Can a Landlord Charge First & Last Month's Rent & a Deposit to Move Into a Home in Washington State?

Landlords in Washington state are allowed to charge first and last months rent, as well as a security deposit, upon move-in. New tenants should familiarize themselves with Washington's security deposit and rental fee laws, and request a receipt for any deposits, prior to signing a lease.

Security Deposit

Washington law allows landlords to require a security deposit before letting a tenant move into a rental property. The landlord must give the tenant a receipt for the deposit. Security deposits can be used to pay for repairing damage a tenant does to the property. In addition, the money can be used for rent if you move out before the lease period is complete. Tenants do not have the right to tell landlords to use security deposits for rent, though an agreement with the landlord for that purpose is possible.

Returning Deposits

Landlords must return a deposit within 14 days of the tenant vacating the property at the end of a lease. If any damage is done to the property by the tenant, the landlord has the right to deduct money for repairing the damage as long as the damage in question is beyond normally accepted wear and tear. Damage repairs being charged to the security deposit must be itemized in a list with an explanation when the balance of the deposit is returned to the tenant. At the time of the move-in the landlord is required to provide a property checklist for the tenant to note the condition of the property. Nothing that was damaged before tenant moved in can be deducted from that tenant's deposit upon vacating.

Last Month's Rent

A landlord in Washington state can legally request that the last month of the lease be paid upon moving in. For a one year lease, the tenant pays 11 consecutive months; the landlord uses the last month collected upfront for the final month's rent. For month-to-month agreements, the tenant gives a 30-day notice of intent to vacate and the rent collected at move-in is applied to the final 30 days of occupancy.

First Month Rent

Collecting first month's rent at the time of the tenant's move-in is standard practice and allowable in Washington. While the last month's rent is fixed at the agreed monthly rent amount, the first month's rent can be prorated to accommodate tenants who move in mid-month. For example, if the rental period is to be from the first to the last day of each month but the tenant does not move in until the 15th, the landlord collects the amount of rent equal to two weeks. The full rent begins on the first of the following month.