Tenant Tip: Changes to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act—Landlord Entry

The following tip will address landlord entry detailed in Washington State law, in particular, subsections 5-9 of RCW 59.18.150 of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. These subsections address landlord right of entry and the recent changes that were made to this section of the law. This is important information for tenants to understand, because landlords often violate this section of the law, and it seriously impacts the privacy of the tenant.

Sections 1-4 detailing information about search warrants, fire officials’ right of entry, and written notice requirements will not be covered. For information about search warrants and the responsibility of the landlord and tenant pertaining to this issue, you can read the entire section of the law and seek legal advice from an attorney.

The following information is a general summary of the law and the changes. It does not interpret or analyze what the law states. For exact language of the law, tenants can access RCW 59.18.150 in the WA State Legislature’s webpage where a link to the Bill of Changes will also be available.

In order to enter a tenant’s unit, landlords are required to provide tenants with written notice. The notice needs to include specific dates and times that the landlord intends to enter as well as a phone number for the tenant to contact the landlord in case the dates and times listed do not work for the tenant. This notice is meant to inform the tenant ahead of time as well as to give the tenant time to contact the landlord in case there are time conflicts. Previously the law stated that the landlord could give verbal notice. It is now required by law that the landlord give written notice.

Some reasons why a landlord can enter a unit after giving at least 2 days’ notice in writing are:

  • to make repairs as requested by the tenant
  • inspections (often specified on the rental agreement)
  • other agreed upon reasons

In addition, the landlord can enter the unit by giving the tenant 24 hours notice in writing to show the unit to a prospective tenant or buyer.

In cases of emergency or abandonment, the landlord can enter the unit without notice. A landlord cannot interfere with a tenant’s right to enjoy their dwelling unit or abuse their right to access the unit to harass the tenant.

Tenants often ask about the landlord’s right to enter common areas such as a yard, a porch or other areas in close proximity to a tenant’s dwelling unit and if the landlord is required to give notice for such entry. Because every situation is different including complicated situations where a landlord and tenant share the same house and common areas, tenants with these questions may want to consult with an attorney.

If the times a landlord has listed in writing do not work for the tenant, then they can address their concerns with the landlord. While the landlord is required to list a phone number in the notice to enter, tenants can choose to respond to the notice in writing to address the conflicts they may have with the times and dates given by the landlord. The tenant can keep a copy of the letter for themselves for documentation.

A tenant may not be unreasonable in withholding entry to the landlord. If a tenant does not make reasonable efforts to allow the landlord entry, the landlord can recover damages in court including attorney fees. A tenant can choose to provide the landlord with alternate dates and times that will work for the tenant in order to give options so that they address potential concerns of unreasonably refusing to allow the landlord to enter.

Likewise if the landlord unreasonably abuses their right of entry, the tenant can pursue legal action such as Small Claims Court to recover damages. If a landlord has entered without proper notice or is in other ways violating this section of the RLTA, the tenant can send a letter to their landlord to address the violation. If the landlord continues to violate the law after the letter is sent, the tenant can take the landlord to Small Claims Court for $100 per violation.

Because this is a very brief and general overview to a very complicated section of the law, tenants who have questions about privacy and landlord’s right of entry can contact the Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767 on M, W or Th from 10:30 am-4:30 pm to receive more information, including sample letters and potential referrals to free legal services.

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

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14 Responses

  1. […] in 2011, requiring landlords to provide written notice before entering a tenant’s unit (see our Tenant Tip from September 2011 for more information). If a tenant is unaware of this law or the changes, their privacy rights […]

  2. […] of the inspection, similar to the privacy laws within the Residential Landlord Tenant Act (see our blog post for notices required in residential […]

  3. […] in 2011, requiring landlords to provide written notice before entering a tenant’s unit (see our Tenant Tip from September 2011 for more information). If a tenant is unaware of this law or the changes, their privacy rights […]

  4. […] 2011, requiring landlords to provide written notice before entering a tenant’s unit (see our Tenant Tip from September 2011 for more information). If a tenant is unaware of this law or the changes, their privacy rights […]

  5. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I
    think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.

  6. I think you are talking about the wrong post. This post have got only one image and it loads really well without any problem.

    Also, it was great to know about additions at the new section of tenant law. Hoping to read some more tenant related posts from here.

  7. I rarely leave a response, however I browsed a few of the remarks on Tenant Tip:
    Changes to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act—Landlord Entry | Solid Ground Blog.
    I actually do have a few questions for you if it’s allright.
    Is it simply me or do some of these responses come across like they
    are left by brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are posting at additional places,
    I’d like to keep up with you. Would you list of all of all your social community pages like
    your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  8. Can a maintenance guy from a leasing agency take pictures of my personal property without permission ? This just happened yesterday and I made it clear they did not have permission and will not destroy the photo (s)

  9. David: sorry for lack of response, we’re transitioning staff in tenant services and have not been monitoring these comments as closely as possible. I hope to have an answer for you soon. You can also try calling the Tenant’s Union at (206) 723-0500.

  10. David: we checked in with attorneys at the Housing Justice Project and, unfortunately there is no law that speaks to this issue. So, without knowing more about your specific situation, it’s hard to know where to go from here. If you would like to discuss in more detail, please call our tenant hotline: 206-694-6767. Solid Ground’s Tenant Services Hotline is open Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30am–2:30pm. (Note: Our hotline hours are temporarily reduced during a period of staff transition.)

  11. How many times a year can a landlords property manager (realtor) do interior inspection? And why does he need to look in my bedroom… Been Renting same house for a few years new guy from John l Scott managing place and wants to inspect again less than six months feel privacy is being invaded as nothing has changed and it’s only been six months… Any help just feel yeArly is ok but more frequent?

    • Rachel, I will try to track down an answer for you next week,, but our tenant counseling team is short staffed right now…
      Mike

    • Hi Rachel: I talkedto our tenant counselors and the law does not set any hard limit on the number of times a landlord or property manager can do inspections, so long as they follow the law about proper notification. There is vague language about a “reasonable” frequency but I was not able to get much detail about what “reasonable” would be. Hope this helps. Thanks.
      Mike

  12. great post thanks for sharing

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