2023 Rent Increase Notification FAQs

The Bellingham City Council gave final approval on March 13, 2023, to an ordinance that requires 120 days advance notice before any rent increases for residential units. The ordinance takes effect March 28, 2023.

This change is in response to community concerns about housing affordability in general, and particular concerns about rent increases occurring in Bellingham’s extremely tight rental market. The purpose of this ordinance is to provide more time for renters to plan for rent increases or explore different housing options. For more information, see the City’s news release about the change in notification requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

If a landlord provided at least 60 days’ notice of a rent increase prior to the effective date of the ordinance then they are in compliance with current regulations. After the effective date, landlords will need to provide 120 days’ notice prior to increasing rent.

Nothing in this ordinance supersedes the state’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RCW 59.18) other than the number of days of notice required. RCW 59.18.140 has information about the landlord’s duty to provide written notice of an increase in rent. Landlords should use whatever method is most effective in conveying information to the tenant in a timely fashion.

The City does not limit the number of times landlords may increase rent for their tenants.

The City is prohibited under state law from regulating rent levels. Because rent control is not allowed in Washington state, landlords can raise rent as long as they comply with the appropriate notice period and have not issued the notice to discriminate or retaliate against the tenant.

Nothing in the ordinance prevents landlords from increasing rent, and the City is prohibited under state law from regulating rent levels. The notification requirement is intended to provide tenants more time to plan for and respond to increases in their rent.

The ordinance requires 120 days’ notice and is not tied to the monthly calendar.

The City has established a greater notification requirement for rental increases under BMC 6.12 than required by the state’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RCW 59.18). Tenants who believe the notice provisions have been violated should consult with an attorney of their choice about how best to protect their rights.

While the City does not provide any direct services to tenants, such as legal advice or other assistance, there are useful resources available in our community and online. For more information about tenants’ rights, responsibilities and where to seek assistance, visit the City’s Tenant Resouces page.

Under RCW 59.18.140 as well as current Federal law, if the rental agreement covers a subsidized tenancy where the amount of rent is based on the income of the tenant, or on other circumstances specific to the household, a landlord is required to provide a minimum of 30 days’ prior written notice of an increase in the amount of rent. This exception does not apply to private units paid for with vouchers, such as in Sec. 8.