The move-in process sets the table for the future of a tenancy, as well as the expectations of the renter and the landlord.
At that time, the tenant has the opportunity to review all rental policies prior to committing. The landlord communicates the requirements for tenancy, including compliance with all rules and regulations.
It goes without saying that the lease agreement is the standard document for beginning a tenancy. At minimum, it should spell out the terms of the agreement, its duration, the monthly rent and deposit amounts, and any other rules for behavior.
But several other documents exist that can be just as important — possibly more so — than the lease itself.
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What could be as important as the lease? Some would suggest a property-condition checklist, which is crucial to have in place prior to the start of a tenancy. In fact, landlords would be best served having this document completed and signed by the tenant prior to signing the lease. This ensures all property conditions are mutually agreed upon before the tenant takes possession of the unit.
The tenant must be provided with a copy of the signed property-condition checklist for use as a record of the state of the rental unit at move-in. According to RCW 59.18.260, without a property-condition checklist signed by both parties, no deposit can be legally collected from the tenant, nor can money be withheld from it for damages or other owed amounts.
Tenants who have had a deposit collected and/or money withheld from it for damages without the presence of a property-condition checklist signed by the tenant have a strong case for getting it refunded.
Other required paperwork for tenants in addition to the lease agreement includes a brochure that details the causes and risks of mold, an EPA lead-paint pamphlet (required for properties built before 1978 and not certified as lead-paint free) and a lease addendum covering smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors.
Within the city of Seattle, tenant must also be provided with a document titled “Tip 604: Seattle Laws on Property Owner and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities.”
Other addenda may be included at the discretion of the landlord. These include rules for pets, smoking policies, parking policies, and co-signer documents for tenants conditionally accepted due to credit or background issues.
Tenants are advised to keep their lease documents and other paperwork for a minimum of three to five years after vacating a property.
Sean Martin is the director of external affairs of the Rental Housing Association of Washington, a not-for-profit association of more than 5,000 landlord members statewide. Rental Resource is the organization’s biweekly column. For more information for landlords or tenants, visit rhawa.org.