The information provided below addresses select state laws and protections for military personnel, veterans, and their families not related specifically to consumer and employment issues, and includes:
- The Law Against Discrimination
- Education Laws
- Landlord-Tenant Law
- Family Law
- Property Tax Relief
- Other Benefits & Claims Assistance
Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60), it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of "honorably discharged veteran or military status." The law applies to any individual who served in any branch of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, fulfilled his or her service obligations, and received an honorable discharge or a discharge for medical reasons with an honorable record. It also includes any individual who is currently an active or reserve member in any branch of the Armed Forces.
The Washington Law Against Discrimination prohibits discriminatory practices in the areas of:
- Places of public resort, accommodation, or amusement;
- Housing and real estate transactions; and
- Credit and insurance transactions.
The Washington Human Rights Commission enforces the Law Against Discrimination. Individuals are encouraged to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission if you believe:
- You have been discriminated against or otherwise denied equal treatment or access;
- The discrimination was because of your military status or status as an honorably discharged veteran; and
- The discrimination occurred in one of the covered areas.
Complaints must be filed within six months of when the discrimination occurred (or within 12 months if the complaint is about housing).
An employer who discharges, expels or otherwise discriminates against a person for filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission is engaging in an unfair practice. If a veteran or person with military status feels that an employer has acted in retaliation for his or her filing a complaint, that should be reported as well.
The Human Rights Commission can be contacted at 1-800-233-3247 or online at www.hum.wa.gov.
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TUITION & FEE WAIVER
Under Washington State law (RCW 28B.15.621), state community colleges, technical colleges, and universities are authorized to waive all or a portion of tuition and fees for eligible veterans, military service members, or National Guard members. Tuition waivers may also apply to a child or spouse in certain circumstances. Each institution operates its own waiver program, so students or potential students should contact the specific college or university with questions or to learn more about applying for tuition waivers.
Under Washington State law (RCW 28B.15.012), the following individuals are among those who qualify for in-state resident tuition at Washington's public universities or colleges:
- A service member who is on active military duty stationed in the state or who is a member of the Washington National Guard;
- A service member (or spouse or dependent), who is either on active military duty or a member of the National Guard, and who entered service as a Washington resident and maintains the state as a domicile, even if not stationed in the state; or
- A former service member (or spouse or dependent), so long as the service member had any period of honorable service after at least 90 days of active duty service, who is eligible for post-9/11 education assistance, and who enters a university or college within three years of separation.
Rights of Military Students
Under Washington State law (RCW 28B.10.270), a service member in the National Guard or any other military reserve component who is a student at one of Washington's public universities or colleges, and who is ordered to active duty for more than 30 days has the right to:
- Withdraw, without negative annotation on his or her record, from one or more courses for which tuition and fees have been paid, and have such tuition and fees credited to the student's account;
- Be given a grade of incomplete and be allowed to complete the course upon release from active duty; or
- Continue and complete the course for full credit, with absences due to military service counted as excused and not used to adversely impact the student's grade or class standing.
A service member in the National Guard or any other military reserve component who is a student at a public univeristy or college, and who is ordered to active duty for 30 days or less is entitled to make up any class, test, examination, laboratory, or other event upon which a course grade or evaluation is based. This opportunity must be scheduled after the service member's return from service and after a reasonable time for the student to prepare.
Under state law (RCW 28B.15.624), an eligible veteran, National Guard member, or his or her spouse who is receiving veteran education benefits should be allowed to register for thier courses early if the institution offers early registration for any other segment of the student population.
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RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD-TENANT ACT
The Washington Residential Landlord-Tenant Act covers most circumstances where a tenant rents a place to live, such as an apartment or rental house. The law lays out many of the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords.
Under state law (RCW 59.18.200), month-to-month rentals may be normally terminated by either a tenant or the landlord upon delivery of written notice at least 20 days before the end of the monthly rental period. Members of the Armed Forces (including members of the National Guard and Reserves), however, may terminate a month-to-month rental agreement with less than 20 days' notice if the service member receives reassignment or deployment orders that do not allow for a 20-day notice.
For rentals for a specified term, state law (RCW 59.18.220) provides that any tenant who is a member of the Armed Forces (including members of the National Guard and Reserves), may terminate the lease early if the tenant receives reassignment or deployment orders, and provides notice of the orders to the landlord no later than seven days after receipt.
Enforcement of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act is up to private individuals. The Attorney General's Office provides information and resources about landlord-tenant issues at www.atg.wa.gov/residential-landlord-tenant-resources.
MANUFACTURED/MOBILE HOME LANDLORD-TENANT ACT
The Attorney General's Office administers the state's Manufactured Housing Dispute Resolution Program, which is available to veterans, service members, and others who are mobile/manufactured home owners and are renting a space for their homes in a mobile/manufactured home park.
The Manufactured Housing Dispute Resolution Program enforces the Washington State Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord Tenant Act, educates stakeholders, and fosters relationships between manufactured/mobile home community land owners and homeowners. The goal is to support better communication and promote mutual understanding between landlords and manufactured home owners. The office provides an equitable and low-cost option for manufactured home owners and landlords to resolve disputes concerning alleged violations of these rights. More information, including information about requesting dispute resolution, is available by calling 1-866-924-6458 or by visiting www.atg.wa.gov/manufactured-housing-dispute-resolution-program.
Under state law (RCW 59.20.090), a tenant may terminate a rental agreement upon 30 days written notice whenever a change in the location of the tenant's employment requires a change in residence. State law also provides, hwoever, that any tenant of a lot who is a member of the Armed Forces (including members of the National Guard and Reserves, or that tenant's spouse or dependent) may terminate the lease early if the tenant receives reassignment or deployment orders that do not allow greater notice, and provides the landlord with notice of the orders not later than seven days after receipt.
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The realities of military life can pose unique challenges for families, such as potential frequent moves and overseas deployments. Because of these realities, state law (RCW 26.09.010) allows a parent who serves in the Armed Forces, and who is a party to a child custody or visitation matter, to request:
- An expedited hearing; or
- Electronic testimony and presentation of evidence.
Courts generally require the requesting party to show good cause and that the military service—temporary duty, deployment, activation, or mobilization—has or will have a material effect on the parent's ability to appear in person at a regularly scheduled hearing.
Under Washington State law (RCW 26.09.260), the effect of a parent's military duties potentially impacting parenting functions is not, by itself, a substantial change of circumstances for the purposes of modifying a parenting plan. Similarly, the court may not count any time periods during which the parent did not exercise residential time due to the effect of that parent's military duties for the purposes of determining whether the parent has failed to exercise residential time for one year or longer.
In some instances, a military parent may receive orders that involve moving a substantial distance away or otherwise have a material effect on that parent's ability to exercis residential time or visitation rights. In such circumstances, the military parent may ask the court to delegate his or her residential time or visitation rights to a family member with a close and substantial relationship to the minor child for the duration of the military parent's absence, if doing so is in the child's best interest.
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FOR DISABLED VETERANS
Under Washington State law, veterans with a 100% service-connected disability rating from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs may qualify for relief from certain property taxes. In addition to the total disability rating, the veteran must own and occupy the residence and meet certain income requirements. Under the exemption program, the value of a qualifying veteran's residence is frozen for property tax purposes, and the veteran becomes exempt from all excess and special levies—often resulting in a reduction in property taxes.
FOR SURVIVING SPOUSES
Under Washington State law, surviving spouses of certain veterans may qualify for a property tax assistance grant program. The program helps those who qualify remain in their homes despite rising property taxes. Household income, age or disability, and the deceased spouse's veteran status determine eligibility for the program.
For more information about these and other property tax relief programs, contact your county assessor's office or visit the state Department of Revenue's website at http://dor.wa.gov/content/findtaxesandrates/propertytax/incentiveprograms.aspx.
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The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs is a full-service state agency that assists veterans, their family members and survivors. The department advocates for veterans and their families, assisting in accessing a range of federal, state, or county benefits. You can get more information by calling the department at 1-800-562-2308 or visitng www.dva.wa.gov/benefits.
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