How to Increase Rent in Seattle

Posted By: Christopher Cutting - BOD Seattle Laws ,

The governor’s statewide restrictions on rent increases lapsed on June 30, 2021. Since July, housing providers everywhere in Washington have been able to increase rent on their units to catch up with the two years of tax, maintenance, and other operating cost increases that were not frozen over that 16 months. This is also a busy time for renewing leases.

In Seattle, the process is now far more complex than it was in March 2020 thanks to a total of four ordinances passed by the Seattle City Council since Governor Inslee froze rents.

Several requirements apply to all rent increases.

Any rent increase in Seattle now requires that the housing provider give 180 days’ notice of the increase and include the following statement in the notice:

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 www.seattle.gov/rentinginseattle.

The first sentence must be in bold typeface, all caps, and the entire notice must be in 12 point font or larger. Longstanding policies by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) apply both the time period and form requirements to offers of a rental agreement renewal as well as to notices given to month to month tenants. If the increase is for less than 10%, no particular manner of delivery is required so long as the tenant receives it on time.

If the increase will take effect July 1, 2022, or later and is for 10% or more, there are more requirements.

If the 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 SDCI, but should be available sometime in the next six months.

It takes two notices to renew a fixed-term rental agreement.

First, you must give the 180 day notice of rent increase if your new offer will increase the rent; if the increase is for 10% or more, you must follow the extra delivery requirements. Second, between 60 and 90 days before the current term ends, you 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. The resident must be allowed a minimum of 30 days to sign any offered renewal.

If you include an automatic increase of 10% or more at the end of your lease, such as a 10% month-to-month fee, your rental agreement must add four items to accomplish this: (1) the clause describing the increase; (2) the information quoted above about receiving legal assistance; (3) an economic displacement relocation packet; and (4) it must be either hand-delivered to each adult occupant or mailed both by certified mail with return receipt and by regular US mail.

Be very careful when increasing rent in Seattle. If you miss any of these many requirements, your increase will almost certainly be unenforceable and it will take 6 months or more to correct your mistake.