The biggest changes that we hear about regarding the rental market lately tend to focus on rents increasing in the Puget Sound region. While rent increases may be a common theme now, that may not continue in the future as the market adjusts and new apartment buildings are built in the area.
Similarly, tenants shouldn’t be caught thinking that the only thing that can change during their tenancy is the rent.
Some say that rules were meant to be broken. But in the realm of landlords and tenants, a more appropriate theme is that rules are subject to change as laws are passed and the market shifts to meet tenant demands.
The easiest way to ensure that things won’t change is by signing term-lease agreements on a renewing basis, rather than going month to month after the original term expires.
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The advantages of term-lease agreements are easy to see. Rents stay the same, rules don’t change for the duration of the term, and you’ll know where your home will be for the next given period of time.
But there are some drawbacks. Most notable is that staying on a term-lease agreement takes away any opportunity to make a career or life change that involves where you live without it potentially being very costly.
If you are a month-to-month tenant, or have a term-lease agreement that is going to be reverting to month-to-month soon, you should be aware of the requirements of landlords to provide proper notice for any changes in rent or rules.
Rules changes can apply to a variety of policies, including smoking, pets and guests. They require 30 days’ notice before the start of the rental period for which the change is to take effect. A landlord must send the notice in writing and include a copy for each tenant named on the lease.
Rent-increase notifications are a little more to wade through because of the unique rent-increase rule in the city of Seattle.
In Seattle, landlords who intend to increase housing costs, including rent and utilities, by more than 10 percent during a 12-month period must provide 60 days’ written notice. Everywhere else in the state — and in the city of Seattle where the increase in housing cost is less than 10 percent — 30 days’ notice is required.
It’s important to remember that often these changes are negotiable, so tenants are encouraged to have a conversation with their landlords about what is changing and why. There are no guarantees of any relief, but talking about it is much easier than making a snap decision to move. Even if the change is nonnegotiable, there might be an opportunity for the renter to buy some extra time while deciding what step to take next.
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.