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Refund of Initial Deposit when we did not go ahead with signing lease

Seattle, WA |


We viewed an apartment a few weeks ago and paid part of the security deposit and the application fee before being told we would have to wait a few days for the application checks to be carried out. Over those few days we found out that this apartment building was not the best to move into due to noise and neighbor issues.

The next day when the application checks came back all clear we advised the landlord that we would not be going ahead and that we would like the security deposit to be refunded. We were advised that this would not be refunded as this was used to hold the apartment, even though in all communication and on the initial reciept this money was detailed as a deposit. When we advised that we had looked into the issue and that deposits are returnable we were told that they would get back to us, since then we have not heard anything. What would be our options in this situation?

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Attorney answers 1


The answer is in RCW 59.18.253, which is part of Washington's Residential Landlord Tenant statute. It says:

Deposit to secure occupancy by tenant -- Landlord's duties -- Violation.

(1) It shall be unlawful for a landlord to require a fee from a prospective tenant for the privilege of being placed on a waiting list to be considered as a tenant for a dwelling unit.

(2) A landlord who charges a prospective tenant a fee or deposit to secure that the prospective tenant will move into a dwelling unit, after the dwelling unit has been offered to the prospective tenant, must provide the prospective tenant with a receipt for the fee or deposit, together with a written statement of the conditions, if any, under which the fee or deposit is refundable. If the prospective tenant does occupy the dwelling unit, then the landlord must credit the amount of the fee or deposit to the tenant's first month's rent or to the tenant's security deposit. If the prospective tenant does not occupy the dwelling unit, then the landlord may keep up to the full amount of any fee or deposit that was paid by the prospective tenant to secure the tenancy, so long as it is in accordance with the written statement of conditions furnished to the prospective tenant at the time the fee or deposit was charged. A fee charged to secure a tenancy under this subsection does not include any cost charged by a landlord to use a tenant screening service or obtain background information on a prospective tenant.

(3) In any action brought for a violation of this section a landlord may be liable for the amount of the fee or deposit charged. In addition, any landlord who violates this section may be liable to the prospective tenant for an amount not to exceed one hundred dollars. The prevailing party may also recover court costs and a reasonable attorneys' fee.

You should have a lawyer review your documents to see how this applies.