Tenancy installment payments one step closer to law

OLYMPIA—The Washington State Senate voted Tuesday to pass House Bill 1694 by Rep. Melanie Morgan (D-Parkland), to allow residential tenants to pay initial move-in fees, including deposits, nonrefundable fees, and last month’s rent in monthly installments. The House previously passed the bill in mid-February.

Rep. Morgan worked collaboratively with housing stakeholders and Senators to strengthen protections for both tenants and landlords. The bill was amended to allow landlords to seek reimbursement from the landlord mitigation account when a tenant fails to complete their installment payments. Additionally, holding fees are limited to no more than twenty-five percent of the first month’s rent. Landlords are subject to a fine of one month’s rent if they refuse to allow installment payments. The fine is payable to the tenant.

Because of these efforts, the bill earned a bipartisan vote in the Senate.

The 29th Legislative District that Rep. Morgan represents is in desperate need of affordable housing. HB 1694 will help to reduce barriers that Washingtonians encounter to obtain and maintain affordable housing.

“As a former renter, I know firsthand how hard it can be to come up with many thousands of dollars to put a roof over my children’s heads. These fees can easily reach $5,000,” said Morgan.

In all cases where premises are rented for a specified time that is three months or longer, the tenant may elect to pay in three consecutive and equal monthly installments, beginning at the inception of the tenancy.

In all other cases, the tenant may elect to pay in two consecutive and equal monthly installments, beginning at the inception of the tenancy.

A landlord is not required to permit a tenant to pay in installments, if the total amount of the deposits and nonrefundable fees do not exceed 25 percent of the first full month’s rent and payment of the last month’s rent is not required at the inception of the tenancy.

Morgan continued, “This policy has been working well for tenants and landlords in Tacoma, Burien and Seattle. It is now time to implement this policy statewide.”

This is a priority bill for low-income tenant advocates.