House passes Thai bill addressing landlord damage claims

OLYMPIA – In a 57-40 vote, the Washington House of Representatives passed legislation protecting tenants from unreasonable damage claims. HB 1074, prime sponsored by Rep. My-Linh Thai, D-Bellevue, is one of several bills proposed by House Democrats to protect renters from abusive rental practices, reduce housing instability, and create a fairer housing market.

Under the bill, landlords would have 30 days to submit a statement for retaining any portion of a tenant’s deposit and substantiate the cost of those damages with documentation. This is an increase from current state law which provides 21 days.

If passed, the law would prohibit landlords from withholding tenant deposits in certain instances, while also protecting property owners from expenses incurred because of tenant negligence or abuse. The bill provides a three-year statute of limitations for landlords to file a lawsuit to recover any expenses exceeding a damage deposit.

“Tenants continue to tell us they are being denied deposit refunds due to unsubstantiated damage claims. This bill doesn’t deny landlords the ability to recoup their expenses for damages, it simply ensures fair treatment of renters,” said Rep. Thai. “As a landlord myself, this is about setting a precedent for landlords to stop charging tenants thousands of dollars in uncorroborated damages.”

Democratic lawmakers are addressing the growing need for stability in the rental market by stopping practices that lead to increased housing instability, provide little to no option in contesting debts sent to collections, and reduce a renter’s ability to secure future housing.

House Democrats have made housing a top priority for 2023 through a comprehensive package of bills, they hope will create more affordable housing, stabilizing rental rates, and subsidize housing for those most in need.

HB 1074 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.