Security deposit questions are frequent, and landlords in Seattle can run into trouble if they don’t know the law. To ensure you don’t have any security deposit disputes with your tenants at the time of move out, follow these important best practices and legal requirements:
Collecting the Security Deposit
It’s a good idea to charge a security deposit that is the equivalent of one month’s rent. So, if you’re renting a home for $1,400 in Seattle, ask for a security deposit of the same amount, in addition to the first month’s rent. Before you you collect a security deposit from your tenants, the Landlord Tenant Act requires you to have a lease in place including a move-in inspection condition report. In that written lease, outline specifically what you will use the security deposit for at the end of the tenancy and what the tenant will have to do to get the full deposit back. For example, professional carpet cleaning will be required after they leave, put that in the lease. Stipulate that the cost of carpet cleaning will be deducted from the security deposit.
Always put any security deposit funds you collect into a separate trust account. You cannot have your money mingling with your tenant’s money. Include information in the lease on which bank you will keep the security deposit. In Washington State, you are not required to pay any interest on the security deposit to your tenants. However, other states do require that you share or return all the interest, so check with your local laws.
Returning the Security Deposit
You are legally required to return your tenant’s security deposit within 14 days of move out. In addition to the money, you must provide a written explanation of what is being withheld and why. You can deduct for any damages outside of normal wear and tear. This is why it’s important to stipulate in your lease how you expect to have the property returned to you. You don’t want to find yourself arguing with a tenant about what is damage and what is normal wear and tear.
Documenting the property’s condition at the time of move in and move out will help you avoid any security deposit disputes. Take video, pictures and detailed notes that demonstrate what the home looked like when you turned the keys over to your tenant and what the home looked like when you got those keys back.
The Seattle Landlord Tenant Act is extremely detailed when it comes to security deposits and how they are meant to be collected and returned. Working with a professional property manager allows you to leave your property in the capable and professional hands of experts who stay current on all landlord and tenant laws and can ensure you are doing everything right within the law.
If you have any questions about security deposits, or you’d like more information on how they pertain to your own rental property, please contact us at Dave Poletti & Associates, and we’d be happy to help you out.