In the state of Washington can tenants disregard written communications from landlords if they are not signed?

For example, if 2 printed letters are posted (on different days) notifying of a rent increase and neither contains a signature, can they be treated as pranks if the increases are for different amounts? What is the minimum to require the tenants to inquire whether a communication is genuine? Would a printed byline, such as "management" or a landlord's letterhead on the letter be enough?

Clearly, any one of those can be duplicated. Suppose the letters are not delivered by mail, but are posted on the door (as is required for rent-increase letters in WA). Are tenants then required to resolve the confusion? Or is a hand-written signature, or another form of validation, necessary to make the correspondence a legal notice?

  • What notice provisions has the tenant agreed to in the lease?
    – bdb484
    Jan 16, 2022 at 16:49
  • @bdb484 i am only asking about the law. so let's assume nothing is stipulated in the lease.
    – grovkin
    Jan 16, 2022 at 20:26

3 Answers 3


As other answers point out, there are some requirements on what must be contained in the notification, but nothing about any particular authentication mechanism.

So, the upshot is that, if the notice meets those requirements, and if it did in fact come from the real landlord, then it's effective, and you will be responsible for paying the increased rent without having to be asked again. That is the case even if the notice isn't signed, or isn't on letterhead, or doesn't contain any other particular proof of authenticity. Therefore, you have to judge for yourself whether it is authentic, or whether to take additional steps to verify the document. If you end up guessing that it is fake when it is actually real, you will bear the consequences.

It's up to you to make your own cost-benefit analysis, given the circumstances, of the effort involved in verifying the notice, versus the consequences of being wrong. You might for instance decide:

  • "This notice appears so obviously fake that I'm just going to ignore it. There may be a tiny chance that it's actually real, in which case there could be trouble when I don't pay the higher rent. But that chance is so small that it's not worth the effort to contact the landlord and confirm that they didn't send the notice."

  • "This notice appears so obviously authentic that I'm just going to assume that it is, and plan to pay the higher rent when it comes due (or, plan to move out before it would take effect). If it turns out to have been fake, I will have been inconvenienced by paying too much and having to wait for the landlord to refund the balance (or, by moving out unnecessarily). But that chance is so small that it's not worth the effort to contact the landlord and verify that the notice is real."

  • "I am not really sure one way or the other if this notice is real. If I guess either way, the risk of being wrong would be substantial, and the consequences would be unpleasant. So I'm going to contact the landlord to verify it before doing anything else."

There are lots of things in the law, as in life, that are like this. You're not guaranteed to be given absolute proof of whether something is true; you have to make up your own mind, and decide how much effort it is worth to make sure you are right.


A Washington landlord is required to provide written notice of a rent increase under RCW 59.18.140(3)(a):

Except as provided in (b) of this subsection, a landlord shall provide a minimum of sixty days' prior written notice of an increase in the amount of rent to each affected tenant, and any increase in the amount of rent may not become effective prior to the completion of the term of the rental agreement.

The statute imposes no requirement that the notice be signed or "validated." It merely requires notice.

There is nothing the landlord can do to "require" the tenant to inquire into whether the notice is genuine. The tenant is free to inquire or not inquire, regardless of whether he knows the notice is genuine. Likewise, the landlord is free to enforce the rent increase regardless of whether the tenant has inquired about it.


Notice requirements under RCW 59 Ch 18 are mainly imposed on the landlord (but also apply to tenants esp. terminating a lease), and amount to a prerequisite for a party to take legal action. In Washington, "written notice" only applies to Title 59 (Landlords and Tenants). As long on the serving party has complied with the rules for delivering the particular kind of notice, that aspect of the law has been satisfied. The excuse "I never got the notice" does not hold, because personal service is never an absolute requirement (see the law for service of notice regarding forcibly entry and unlawful detainer which has a hierarchy of methods that starts with personal service). Likewise, there is no excuse "I didn't believe that they meant it; that it was from the landlord".

This raises the question of what constitutes sufficient notice. For example, you could imagine a crazy landlord scrawling "Rent is increasing by $500", unsigned, on a bag and dropping it outside the door. A reasonable tenant would wonder if they had actually been given legitimate legal notice, or was this a prank? For this reason, the law also requires notices to have a certain form, starting here. For Ch. 18, the general rule for a summons (relevant to eviction and the like) is personal service, and if that's not possible then... The obligatory "safety notice" must be signed by the landlord, but need not be delivered by certified mail (plus, it must be provided when the lease is signed, not "some time eventually"). There are no specific (state) requirements on the form of a rent increase notice. But the only thing that a tenant has to do in response to a notice about rent increase is deciding whether to stay or leave, and the question of where the notice came from is only part of what the tenant has to think about.

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