OBLIGATIONS OF TENANTS

Tenants must maintain rental housing in a safe, clean manner, including:

  • Properly disposing of garbage
  • Exercising care in use of electrical and plumbing fixtures
  • Promptly repairing any damage caused by them or their guests
  • Granting reasonable access for inspection, maintenance, repair and pest control
  • Maintaining smoke detectors in good working order
  • Refraining from storing dangerous materials on the premises

THE JUST CAUSE EVICTION ORDINANCE

This ordinance requires landlords to have good cause in order to terminate a month-to-month tenancy. It specifies the only reasons for which a tenant in Seattle may be required to move, and requires owners to state the reason, in writing, for ending a tenancy when giving a termination notice.

A property owner cannot evict a tenant if the property is not registered with the City of Seattle. Unless otherwise noted, an owner must give a termination notice at least 20 days before the start of the next rental period. Good causes include:

  1. The tenant fails to pay rent within 3 days of receiving a notice to pay rent or vacate.
  2. The owner has notified the tenant in writing of overdue rent at least 4 times in a 12-month period.
  3. The tenant does not comply with a material term of a lease or rental agreement within 10 days of receiving a notice to comply or vacate.
  4. The tenant does not comply with a material obligation under the Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act within 10 days of a notice to comply or vacate.
  5. The owner has notified a tenant in writing at least 3 times in a 12-month period to comply within 10 days with a material term of the lease or rental agreement.
  6. The tenant seriously damages the rental unit(causes “waste”), causes a nuisance (including drug-related activity), or maintains an unlawful business and does not vacate the premises within three days of notice to do so.
  7. The tenant engages in criminal activity in the building or on the premises, or in an area immediately adjacent to the building or premises. The alleged criminal activity must substantially affect the health or safety of other tenants or the owner; illegal drug-related activity is one crime specified by the ordinance. An owner who uses this reason must clearly state the facts supporting the allegation, and must send a copy of the termination of tenancy notice to the Seattle DCI Property Owner Tenant Assistance (POTA) Unit.
  8. The owner wishes to occupy the premises personally, or the owner’s immediate family will occupy the unit, and no substantially equivalent unit is vacant and available in the same building, and gives the tenant written notice at least 90 days prior to the end of a rental period. Immediate family includes the owner’s spouse or owner’s domestic partner, and the parents, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters of the owner or owner’s spouse or owner’s domestic partner. Seattle DCI may require a property owner to sign a certification of the intent to have a family member move in if a tenant has reason to believe the owner will not follow through with this reason. It is a violation if the designated person does not occupy the unit for a continuous period of 60 days out of the 90 days after the tenant vacates. A tenant whose tenancy is ended for this reason has a private right of action if he or she feels the owner has failed to comply with these requirements.
  9. The owner wishes to terminate a tenant who lives in the same housing unit with the owner or the owner’s agent; or the owner desires to stop sharing his or her house with a tenant living in an approved accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in an owner-occupied house.
  10. The tenant’s occupancy is conditioned upon employment on the property and the employment is terminated.
  11. The owner plans major rehabilitation and has obtained required permits and a Tenant Relocation License. A tenant terminated for this reason has a private right of action if he or she feels the owner has failed to comply with these requirements.
  12. The owner decides to convert the building to a condominium or a cooperative.
  13. The owner decides to demolish a building or to convert it to non-residential use and has obtained the necessary permit and a Tenant Relocation License.
  14. The owner desires to sell a single family residence (does not include condominium units) and gives the tenant written notice at least 90 days prior to the end of a rental period. The owner must list the property for sale at a reasonable price in a newspaper or with a realty agency within 30 days after the date the tenant vacates. Property owners may be required to sign a certification of the intent to sell the house if Seattle DCI receives a complaint. There is a rebuttable presumption of a violation if the unit is not listed or advertised, or is taken off the market or re-rented within 90 days after the tenant leaves. A tenant terminated for this reason has a private right of action if he or she feels an owner has failed to comply with these requirements.
  15. The owner seeks to discontinue use of a unit not authorized under the Land Use Code, after receiving a Notice of Violation. The owner must pay relocation assistance to tenants who have to move so that the owner can correct the violation. Relocation assistance for low-income tenants is $2,000; for other tenants it is an amount equal to two months’ rent.
  16. The owner needs to reduce the number of tenants sharing a dwelling unit in order to comply with Land Use Code restrictions (i.e., no more than 8 people per dwelling unit if any are unrelated).
  17. The owner must terminate a tenancy in a house containing an approved ADU in order to comply with the development standards for ADUs, after receiving a Notice of Violation of the Land Use Code. (If the violation is that the owner has moved out of the house and has rented both units, one unit must either be reoccupied by the owner or be removed.) The owner must pay relocation assistance to displaced tenants in the amount of $2,000 for low-income tenants, or two months’ rent in other cases. Seattle DCI may require a property owner to sign a certification of his or her intent to discontinue the use of the ADU.
  18. An Emergency Order to Vacate and close the property has been issued by Seattle DCI and the tenants have failed to vacate by the deadline given in the Order.

Failure to carry out stated cause: If an owner terminates a tenant because of (1) the sale of a single family residence is planned, (2) the owner or a family member is to move in, (3) substantial rehabilitation is planned, (4) the number of residents must be reduced to eight, or (5) the owner is discontinuing the use of an ADU after receipt of a notice of violation, and the owner fails to carry out the stated reason for terminating the tenancy, he or she may be subject to enforcement action by the City and a civil penalty of up to $2,500.

Private right of action for tenants: If an owner terminates a tenant because of (1) the sale of a single family residence is planned, (2) the owner or a family member is to move in, or (3) substantial rehabilitation is planned, and if the owner fails to carry out the stated reason for terminating the tenancy, the tenant can sue the owner for up to $3,000, costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees.