Moving is a Total Hassle for a Tenant...

Stressing over getting things packed, making sure the place is cleaned, and finding a new place that’s ready for move-in when you need it are all problem enough. And that’s without getting in to the money side of things and worrying about a deposit refund.

Terminating a Tenancy

The process for moving out is typically initiated when either the landlord or tenant gives 20 days’ notice to the other indicating that they will be terminating the tenancy. In Seattle there are nuances to when and how a landlord may terminate a month-to-month tenancy, as guided by the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance. Less frequently, a lease agreement may be written as a fixed-term, with no reversion to month-to-month available. In such a case, either a lease extension or renewal is signed, or the tenancy is over upon expiration of the lease terms and the tenant must vacate.

Cleaning the Unit

Prior to vacating a unit, the first move to make should be requesting a list of cleaning instructions from the landlord, if they haven’t already been provided. Cleaning instructions offer tenants a valuable tool for measuring the landlord’s expectations of cleanliness in the vacant unit, and afford the tenant the opportunity to recoup their security deposit money if no cleaning or repairs are needed in a unit after vacating.

Use the property condition checklist, signed by both parties at the commencement of the tenancy, as a reference point to note anything that was already present as a defect in the unit.

Entry to the Unit

At the point a notice to terminate tenancy has been submitted, tenants should expect that the landlord will want to enter at certain points both to inspect the unit and assess what repairs may be needed prior to a new tenancy beginning, and to show the unit to prospective new renters.

Landlords have the right of entry to a unit, but they must comply with RCW 59.18.150 (6) which states that 24 hours written notice are required for entry for the purpose of showing the unit, and 48 hours written notice are required for entry for any other purpose.

Entry to the premises can sometimes become an inconvenience, and in those cases tenants are encourage to offer the landlord specific dates and times that fit their schedule rather than deny access with reasonable cause.

Deposit Refunds

At the point when the unit is vacant the tenant should provide the landlord with a forwarding address to which the landlord can send the statement of deposit refund, along with any outstanding refund due to the tenant.

The deposit refund timeline is fairly simple, as guided by RCW 59.18.280. “Within fourteen days after the termination of the rental agreement and vacation of the premises…the landlord shall give a full and specific statement of the basis for retaining any of the deposit together with the payment of any refund due the tenant under the terms and conditions of the rental agreement.”

The Property Condition Checklist is mandatory for ensuring that all charges assessed to the security deposit by the landlord are valid, and not the result of normal wear and tear, or resulting from damages which existed at commencement of the tenancy.

If no checklist was signed by both parties at the commencement of the tenancy no basis for retaining any money of the security deposit for cleaning or repairs exists, and a full refund of the security deposit money is expected.