Rental Agreement Regulation

See also: Deposit Returns, Move-In ChargesRenting in Seattle

What Is It?

The Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) regulates parts of the rental agreement between a landlord and a tenant. Please call SDCI code compliance for more information.

Our ordinance:

  • Prohibits penalties in month-to-month rental agreements if the tenant stays for only one month
  • Regulates the amount of security deposits and move-in fees a renter is required to pay at the beginning of the rental agreement
  • Requires landlords to give a copy of the Renter's Handbook to each applicant and to each tenant every year
  • Requires at least 60 days written notice before increasing a renter’s housing costs

What It Isn't

Our ordinance does not prevent a landlord from increasing rent. Washington state law does not allow rent control.

Read the Code

Our Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) and Washington state law (RCW) outline the rules for month-to-month rentals.

Renter's Handbook

SDCI developed a new Renter's Handbook to replace Information for Tenants. The handbook is easier to read and provides additional tips and resources to help in the rental relationship. 

Landlords must provide a copy of the Renter's Handbook to the renter:

  • When a renter applies to rent
  • When a renter signs a rental agreement
  • Annually to month-by-month tenants
  • Whenever the handbook is updated by the City

Landlords should provide a hard copy of the Renter's handbook at the initial signing. After the initial rental agreement, landlords can provide electronic copies of the handbook. We understand that Information for Tenants is in broad circulation so landlords have until September 1, 2021 to provide the Renter's Handbook to their tenants. As of that date, only the Renter's Handbook will meet the ordinance requirement for providing this information to renters.

While City offices remain closed to the public during COVID-19, we cannot safely provide and distribute printed copies. To use our print-friendly version of the handbook, try selecting 2-sided in a landscape setting. Black and white is fine if you do not have a color printer. Visit for more information or call our helpline at (206) 684-5700.

Proposed Changes