Landlord and Tenant Resources

The City of Bellingham receives numerous requests for help from tenants and property owners/managers on issues around rental housing. The following information was compiled to assist tenants and rental owners in understanding their rights and responsibilities, and to identify useful resources available to our community.

Fair Housing – Fair Housing pertains to Federal Laws that protect people from housing discrimination. The City of Bellingham has codified certain aspects of tenants’ rights that will be enforced in the City in BMC 10.48.030. General information on fair housing is also available on our website.

Substandard Housing Concerns – The City requires that all rental properties within the City limits register for the Rental Registration and Safety Inspection Program and undergo regular inspections to ensure that Bellingham’s residential rental housing meets specific health and safety standards. A resident of the City of Bellingham that has concerns regarding substandard conditions can call into the Permit Center or submit a Code Enforcement Request.

60-day notice to Vacate or Increase Rent – if you have a month-to-month lease and your landlord does not wish to renew your lease without cause, they must give 60-days’ notice before asking you to move out.

If your landlord wishes to raise a tenant’s rent by 10% or more, they must also give 60-days’ notice before the increase can take effect. See Ordinance Protecting Vulnerable Renters handout for more details.

State Landlord-Tenant Law – The state Residential Landlord-Tenant Act creates the over-arching rules for the landlord-tenant relationship. The act defines rights and responsibilities of owners and tenants, identifies permitted elements in leases, and sets forth procedures for owners and tenants to assert their rights in court. The Washington State Bar Association’s brochure entitled Landlord-Tenant Rights clearly explains the key aspects of the state law.

The Landlord-Tenant Act (Sec. 59.18.060) details what standards must be maintained by the rental owner. This section (Sec. 59.18.115) identifies procedures that tenants need to follow to address health and safety issues in rentals.

Obtaining legal or resolution assistance. Tenants may find themselves in situations requiring legal information, or assistance from an attorney. Law Advocates runs local clinics on landlord-tenant law and may provide a referral to a lawyer under certain circumstances. Income-qualified tenants can call Law Advocates’ Coordinated Legal Education, Advice, & Referral (CLEAR) line between 9:15 AM and 12:15 PM Monday through Friday at 1-888-201-1014. Renters or rental owners may mediate disputes through the resolution process; contact the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center at 360-676-0122 for details.

Two Seattle-based organizations provide helpful information on renters right’s under state law:

  • Affordable Housing – Resources that might be of assistance in looking to find affordable housing in Bellingham.
  • Energy Assistance – The Opportunity Council provides help with energy bills and home repair to improve efficiency and conservation.     
  • Financial Literacy for Renters – The Opportunity Council sponsors a program for Financial Literacy and Renter Education (FLARE).  The program includes classes to teach budgeting and basic skills to renters.  Call (360) 734-5121 for information.
  • Indoor Air Quality Information and tips from the Northwest Clean Air Agency to help you keep your indoor air clean and healthy.
  • Mold Guidance – Tenants and landlords both have responsibilities for addressing water and moisture problems that can cause mold. Generally, fixing leaks is the landlords’ responsibility and reducing condensation is the renter’s responsibility. More information can be found through the Washington State Department of Health.
  • Relocation assistance – The Northwest Justice Project can assist tenants who are having to move because of substandard rental conditions and can be reached at 1-888-201-1014. The Law Advocate​s Tenant Clinic may also be contacted.

Fair Housing – Fair Housing pertains to Federal Laws that protect people from housing discrimination. All housing providers (including property owners, managers, and leasing agents) are subject to Fair Housing laws.

The City of Bellingham has codified certain aspects of tenants’ rights that will be enforced in the City in BMC 10.48.030. The City also provides regular trainings available to landlords, property owners, and tenants. General information on fair housing is also available on our website.

State Landlord-Tenant Law – The state Residential Landlord-Tenant Act creates the over-arching rules for the landlord-tenant relationship. The act defines rights and responsibilities of owners and tenants, identifies permitted elements in leases, and sets forth procedures for owners and tenants to assert their rights in court. The Washington State Bar Association’s brochure entitled Landlord-Tenant Rights clearly explains the key aspects of the state law.

The Landlord-Tenant Act (Sec. 59.18.060) details what standards must be maintained by the rental owner. This section (Sec. 59.18.115) identifies procedures that tenants need to follow to address health and safety issues in rentals.

City Ordinances to protect vulnerable renters – The City passed an Ordinance to Protect Vulnerable Renters, which adds additional protections beyond State and Federal Law that apply to all rental properties within the Bellingham City limits. This ordinance took effect in March 2018, and includes the following protections:

  • Source of Income discrimination: A landlord may not refuse to rent to a tenant based on a tenant’s source of income, which includes public benefits or rental subsidies from federal, state, or local housing programs.
  • 60-day Notice of Rent Increase: Landlords who wish to raise a tenant’s rent by ten percent or more must give a 60-day written notice of rent increase.
  • 60-day Notice to Vacate: Landlords must give tenants a 60-day notice to terminate month-to-month tenancies without cause. If a tenant is otherwise in compliance with the terms of the lease, the landlord must provide written notice 60 days in advance for an eviction is to be enforceable.
  • Landlord Mitigation Fund – According to the Department of Commerce’s website, Washington State’s Landlord Mitigation Law (RCW43.31.605) became effective on June 7th of 2018 to provide landlords with an incentive and added security to work with tenants receiving rental assistance. The program offers up to $1,000 to the landlord in reimbursement for some potentially required move-in upgrades, up to fourteen days’ rent loss and up to $5,000 in qualifying damages caused by a tenant during tenancy”. Check out the Landlord Mitigation Info Sheet for more information on this program.

    The Opportunity Council is a local resource that can provide more information: contact Cliff Hare at 360-603-0377.
  • Rental Housing Association of Washington – This agency will provide limited assistance (for non-member landlords and tenants) regarding rights and responsibilities.
  • Resolving maintenance issues in rental housing. The Landlord-Tenant Act (Sec. 59.18.060) details what standards must be maintained by the rental owner.  This section (Sec. 59.18.115)  identifies procedures that tenants need to follow to address health and safety issues in rentals.   

The following are some of the codes that help reduce conflict and maintain the livability of neighborhoods in Bellingham.  If you don’t see a particular issue listed below, you may try going directly to the Bellingham Municipal Code (BMC) and searching for it. 

June 27, 2018 – Landlord Resource Meeting – New Ordinance Protecting Vulnerable Renters

The City of Bellingham was happy to host local landlords, housing partners and community experts at the 2nd Landlord Resource Meeting! The presentation covered how the new ordinance protecting vulnerable renters will affect landlords in our community. The additional resources listed below were also made available to the attendees. If you missed the event, we encourage you to watch the live recording!

April 19, 2018 – Free Fair Housing Training

The City of Bellingham was pleased to have a speaker from the Fair Housing Center of Washington to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act with a comprehensive presentation. Some useful fair housing resources are pasted below.

December 12, 2017 – Landlord Resource Meeting

The City of Bellingham, in partnership with Western Washington University’s Campus Community Coalition, held its first landlord resource meeting. Presentation topics included the Rental Registration and Safety Inspection Program, Western’s Campus Community Coalition, Litter Compliance and an overview of residential landlord / tenant law.

Other City Programs

Resources