Washington State Tenant Screening
Last Updated: October 6, 2014
E-Renter knows how important it is, especially to Washingtonians, to work with other local businesses. Our family-owned company is headquartered in Bellingham, Washington, between majestic Mt. Baker and the myriad San Juan Islands. Although we screen tenants nationwide, meeting the needs of our local area is of particular importance to us. We annually attend the TRENDS Rental Housing Management Conference in Seattle in December. If you attend, please stop by, say hello, and meet some of our expert staff!
How to Screen a Tenant in Washington State
DISCLAIMER: We do our best to keep this information accurate and up-to-date, but we cannot guarantee either. The most recent law changes may not be reflected here. We do not intend this information to be legal advice, nor are we qualified to advise you regarding legal matters. We highly recommend consulting a lawyer qualified to discuss landlord-tenant law to advise you. We do not specifically endorse any of the websites linked from these pages, nor are we in any way affiliated with the agencies or individuals who have published them. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of information posted on these sites. If you find a problem on this page, please contact us so that we can get it fixed.
Step 1: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF] (FCRA) during the tenant screening process. Additionally, Washington State has laws that affect the tenant screening process. You can find the current Washington landlord-tenant laws on the Washington State Legislature website. If you are finding the formalities of the state code daunting, you might want to check out these friendlier sites:
- Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Washington
- Tenants Union of Washington State – Tenant Rights (be sure to check out the “Tenant Screening” section, under the heading “Housing”)
Recent Law Changes
In 2012, there were recent law changes in Washington that now require a landlord make certain disclosures to an applicant about the screening process both before and after the screening occurs. E-Renter has created free disclosure forms for Washington landlords to use for this purpose. These law changes also limit the screening fee a landlord can charge to the cost of the actual screening. Read more about these new tenant protection measures at WashingtonLawHelp.org.
Step 2: Required Forms & Disclosures
Tip: before you rent for the first time, consider hiring a lawyer to review all of the documents you will use during the application and rental process to ensure that you are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
- Rental Application [PDF] (this must be completed in full by the applicant prior to screening)
- Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF]
- Consumer Report Disclosure [PDF]
If you are ACCEPTING an applicant:
- Move-In Checklist [PDF]
- Mold Disclosure [PDF]
- Lease Agreement (written), containing or attaching the following information:
- Owner/Agent Identity – this should include name and address, and if the owner/agent is out-of-state it must include contact information for a resident of the COUNTY in which the rental is located that can act as an agent for the purposes of serving notices and process.
- Security Deposit – this must include the amount of the deposit and the conditions under which some or all of the deposit may be withheld. It must also include the name and banking institution holding the deposit.
- Non-refundable Fees – explicitly describe any non-refundable fees, and state clearly that they are non-refundable.
- Fire Protection & Safety Information – you must disclose the available fire protection and safety information specific to the unit you are renting, including smoking policy, evacuation plans, and who to notify in case of emergency.
If you are DECLINING an applicant:
- Adverse Action Notice [PDF]
Step 3: Order a Tenant Screening Report
What You’ll Need
- A completed rental application signed by the applicant.
- Some details about your applicant:
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Previous address
- Bank account number (optional)
- Bank routing number (optional)
What Will Be Covered
- Package Options
- Background Report Coverage for Washington State:
- Criminal, OFAC/Patriot Act & Sex Offender Records – A nationwide search is always performed. These jurisdictions specifically are available in Washington: Washington Administrative Office of the Courts (District Courts and Superior Court), updated quarterly; Washington Sex Offender Registry as provided by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) and by the Washington State Patrol (WSP), includes information from the last notification received; Washington Sex Offender Yakima Indian Tribe.
- Eviction Records – records are available from the following counties: Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Clallam, Clark, Columbia, Cowlitz, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Okanogan, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, Whatcom, Whitman, Yakima.
- Bankruptcies, Liens & Judgments – records are available from the following counties: Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Clallam, Clark, Columbia, Cowlitz, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Okanogan, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, Whatcom, Whitman, Yakima.
- Social Security Number validation, Death Index, credit checks, previous addresses, alias names, and the Rent Check Advisor include all information available regardless of location.
Resources for Washington Landlords
- Washington State Bar Association Lawyer Referral
- Washington State Court Directory
- Law Enforcement Agencies in Washington (Wikipedia)