Washington State Eases Lease Execution Process

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Effective June 6, 2024, Washington state no longer requires that commercial leases with a term of more than one year be notarized to be effective.
United States Real Estate and Construction
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Effective June 6, 2024, Washington state no longer requires that commercial leases with a term of more than one year be notarized to be effective. On March 13, 2024, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Substitute Senate Bill (SSB) 5840 into law. SSB 5840, which unanimously passed the Senate and House, amends both RCW 64.04.010 and 1929 c 33 s 1 to read, "Every conveyance of real estate, or any interest therein, and every contract creating or evidencing any encumbrance upon real estate, shall be by deed: PROVIDED, that (1) Leases do not require acknowledgment, witness, or seals, but to be recorded, a lease and a memorandum of lease must have the lessee's and lessor's signatures acknowledged … ." Previously, as noted in the Senate Bill Report, "A lease could be perfectly valid, written, and agreed, but if the lease is not acknowledged as required and if rent is paid monthly, it becomes a month-to-month lease and terminable at a moment's notice."

The new law brings Washington's commercial lease requirements in line with the majority of American jurisdictions: "Most states do not require a notary on leases with terms of more than one year. Washington is one of very few states that requires acknowledgment before a notary for such leases." (Senate Bill Report SSB 5840). In an era of electronic signatures, Washington's new law is a welcome change. The Senate Bill Report emphasized this, stating, "Requiring paper leases be notarized is a burden when no other contracts in this state has this requirement."

Note that any lease or memorandum of lease must still be notarized to be recorded. As provided for in RCW 65.08.070, "(1) A conveyance of real property, when acknowledged by the person executing the same (the acknowledgment being certified as required by law), may be recorded in the office of the recording officer of the county where the property is situated. Every such conveyance not so recorded is void as against any subsequent purchaser or mortgagee in good faith and for a valuable consideration from the same vendor, his or her heirs or devisees, of the same real property or any portion thereof whose conveyance is first duly recorded."

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