Renting FAQ’s

Do you have questions about renting in the Seattle Area? Here are some answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)! 


When would be the best time to start my rental search?

The best time to start searching is 20-30 days prior to your move-in date. The reason for this is that residents are required by Washington state law to give a 20 days’ notice to vacate. This notice falls almost always falls on the 10th or 11th of the month prior. (More notice may be given, but the 20 days’ notice is always calculated backwards from the day that rent is due – the 1st). Because of this, the majority of new availability gets advertised between the 1st and 15th of the month.

How much do I need to make to rent an apartment?

A general rule of thumb is that gross household income should be greater than or equal to three times the monthly rent. For example: if the apartment is $1000, your gross monthly household income should be $3000. Child support, alimony or any additional moneys received monthly can count as income as long as the receipt is verifiable. Excessive credit card debt, discrepancies on the credit report, car loans and other monthly obligations will be evaluated as well.

What should I bring when I visit rentals?

Be prepared to show a landlord that you will be a good tenant. It is advisable for you to bring the following:

– Verification of employment (Letter from your employer is recommended)

– Verification of income (Recent pay stub is recommended)

– References from prior landlords

– Names, addresses, phone numbers of prior landlords

– Picture ID

– Social Security Number

– Checkbook with available funds to cover fees (deposits, application fees, etc.). It is not recommend to use cash as a method of payment. Most apartment buildings do not accept credit card either.

It might also be advantageous for you to request a copy of your credit report before you begin the rental process. In Washington State, anyone may obtain one free credit report per year through If you have a poor credit history, you may be required to pay a few months’ rent in advance or may not be approved at all. In King County by law tenants cannot be discriminated against based on their source of income (i.e. if someone is unemployed but using trust account funds or savings, a tenant is on Section 8, etc.), but poor credit and a landlord’s negative review of your previous rental history can cost you.

It is beneficial to bring bank account numbers and credit references when you apply. It may also be advantageous to request a copy of your credit report before you begin the rental process. If you have a poor credit history, you may be required to pay a few months rent in advance or you may not be approved at all.

– All properties require a credit check

– Approximate cost $20 to $30

– The fee is non-refundable


What money will I need to put down when I want to rent a place?

Landlords generally require first month’s rent, and, although deposit expectations vary widely, a security deposit.

Application Fees

This is a standard practice for most any rental property. This fee is not refundable and generally $25 to $150; for some properties it may be more.

–          Each landlord or manager requires completion of an application

–          Each applicant must be 18 years or older

–          Each occupant 18 years or older must complete an application

Security Deposit

–       Typically $400 – Some properties may require first and last month rent

–          Required upon signing lease

–          Sometimes required at application & refunded in full if application is denied

–          Refunded within 30 days of move-out pending condition of apartment

Some owners or managers will also ask for a last month’s rent, but this is less common with apartment communities. The security deposit is required upon signing a lease, and may be required at application (but if so, will be refunded in full if your application is denied). At the time of move-in, you’ll be given a Move In/Move Out Checklist to document any existing damages to the unit. At the end of the lease, the security deposit must be refunded to you within 14 days of moving out minus any damages not documented on the checklist.

Do I need to pay extra for my pet?

In Seattle, pets can be a difficult issue. About 25% of the rental properties in Seattle accept small dogs, and approximately 75% accept cats. Often times there will be a 25 lb. weight limit on dogs. Additional deposits and/or fees should be expected – an additional pet security deposit, a non-refundable cleaning fee, and/or monthly “pet rent.” Modern, newer buildings are usually more pet friendly than the vintage, older buildings. Outside of the city, properties are more likely to accept dogs and cats. Some properties also will not accept rabbits, rodents, birds and reptiles due to city-specific regulations.

If you are a pet owner, be sure to check with each potential landlord regarding pet requirements, and verify the terms before signing a lease.  Properties that prohibit pets will enforce this restriction.

–       Many communities do not allow pets

–       Some communities allow 1 pet up to 25lbs

–       Some communities do accept larger pets

–       Pet fee is due upon move-in

–       Pet deposit fees vary

–       Pet fees are non-refundable

–       Consider creating a resume for your pet

If I view an apartment but am not sure if I want it, what should I do?

In most cases, filling out an application does not obligate someone to rent an apartment. Once the manager runs a credit check they will make their decision (usually within 24-48 hours of turning in your application). If you find something else during that time, you should call the landlord as soon as possible to let them know you’re no longer interested in renting the apartment. You should be careful about leaving a deposit on a unit that you are not sure you want to rent – sometimes a portion or the entirety of this deposit may be nonrefundable. Only apply if you’re serious!

I always get an answering machine when I call the managers, is this normal?

Most buildings in our area do not have on-site, full-time management. Managers often work during the day and return phone calls in the evenings. And if there is a full-time resident manager, they are often tending the grounds or showing other prospective tenants around and are unable to answer the phone. Because of these factors it can be frustrating when trying to schedule an appointment. It is important to leave a message. A responsible manager will return your call if their unit is still available. It is vital that you either have a cellular phone or a place where people can leave a message to coordinate timing for an appointment.

Pointers for getting a manager to call you back:
1. If you are relocating to work for a well-known company, or have a good job, let them know. Often times they will respond more quickly to someone who they know has a good income and will not have trouble paying the rent.
2. If you have seen the building, mention that you have been by and like the building and the neighborhood. You will get preference over someone who has not been by; they know you are serious.
3. Make sure you mention which property you are calling about, as they may manage more than one building.
4. Don’t leave long, rambling messages. Be short and to the point. And don’t forget to say your phone number clearly!


My application was rejected based on bad credit. What are my rights?

If a landlord rejects you based on negative information supplied by the report, they are required to tell you the name and address of the credit bureau that was utilized. If you feel that a landlord did not run a credit report (and pocketed the cost of the credit report instead), you have the right to a refund. Call a credit reporting agency to see if the landlord ordered a report and, if they did not, ask the landlord for a refund. If he or she denies you, contact your state’s consumer protection office.


What are my rights and responsibilities if I want to move and terminate my lease?

If a tenant breaks the lease they are responsible for the rent for the balance of the term. The landlord, however, must make a reasonable effort to re-let the premises in order to mitigate the costs. The liability for each party, in each case, depends on the terms of the specific rental agreement.  If the landlord is in serious violation of the stated obligations under the rental agreement, a tenant may be able to terminate without liability.