Washington Security Deposit Laws

In Washington, there aren’t any restrictions on what a landlord can charge a tenant to move in—except in Seattle.
Written by Melissa Harvey
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
state does not place any restrictions on what a landlord can charge tenants. Security deposits are considered refundable, so you should get your deposit back within 21 days of your lease ending—but make sure you read all of the fine print before signing.
Security deposits can feel like a gamble—not only is it a significant upfront expense, but it feels like there’s no guarantee you’ll get it back. Additionally, security deposits vary from state to state and sometimes between cities, making it even harder to understand your rights as a tenant. 
Before you sign any rental agreement, you should brush up on your state’s security deposit laws. Renters and
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What is Washington law on security deposits? 

Outside of Seattle, there are no
state laws
restricting fees a landlord can charge a tenant upon lease signing. These fees can include a refundable security deposit and other non-refundable fees like carpet cleaning. 
Landlords are allowed to set up a payment plan for tenants who cannot pay all the fees upfront. Usually, landlords give tenants six months to pay the security deposit and other rental expenses. 

What is the maximum security deposit a landlord can charge in Washington? 

Washington's only hard and fast rule is that a landlord cannot charge any fee during a tenancy without a written lease outlining the cost and associated expectations. 
Before you sign a new lease with any landlord in Washington, read your rental agreement very carefully and look for any extra fees associated with moving in. If you disagree with any charges, don’t sign the lease and look for an apartment elsewhere. 
, for example, a landlord cannot charge more than one month’s rent for a security deposit, and tenants are allowed to pay the security deposit and any other fees within six months of moving in. 

How long does a landlord have to return a security deposit in Washington? 

Your landlord has 21 days from when your rental agreement ends and you move out to refund your security deposit. 
To ensure you receive your security deposit, you should leave your new address with your landlord so that they can send it directly to you. 

What can a landlord withhold a security deposit for in Washington?

If your landlord withheld any of your deposit, they need to send you a written statement explaining how much they kept and why. 
Your landlord can’t charge you for everyday wear and tear in Washington, but they can charge for excessive damage. 
Here are some reasons a landlord can keep all or part of a security deposit:
  • Extensive cleaning beyond normal wear and tear
  • Damage to the unit beyond normal wear and tear
  • Redecoration
  • Missing items
  • Gardening
  • Rent arrears
  • Unpaid utilities
As a general rule, you should leave your apartment in the same condition as when you moved in. If you painted the kitchen walls in your unit bright orange when they were white, you could expect your landlord to keep some of your deposit to cover redecorating costs. 
Key Takeaway All Washington security deposits must be refundable, but your landlord can withhold all or part of the money if you fail to pay rent or cause avoidable damage. 

How to get your security deposit back in Washington 

Write a letter to your landlord if you haven’t received your security deposit back or feel that they kept too much. 
In your letter, ask for a refund and state why you disagree with any charges. Be sure to include your new address and a reasonable deadline for repayment
Keep copies of all of your communications with your landlord—including:
  • Your move-in checklist
  • Lease agreement
  • Deposit request
If your landlord ghosts you or refuses to return your funds, it may be worth taking them to small claims court. 
MORE: Everything you need to know about renters insurance with roommates

How to save money on car and renters insurance in Washington 

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Paying for rent with your deposit is a risky decision. If you move out and the landlord discovers excess damage, they can list the deposit as being used for repairs and seek collections against you for the rest of your rent. 
Most landlords prefer to keep the deposit to cover any damages to the unit and ask you to make a final rent payment.
Check your lease to see if carpet cleaning charges are listed. Unless otherwise specified in your lease, carpet cleaning is usually chalked up as normal wear and tear that you shouldn’t need to pay for.
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