TACOMA, Wash. – With the recent passage of Amended Substitute Ordinance 28894, a number of updates strengthening requirements around notices to increase rent; shared housing standards; standardized tenant screening criteria; standards for fees and deposits; business license, health and safety requirements; rental agreement regulations and other areas of the existing Rental Housing Code will take effect July 24, 2023.
Notices to Increase Rent
Previously, a landlord was only required to provide a 60-day written notice to the tenant before increasing rent. A 120-day written notice to the tenant will now be required. Subsidized housing and deed-restricted affordable housing are exempt from this requirement.
Shared Housing Standards
Shared housing describes a living arrangement where a tenant rents a private room or shared room in a dwelling unit, but shares common areas such as a kitchen, gathering spaces, and/or bathroom with other tenants. In this area, the following requirements will apply:
- At the time of tenancy, the master lease holder must share contact information for any subleasing tenants with the landlord, and the landlord’s contact information with any subleasing tenants.
- When renting “habitable spaces” to four or more tenants, separate leases for each tenant are required by the landlord, or the master lease holder in the case of subleasing tenants. (The term “habitable spaces” refers to spaces in a structure for living, sleeping, eating, or cooking. Bathrooms, toilet compartments, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces, and similar areas are not considered habitable spaces.)
- The landlord is required to serve any notices that can lead to eviction to the master lease holder and provide the master lease holder with additional copies of notices to serve each subleasing tenant.
- If subleasing tenants are not provided a written notice of eviction, the landlord must allow the subleasing tenants an additional 30 days to vacate after the eviction order is issued, or as ordered by the court.
Standardized Tenant Screening Criteria
Landlords will be prohibited from:
- Exceeding maximum rent-to-income ratios
Note: The City establishes its limits on income-to-rent ratio based on Fair Market Rent (FMR) – or what someone would typically pay for a moderately-priced unit in a given area – as established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- Placing a blanket ban on prospective tenants with felony or drug convictions, and arrest records
- Requiring a Social Security Number as the only way to conduct screening
Note: A landlord must accept alternative proof to establish eligibility.
Standards for Fees and Deposits
Late fees cannot exceed 1.5 percent of monthly rent, with a maximum limit of $75 per month, and landlords must actively take steps to recover late fees during tenancy by serving quarterly notices or invoices. Landlords will be prohibited from:
- Withholding late fees from deposits, or reporting information regarding late fees to prospective landlords at the end of tenancy, if late fees were not addressed during tenancy
- Assessing late fees on charges that are not rent, such as installment payments, deposits, or amenities like parking
- Requiring a pet damage deposit exceeding 25 percent of one month’s rent
- Withholding full refund of a tenant’s pet damage deposit if unused
A tenant’s non-refundable fees, security deposit and last month’s rent are generally described as move-in fees. For leases:
- Six Months or Longer
Tenants will be allowed six, instead of three, months to pay move-in fees and deposits in monthly installments.
- Three to Five Months Long
Tenants will be allowed to pay move-in fees and deposits in monthly installments over the course of three months.
Tenants will be allowed to pay move-in fees and deposits in monthly installments over the course of two months, and last month’s rent over the course of six months.
Business License, Health, and Safety Requirements
A landlord will not be able to pursue evictions or rent increases:
- Without a current City of Tacoma business license
- If a dwelling unit does not comply with RCW 59.18.060, and presents conditions that endanger or impair the health and safety of tenants
Rental Agreement Regulations
On rental agreements, landlords are required to:
- State the legal number of occupants and habitable spaces in the unit.
- Provide a name and physical address, in addition to any rental portals or online tools to pay rent, request repairs, and file complaints.
Note: If a landlord does not reside in the state of Washington, there must also be an authorized agent who resides within Pierce County, as outlined in RCW 59.18.060(15).
While landlords may restrict pets based on weight or size, they are prohibited from restricting dogs as pets based on breed, unless they have an insurance company-required breed restriction or if the dog is a service animal.
Other changes include a requirement that landlords advise tenants of their option to pay their deposits, fees, and last month’s rent in installments.
Landlords that own deed-restricted affordable housing units are not required to pay relocation assistance for low-income tenants when units are demolished, substantially rehabilitated, or change in use.
More information on Tacoma’s Rental Housing Code, as well as information on events and other opportunities to learn more and ask questions as details become available, can be found at cityoftacoma.org/rentalhousingcode.