With the ever-increasing complexity of Seattle rental regulations, it’s best to check for the latest information before taking any routine steps in managing your rentals, like lease renewal. Every day, members ask us about how to increase rent or renew a lease in Seattle. Unfortunately, there are no simple answers. Thankfully, our Support Center system allows us to reference articles that review all the laws and some common practices for giving notices appropriately. To find this and other articles designed to address our most frequent questions, go to rhawa.org/support-center. If you still need help, click “Support” in the lower right corner to submit your questions.
Renew Lease and Increase Rent in Seattle
Seattle has several laws related to lease renewals and rent increases that overlap with each other and with WA State laws, that greatly complicate the process. Following are guidelines for complying with the laws.
Give proper 180-day written notice for any rent increase.
Under SMC 7.24.030(A) and SMC 22.206.180(H) any rent increase in Seattle now requires that the housing provider give 180 days’ notice of the increase, and must include a specific tenant’s rights disclosure.
The RHAWA Rent Increase Notice form includes the required disclosure which can be deleted if the form is used outside of Seattle:
RIGHT TO LEGAL COUNSEL: CITY LAW PROVIDES RENTERS WHO ARE UNABLE TO PAY FOR AN ATTORNEY THE RIGHT TO FREE LEGAL REPRESENTATION IN AN EVICTION LAWSUIT.
If you need help understanding this notice or information about your renter rights, call the Renting in Seattle Helpline at (206) 684-5700 or visit the web site at eattle.gov/rentinginseattle.
The entire disclosure is required in Seattle for all notices pertaining to ending a tenancy. The second sentence is required on all notices to increase rent.
Follow additional requirements for rent increases 10% or greater.
Ordinance 126451, Relocation Assistance for Economically Displaced Tenants (to be codified under SMC 22.212), will be effective July 1, 2022.* If the rent increase is for 10% or more over the lowest rate in the past 12 months, the notice of increase must either be delivered to each adult at the unit by either hand-delivery or mailing both by certified mail with return receipt and by regular US mail. The notice must also include a packet about the new economic displacement relocation assistance program. This packet has not yet been developed by Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI). If the increase is for less than 10%, no particular manner of delivery is required so long as the tenant receives it on time.
* Note: With similar ordinances, the effective date has been based on the date the rent increase will take effect. In this case, the ordinance effective date may be based on when the notice is given. At this time, the meaning of the effective date is not clear.
Serve lease renewal offer between 60 and 90 days prior to end of term.
SMC 7.24.030(J) requires that between 60 and 90 days before the current term ends, the landlord must serve either a notice offering the new rental agreement or a notice of which just cause you are using to refuse to renew the tenancy. If the just cause requires 90 or more days' notice, you must provide notice under that timeline and serve the notice again between 60 and 90 days before the current term ends. The resident must be allowed a minimum of 30 days to sign any offered renewal.
Align rent increase effective date with lease renewal date.
It takes two notices to renew a fixed-term rental agreement with an increase in rent. First, you must give the 180 day notice of rent increase if your new offer will increase the rent; and then you must serve the End of Term Notice with renewal offer 60-90 days prior to the end of term.
If lease renewal time rolls around and 180-day notice was not given to make a necessary rent increase, there are a couple options to consider:
- Some housing providers will serve 180-day notice to increase rent, offer a six month term lease at the current rent rate,
and then offer a new lease that begins on the rent increase effective date.
- Some housing providers will serve the 180-day notice to increase rent, and then offer a lease that begins at one rent rate and then changes with the rent increase effect date. These terms would need to be written into the lease extension offer.
Going forward, some housing providers are electing to give notice of rent increase at the same time as lease signing, 365 days prior to the end of the term. In this case, they must use the notice form with required disclosures and follow all additional requirements if the increase is 10% or greater.
©2022 Rental Housing Association of Washington | www.RHAwa.org. This article was written and edited by RHAWA representatives and is intended for the use of RHAWA members only. Copyrighted members-only materials may not be further disseminated. 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.