Landlords and Property Managers
Are You Ready to Rent Your Unit?
When you are renting a home to a tenant you are responsible for making sure that the unit is safe and up to code. The minimum standards are in the Bremerton Municipal Code’s City Building Code section.
This means that it must comply with, to name a few:
- Space and Occupancy Standards
- This includes the minimum sizes for rooms, windows, and ventilation.
- Structural and Maintenance Standards
- This includes foundations, roofs, chimneys, fireplaces, walls, and weather-tightness.
- Mechanical Standards
- This refers to heating, ventilation, and electrical systems.
- Fire and Safety
- This includes stairs, fire escapes, exits, and guardrails.
- This refers to entry doors, windows, and observation points.
Maintenance and Landscaping
It is your responsibility to maintain your unit and make sure the landscaping and exterior of the property are presentable and contributing to the neighborhood. Garbage, even if it isn’t yours, cannot be allowed to accumulate outside the home. Some other examples of problems you must fix if they are present on your rental property are junk vehicles, graffiti, nuisance vegetation, dilapidated fences, or unsafe structures. See a brochure with more details here. If your property is in violation of these requirements, you could be fined, even if your tenant caused the issue.
Anyone renting or leasing real property inside Bremerton city limits is required to obtain a general business license, as provided in Bremerton Municipal Code (BMC) 3.48.025 by filling out a Landlord Business License Application (PDF). A Landlord License fee is $75. Not sure if you live in the city of Bremerton? Visit Kitsap County's Parcel Search to determine if you live within city limits.
Additionally, BMC 5.06 (effective January 1, 2014) requires landlords to provide the city with a complete listing of all rental properties inside Bremerton city limits. The list along with and an email address or other acceptable method of contact must be provided to the Bremerton Police Department for participation in the Landlord Notification Program (PDF).
Landlords must also sign a declaration that all dwelling units comply with Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 59.18.060 of the Landlord Tenant Act and do not present conditions that endanger or impair the health or safety of the tenants.
The Landlord Checklist (PDF) should be used as a guide for determining that the dwelling units meet the minimum standards of the Landlord Tenant Act.
You may renew and make changes to your landlord licenses online. To do so, please visit the Landlord License Online Center website.
For more information, please contact the Tax & License Division:
Mailing: 345 6th St., Suite 100
Bremerton, WA 98337
Finding a Tenant
In addition to ensuring your unit is safe and to code, you also need to know about the rules of marketing and leasing your unit. Fair housing regulations apply to advertising as well as accepting tenants with housing subsidies, disabilities and criminal records.
The following are protected classes in housing in Washington State:
- National Origin
- Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity Veteran/Military Status
- Marital Status
- Familial Status (families with children under the age of 18, or who are expecting a child)
- Section 8 voucher holders
It is also unlawful to retaliate against any individual who files or participates in a housing discrimination complaint. Please view the Washington State Human Rights Commission Brochure for more information about prohibited actions based on protected classes.
Moving a Tenant In
Once you select a tenant, make sure you understand the rules about charging deposits and move-in fees and regarding pets and service animals.
- The rental agreement should be in writing. It must state what the deposit is for and what the tenant must do in order to get it.
- The tenant must be given a written receipt for the deposit.
- When a tenant moves into the rental unit he/she should fill out a checklist or a description of the condition of the unit. The landlord and the tenant will sign the checklist. Make sure you receive a copy of the document signed by both parties.
- The tenant must be informed in writing where the landlord has placed the deposit.
- When the tenant moves out of the rental unit, the landlord has 14 days to return the deposit. If the landlord decides to keep all or part of the deposit, he/she must explain why.
If you take a security/damage deposit, you MUST prepare a move-in checklist detailing the condition of your rental unit. The checklist should be specific and must be signed and dated by both you and the tenant. This is the list you will return to at move-out to see if any damage has been done to the unit other than normal wear-and-tear so it is in your best interest to make sure it is thorough and accurate.
Pets vs Service Animals
It is required to allow residents to live with service animals that meet their disability-related needs. Service animals are not pets. A person with a disability uses a service animal as an aid, similar to the use of a cane, crutches or wheelchair. Fair housing laws require that service animals be permitted in all units despite “no pets” rules. You also may not charge tenants extra fees, deposits or cleaning charges for having service animals. Tenants with service animals are still required to follow all pet-related rules and guidelines, and must observe leash laws, waste disposal laws, and noise policies.
The Relationship Between You and the Tenant
If you receive a repair request from your tenant, you should keep a copy for your records.
Landlords are required to start repairs within a certain amount of time from the tenant's written request.
- Within 24 hours if the water, electricity, or heat in the winter is off or if the repair is causing a life-threatening issue.
- Within 72 hours if there is a broken refrigerator, oven, stove or a major plumbing issue, like the sink or bathtub.
- Within 10 days for any other repair request.
Be responsive when your tenant reaches out with a repair request. Consider how you would appreciate a swift and comprehensive response if you were the renter. Sometimes, this helps with understanding your tenant's perspective particularly when the repair need can cause inconvenience and stress. Failure to respond may give your tenant legal remedies you may not like or result in a City inspector visiting your unit and issuing a notice of violation.
State law details tenants’ rights to privacy and notice requirements for landlords to enter rental units. Except in the case of emergency or if it is impracticable to do so, landlords must give forty-eight hours written notice to enter the unit, or twenty-four hours’ notice if they are showing the unit to a new prospective tenant or purchaser. The written notice must specify exact dates and time for entry, or specify a time period, listing the earliest and latest possible times for entry on designated dates. The notice must contain a telephone number for the tenant to reach the landlord in order to object or reschedule the entry. They can only enter at reasonable times and they cannot abuse their right of access or use it to harass the tenant. The law does not specifically define reasonable times. If the landlord’s proposed notice times don’t work for the tenant, they may decide to offer alternate times that the property is available for inspection. If the unit is up for sale, there may be a lockbox placed on the unit to allow access, but all privacy laws apply to potential purchasers and real estate agents entering the unit.
Reasonable Accommodation Requests and Reasonable Modification
If a tenant has a disability, they can ask for a reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification.
An accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices, or services to allow the tenant the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. An example of reasonable accommodation is to make an exception in a parking policy so a person in a wheelchair can have a spot closest to their unit.
A modification allows the tenant to make changes to the property which they need to make the property accessible. The tenant is responsible for paying for reasonable modifications unless you receive federal funds. An example of a reasonable modification is a tenant asking permission to widen the bathroom doorway beyond what the building code requires because they use a large scooter.
Moving a Tenant Out
Click here for the state law that applies if your tenant abandons the unit.
The only lawful way to evict a tenant is through a process called an 'unlawful detainer' which is an eviction law suit filed in superior court. Evicting a tenant using an unlawful detainer action is a legal process that requires a court's involvement. It is ill-advised to proceed without legal representation as there are complex, technical, and procedural details involved. If you make even a small mistake, it can affect the outcome. You should retain an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law in Washington.
The process begins when you serve a notice to pay or a notice to comply and the tenant fails to do so by the deadline. An attorney will help you prepare a "summons and complaint" which must be served to the tenant and then filed in court. Ultimately, a judge decides at a 'show cause hearing' if you will be restored possession of the rental property and the tenant will be evicted. If a 'writ of restitution' is granted restoring possession back to you, and the tenant does not vacate voluntarily, a sheriff will move the tenant out of the property. Click here for state law.
Termination of Tenancy
Click here for information regarding terminating tenancies.
Returning a Deposit
When a tenant moves out:
- Within 21 days of the end of the rental agreement, you must return the deposit to the tenant or provide the tenant with a written statement explaining in detail why all or part of the money is being kept.
- The rental unit should be in the same condition as it was when the tenant moved minus reasonable wear and tear. Generally, wear and tear happens gradually over time from normal use whereas damage happens by accident or negligence.
- Remember that the checklist from the tenant's move-in is used to determine what is wear and tear and what is new damage. If you don't have a checklist signed by you and the tenant from move-in, you must return the full deposit.
- If you don't have a forwarding address for your tenant, you must use the last known address even if that happens to be your rental.
See the state laws on deposit returns.
If an issue arises that would be covered under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) or other State or Federal law, the reader should seek legal counsel and ultimately refer to State or Federal law. This document should only serve as an introduction to what is covered in state and federal law and does not constitute legal advice. This article was written in 2020; for up-to-date information see City, State, and Federal law.