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I gave my twenty day notice to our leasing company on the 11th, planning to be out on the 30th of April. They've stated that they must have received the notice no later than 00:00 (12AM) on the 10th for the twenty day notice. This to me seems more like a 21 day notice, but that's less of an issue.

However, after I handed them a written notice, they stated that I must sign a notice to vacate that they have prepared as well, otherwise they would not acknowledge receipt of mine. I had already sent a certified letter through the post office, so they really couldn't avoid acknowledgment of the letter, but as of the time of me going into the office to hand in one personally, it hadn't arrived yet (according to the tracking number). Not knowing if my twenty days was twenty days or not, and that they hadn't received my letter, I agreed to sign theirs and everything looked fine on the paperwork.

However, after everything was signed, that stated that because I would still be there on the first of the month, I would need to pay the entire month's rent for April, and that after the date mentioned on the notice (April 30) that they would be able to market the apartment as available. I objected to this, stating that if I'm paying for an entire month's rent, that I have a right to be there for the entire month. They said absolutely not, as it is their right as a leasing agency in Washington to do this. I haven't been able to find anything in my research that would indicate that this is the case, but IANAL.

Is there precedent for this in Washington? Do they get to double-dip in this manner? Because as written, it seems like they could have someone start their lease at the first day after what I mentioned in my noticed (May 1), and have the new tenant pay for May, after I have already paid for May.

Relevant section from the lease

NOTICE TO VACATE Resident understands Washington State Law requires that to terminate residency, twenty (20) days written notice must be given to Landlord or to Resident by Landlord prior to the end of the monthly term. Resident agrees that if he/she remains in possessions of said unit after date of intention to vacate, he/she will pay a daily rental of $75.00 thereafter.

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The law in Washington, RCW 59.18.200 (also stated in 59.04.20), states that

When premises are rented for an indefinite time, with monthly or other periodic rent reserved, such tenancy shall be construed to be a tenancy from month to month, or from period to period on which rent is payable, and shall be terminated by written notice of twenty days or more, preceding the end of any of the months or periods of tenancy, given by either party to the other.

I assume you have a month-to-month agreement (otherwise, you would be at the end of the lease and you don't have to give notice). The law simply requires written notice, and does not require any special form or signature. The misunderstanding by the agency about what 20 days is is common enough (after all, 30-20=10). One possible cause of confusion is over whether the law is stated in terms of tenants giving notice versus landlord receiving notice. The statute is not clear on this, but the above clause says "given by either party to the other", not "received by either party from the other".

If it is concluded, somehow (contrary to your attorney's argument) that your notice was not sufficiently timely, one option is to simply pay the next month's rent (at whatever the agreed rate is) and not leave until the end of the next month (giving timely notice early in the month). Under that option, landlord may not re-rent or otherwise illegally enter the premise, until the end of the subsequent month. A tenant may physically stay beyond the end of the lease, without paying – this is known as "unlawful detainer": under that circumstance, the landlord can take you to court to have you evicted and recover their damages (which would include attorney fees as well as lost rent), so that is not the best course of action). A third option is to abandon the unit. The law provides

If the tenant defaults in the payment of rent and reasonably indicates by words or actions the intention not to resume tenancy, the tenant shall be liable for the following for such abandonment: PROVIDED, That upon learning of such abandonment of the premises the landlord shall make a reasonable effort to mitigate the damages resulting from such abandonment

The liability clause says:

When the tenancy is month-to-month, the tenant shall be liable for the rent for the thirty days following either the date the landlord learns of the abandonment, or the date the next regular rental payment would have become due, whichever first occurs.

There is a problem with "the date the landlord learns of the abandonment": when (or what) exactly is "the abandonment", and does "learning of the abandonment" have to follow "the abandonment"? It may be tempting to think that signalling the intent to abandon starts the clock, but Washington case law states that "Abandonment, as applied to leases, involves an absolute relinquishment of premises by a tenant, consisting of act or omission and an intent to abandon", citing NJ precedent. There does not appear to be any case law clarifying the meaning of "learning of the abandonment": it would probably require expensive litigation to establish that this means "learning of the intent to abandon", so you might as well assume that the abandonment clock starts from when you are really out of the unit. If you leave at the end of the month, indicate an intent to abandon the unit, and do not pay rent, then you will have abandoned the unit, and you will be liable for 1 month rent. However, they law also imposes an obligation to mitigate the damage, which basically means, no double-dipping.

Leaving aside unlawful detainer, both the abandonment approach and the "keep it another month" approach entail paying another month's rent. In the former case, you have no claim on the unit but they can only ding you for rent for the number of unoccupied days. In the latter case, there is no option to pay less than a month's rent, but you retain full tenant rights (they cannot enter or re-rent). In neither case is there an avenue for both keeping the full month's rent from you, and re-renting the unit.

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