state causes, can you determine legal minimum notice periods. Therefore, we’ve included the table below to provide guidance on End of Tenancy notice periods in Federal Way.
FWMC 20.05.020(5) states: It shall be a defense against eviction that the landlord lacks good cause to evict the tenant. Only the following justifications constitute good cause under this chapter:

Prohibiting retaliatory evictions (20.05.030)
Under RCW 59.18.250, there is a rebuttable presumption of retaliation when a landlord takes any adverse action against the tenant within 90 days of the tenant exercising their rights. When it comes to evictions, Federal Way expands this period of rebuttable presumption to 9 months. So, if a landlord attempts to evict a tenant within nine months of the tenant exercising their rights (e.g., fair housing complaint, repair request, refusal to move out without just cause, etc.), the landlord is subject to penalties up to four and half times rent unless they can prove their actions were not retaliatory.
Prohibiting discriminatory evictions (20.05.040)
In this section, Federal Way creates several new protected classes (military, first responders, seniors, family members, health care providers, and educators), but only as relates to evictions. Most of this is prevented already by the “good cause eviction” rules above. One area that may impact current common practice is regarding family members. If a tenant brings in additional occupants who are immediate family members, the landlord cannot serve a comply or vacate for unauthorized occupants unless there is a violation of occupancy limits dictated by federal, state, or local law.

Mandatory Lease Renewals (20.05.050)
Federal Way calls this “prohibiting retaliation and discrimination in lease renewal actions.” This law removes the right to discontinue a tenancy at the end of term lease without citing one or more of the permitted causes listed above. Between 60 and 90 days prior to the end of the current term, the landlord must offer the current tenant a new rental agreement or extend the existing agreement, either on a term or month-to-month basis, unless the existing lease provides for automatic extension on a month-to-month basis.  This offer must be served in accordance with RCW 59.12.040 and allow the tenant 30 days to accept or decline. If the tenant declines, the landlord may end the tenancy when the current term expires.

Written notice disclosure (20.05.080(3))
Any termination notice shall include the following, in bold letters of at least 16-point font: 
If you are a Veteran of the U.S. Military, you may be able to access housing resources by calling 2-1-1 or contacting the King County Veterans Program for assistance with rent, relocation, or other support services.

Mutual Termination Agreements (20.05.080(5))
A landlord may not coerce a tenant to sign a mutual termination agreement. A tenant may rescind a mutual termination agreement by: (a) delivering written or electronic notice of rescission to the landlord within 10 business days after signing the agreement; or (b) at a later time, by establishing that the tenant improvidently entered into the agreement, which may be demonstrated by an examination of the unequal bargaining power between the parties, vulnerability of the tenant, legitimacy of landlord’s reasons for seeking termination, and whether tenant was able to procure alternative housing within the time allotted in the agreement.

Formal legal advice and review is recommended prior to selection and use of this information. RHAWA does not represent your selection or execution of this information as appropriate for your specific circumstance. The material contained and represented herein, although obtained from reliable sources, is not considered legal advice or to be used as a substitution for legal counsel.