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Can my landlord change the rules to withhold part of my deposit for cleaning under a month-to-month agreement?

Seattle, WA |

I signed a lease that would revert to a month-to-month agreement after one year. The deposit I put down was fully refundable under the usual requirements to return the apartment to its original condition less normal wear and tear. After I signed this lease, the landlord sold the building to a new owner, and I was told that everything would remain the same until my lease expired. But upon taking over the building, the new owners sent me a blank copy of their standard lease and said their additional rules and regulations would take effect the following month.

After finishing out my lease, I remained as a month-to-month tenant for nearly another year before giving notice that I intended to vacate. I was then given instructions that state that I must have the carpets and blinds professionally cleaned. I was told that if I don't pay for this service out of pocket and provide an invoice, they will withhold the cost from my deposit. I clean regularly and thoroughly, so there are no actual issues with my apartment's condition.

Although I was long ago given a copy of a lease that listed this professional cleaning requirement, at the time I was still bound by my original lease and was told only that the “house rules” would change, not that the terms of my deposit refund would be retroactively altered. I never signed any paperwork with the new owners, and I assumed that the conditions of my deposit would stay in effect even as a month-to-month tenant. Can they legally keep part of my deposit (or require me to pay) for cleaning? Does giving me an example of their lease with nothing filled in or the instructions I received about 40 days before my move-out date count as proper notice of this rule change?

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Attorney answers 1


The Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA) can be seen at RCW 59.18 ( You can also find cases on the website.
Although reasonable minds can differ, it appears from your statement that the landlords did not have a signed lease agreement with you, so they would have no legal basis for attempting to impose their tyrannical conditions.

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