Of all the tasks that a landlord must handle, the return of the security deposit is often the most angst-filled for his tenant. Making sure your tenant understands the purpose of the security deposit (e.g., it’s not to pay the last month’s rent!) and the procedure for its return will go a long way toward avoiding any surprises at the end of the tenancy.
Amount and Written Checklist
Washington State does not have a limit on the amount of the security deposit. Most landlords will charge 2x the monthly rent as a security deposit, but a higher deposit may be warranted if the unit is furnished. In general the security deposit can be applied to damages beyond ordinary wear and tear, but it can also be applied toward nonpayment of rent, abandonment, late charges, and attorneys’ fees.
If the landlord fails to provide such a checklist they are not allowed to collect a security deposit.
When collecting a security deposit, Washington State law requires the landlord to provide a written inspection checklist to the tenant, describing the current condition of the premises and noting any existing damage. The checklist must be specific, signed by the tenant and the landlord, and the tenant must receive a copy at move-in. If the landlord fails to provide such a checklist they are not allowed to collect a security deposit.
Trust Account Required
The landlord must give the tenant a written receipt for the deposit and provide written notice of the name and address and location of the depository institution.
Washington State law also requires the landlord to deposit any security deposit paid by the tenant into a trust account, maintained by the landlord for the purpose of holding such security deposits, in a financial institution as defined by RCW § 30.22.041 or with a licensed escrow agent located in Washington. The landlord must give the tenant a written receipt for the deposit and provide written notice of the name and address and location of the depository institution.
Return of the Security Deposit
The landlord is legally obligated to provide a full and specific statement to the tenant which describes the basis for retaining any or all of the security deposit, along with the payment of any refunded amounts. This statement must be provided by mail within 21 days after the termination of the agreement, the vacation of the premises, or if the landlord learns of an abandonment of the premises.