Overview and Summary of Pertinent RLTA Amendments
DISCLAIMER: You should note that this overview was prepared by Mack Mayo of The Mayo Law Group PLLC for informational and educational purposes only and as a service to clients and potential new clients. Reviewing an online Blog post is no substitute for consulting with a licensed lawyer regarding your specific situation and legal needs. You understand that no attorney-client relationship is formed until you and The Mayo Law Group mutually execute a legal representation agreement. Further, the below summary does not constitute legal advice. Please remember that you should not make legal decisions based solely on a summary of a new law. It is by far cheaper to speak with a lawyer first than to defend lawsuits because of incorrect application of the law.
Amendments Related to Evictions
Definition of “Rent.”
Periodic, recurring charges for use and occupancy of premises (rent and may include monthly utilities if called for by the lease)
Now expressly excludes charges for costs incurred due to late payment, damages, deposits, legal costs, or other fees such as attorneys’ fees
No More 3-Day Notices → 14-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate Required
There is a required form (attached, also available at bmayolaw.com)
Goal is to give them better access to lawyers and more time to come up with rent
Post immediately when rent is late AND remove grace periods
What can you include in the 14-day?
Rent and Utilities only
You cannot include any other charges, such as late fees, notice fees, or unpaid deposits based upon 14-day Notice (you would need to include in a 10-day or through other collection efforts)
Late Fees Capped at $75.00 in Evictions
Any contractual provisions to the contrary are void by operation of law
No matter how many months are behind in rent, late fees are limited to this amount
Note: Late fees should still not be included in the 14-Day; those go in the 10-day
LAWYERS now required to add certain information and make summonses clearer, giving tenants more direction on civil aid services and the consequences of the failure to reply or file answer
Judges Can Force Non-Consensual Payment Plans (Up to 90 Days) At Show Cause or at Time of Judgments
Courts can impose a payment plan without agreement of the parties
Limited to 90 days
Tenants must make monthly payments and pay entire judgment within no more than 90 days
Court must require a monthly rent payment within 5 days under any payment plan
If tenant misses any payments, landlord can proceed with eviction
Who is not eligible for payment plans?
Tenant who has been served 3 or more notices to pay rent or vacate within the previous 12 months
5-Day Post-Judgment Opportunity to Satisfy Judgment and Reinstate Tenancy
Assuming no payment plan (even after default), tenant can reinstate tenancy by paying judgment within 5 days
Tenant must pay all rent due, court costs, and late fees up to $75.00
Tenant must pay $50.00 more for each time a judgment was reinstated within previous 12 months
If no reinstatement after 5 days, then MLG can enforce judgment and evict tenant
If tenant pays into court or pays landlord full amount, then landlord must file satisfaction of judgment
Cannot Evict for Non-Rent Amounts
Tenant’s right to possession of the premises cannot be conditioned upon tenant payment of a monetary amount other than rent
You can collect them through other means (lawsuits, etc.)
CAVEAT - INSTALLMENT PAYMENTS FOR DEPOSITS OR FEES:
When landlord, at commencement of tenancy, has provided an installment payment plan for nonrefundable fees or deposits to secure the tenant’s obligations and the tenant defaults in payment, landlord may treat default as rent owing and can evict if fail to pay
Landlord Can Only Collect Attorneys’ Fees and Costs When Tenant Answers and Landlord Wins or if Rent Awarded is Equal to At Least 2 Months’ Rent or $1,200 (Whichever Greater)
If court awards judgment to landlord restoring possession of property to landlord, court MAY award fees and costs
BUT court may not award fees and costs if:
Tenant fails to answer or appear (i.e., upon default); or
If the total amount of rent awarded in judgment for rent is equal or less than 2 months’ of tenant’s monthly contract rent or $1,200.00, whichever is greater.
When tenant files motion to stay writ of restitution
Court may only award fees to landlord if tenant is permitted to be reinstated
Expanded Eligibility for Landlord Mitigation Program
Includes landlord claims for reimbursement in evictions where (1) judicial discretion exercised (e.g., court orders payment plan) and (2) unpaid judgment for rent, late fees, fees and costs if tenant defaults on payment plan
If tenant is low-income, limited resourced, or experiencing hardship, the court may issue an order finding that the landlord is eligible to receive on behalf of the tenant and may apply for reimbursement from mitigation fund.
Court required to make specific inquiries into tenant’s peculiar status
Alternative/Substituted Service of Process (Summons & Complaint) Streamlined
Personal service typically required (well, for literally all court cases unless waived)
If cannot serve tenant via personal service, service requirement met when process server supplies declaration that he attempted personal service on tenant at least 3 times over not less than 2 days and at different times of the day
Remember, however, that you cannot get a monetary judgment or attorneys’ fees and costs through default
And also remember courts can enforce 90-day payment plans
And also remember that tenant still has 5-day right to reinstate tenancy post-judgment
Amendments Related to Tenancy in General
60-Day Period Now Required to Raise Rent
Used to be 30-day to raise rent; change terms of tenancy
Caveat: Different rules apply for Section 8 Tenants and other rule changes only require 30-days notice (e.g., changes in community policies, etc.).
Application of Tenant Payments
Landlords may no longer first apply tenant payments (ANY TENANT PAYMENT) to late fees, insurance, utilities, etc.
Landlords must first apply all payments towards rent first before applying payments to non-recurring
RLTA Now Applicable to Employees in Some Situations
Act now applies to occupancy by employee of landlord whose right to occupy is conditioned upon employment in or about the premises
Absent Contrary Language, Conversion from Term to M2M Mandatory
Upon expiration of a lease for a specified time and without an agreement to renew the lease, the tenancy must continue on a month-to-month basis
Additional Documentation Required for Retaining Security Deposit
Landlords must provide tenant with documentation regarding any damages for which the landlord intends to retain any of the deposit amount
E.g., receipts, estimates, etc.
Takeaway: mere itemization statement insufficient
The Mayo Law Group PLLC is a boutique, civil law firm headquartered in Spokane, Washington, focusing on business and corporate law, class action law, real estate law, and landlord-tenant law. We are the landlord’s one-stop for transactional and litigation services. Contact us today for your free consultation.