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Weeds and Other Nuisance Vegetation

This page provides an overview of local weed control and vegetation regulations in Washington State, including sample ordinances and related resources.

It is part of MRSC's series on Nuisances: Regulation and Abatement.


The need to regulate the growth of uncontrolled weeds and other vegetation includes: the prevention of serious fire hazards, the removal of obstructions that interfere with streets and sidewalks, the prevention of noxious weed infestation, and neighborhood preservation. Weeds tend to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants such as desired crops, flower gardens and groundcover, and may become detrimental to public health.

Regulation of unkempt lots and property containing overgrown weeds, debris, and litter is generally accomplished through enforcement of nuisance ordinances. Cities and towns have general authority to address vegetation issues through general nuisance statutes and specific statutes. Counties have specific statutes authorizing weed control districts.

There are statutory provisions in RCW 35.21.310 for any city or town to enact a general ordinance requiring the owner of a property to remove or destroy grass, weed, shrubs, bushes or trees which are growing or have died and are a fire hazard or a menace to public health, safety or welfare. Noxious weeds are addressed in Ch. 17.10 RCW - Noxious Weeds - Control Boards. A noxious weed is defined as a plant that when established is highly destructive, competitive, or difficult to control by cultural or chemical practices. A Washington state noxious weed list appears in Ch. 16-750 WAC and on the Noxious Weed Control Board's website. An additional reference source for noxious weeds is the Noxious Weeds in the U.S. and Canada Database maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Some local jurisdictions have broadened the definition of weed to include both the state list of noxious weeds and other weeds that are commonly considered a nuisance. See examples of definitions in the selected ordinances in this page.

The Washington State Weed Control Board website has links to helpful resources on the topic. Information on Cooperative Weed Management Areas can be found at the Department of Agriculture. Information on eradicating weeds can also be obtained from Agricultural Extension Offices around the state.

Statutes and Regulations

  • RCW 35.21.310 - Any city or town may create an ordinance requiring property owners to remove overhanging or obstructive vegetation.
  • Ch. 17.04 RCW - Authorizes creation of county weed districts and outlines regulations relating to such districts. Most weed districts have been replaced by county noxious weed control boards.
  • Ch. 17.06 RCW - Authorizes creation of intercounty weed districts
  • Ch. 17.10 RCW - Authorizes creation of noxious weed control boards and outlines regulations relating to such districts.
  • Ch. 16-750 WAC - State Noxious Weed List and Schedule of Monetary Penalties

Weed and Vegetation Control Provisions in General Nuisance Ordinances

  • Deer Park Municipal Code Sec. 8.04.020(H)(2)(r-s) Defines all noxious weeds upon public or private property, and all unmaintained grass, weeds, and/or similar vegetation growth in excess of 12 inches high as nuisances.
  • Ellensburg Municipal Code Ch. 5.40.080(C) - Declares overgrown or unkempt vegation a nuisance. Details maintenance requirements.
  • SeaTac Municipal Code Sec. 7.15.020(H-J) - Duty to Maintain Property. Covers dead, decayed, diseased or hazardous trees; overgrown, uncultivated, unkempt, or potentially hazardous vegetation; and inappropriate disposal or accumulation of vegetation waste.
  • Union Gap Ordinance No. 2519 (2007) - Adds weedy lots to its nuisance provisions. Owner, occupant or person having control of property is responsible for destroying, removing or trimming overgrown uncultivated vegetation, and for removing and properly disposing of cut weeds, brush, vegetation, or dead weeds that can be scattered or blown about wind.

Specific Weed Control Provisions

Weed Control/Nuisance Abatement Bids and Contracts

County Weed Control Programs

Aquatic Weed Control

Fire Season Weed Abatement

Integrated Weed and Vegetation Control

Natural Vegetation Management - Grazing

Vegetation Nuisance Control

Interference with Public Right-of-Way

Height Measures

  • AuburnMunicipal Code Sec. 8.20.010(C) Grasses (lawn) within the yards of occupied residential properties which are not maintained at a height of six inches or less are declared to be a public nuisance. (D) Grasses, ground cover, and/or vines on vacant lots that are within or adjacent to developed areas which are not used for agricultural purposes, and are not part of a wetland or other sensitive environmental system, which are not maintained at a height of 12 inches or less are declared to be a public nuisance...
  • Longview Municipal Code Sec. 16.30.140 - Amendments to International Property Maintenance Code 302.4 Weeds, grass or vegetation - 12 inches for weeds and grasses subject to applicable zoning requirements.
  • Mountlake Terrace Municipal Code Sec. 8.15.040(A) Vegetation exceeding 12 inches in height (exclusive of plants and flowers within a flower bed or container, shrubbery, or trees) is prohibited.
  • Pasco Municipal Code Sec. 12.12.110(2) Weeds, brush or uncultivated vegetation growing at a height of 12 inches or more is declared a nuisance.
  • Richland Municipal Code Sec. 10.04.040(P) - Grasses, weeds, or other vegetation shall not exceed six inches in height except under enumerated situations..

Trees as Nuisances

See also section above Interference with Public Right-of-Way.

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: June 15, 2021