Seattle Landlord-Tenant Law

For Seattle residential tenancies be sure to use our Seattle specific eviction forms rather than the Washington state eviction forms.  For commercial rental properties use our commercial eviction forms, even if the property is in Seattle.

Seattle has many laws regulating residential tenancies.


Seattle landlords renting residential properties must register their rental property with the City of Seattle. A Seattle landlord who does not register a rental property may not evict the tenant.

Seattle just cause eviction.

A Seattle residential landlord may not evict a tenant except for just cause.

Just cause includes failure to cure a notice to pay rent or vacate, or failure to cure a notice to comply or vacate. For failure to cure a notice, the tenant need only fail to cure the notice one time.

If the tenant is month-to-month the landlord may serve a notice to terminate the tenancy for only specified reasons listed in the just cause eviction ordinance. Note that the just cause eviction grounds below apply only if the tenant is month-to-month. These just cause eviction grounds do not give the landlord a right to break the lease. The just cause grounds to issue a notice to terminate the tenancy include:

  • habitual failure to pay rent (four pay rent or vacate notices in a 12-month period);
  • habitual failure to comply with the lease terms (three or more notices to comply or vacate in a 12-month period);
  • the landlord or an immediate family member intends to occupy the premises as his primary residence;
  •  the landlord intends to sell a single family residence.

There are additional, less common just cause eviction grounds. See our Seattle just cause eviction page or contact our office fore more information.

Seattle first in time law. 

Seattle residential landlords are required to log all rental applications and accept the first qualified applicant. Landlords must disclose to all prospective occupants (in addition to disclosures required by state law) the screening criteria, all needed information and documentation, an explanation of how to request additional time, and other information.

Criminal background checks.

Seattle all but bans criminal background checks, unless the landlord shares a residence with the tenant and certain other very narrow exceptions.