Knowledge of the Washington landlord-tenant laws is crucial when running a rental property, and among these laws is the tenant eviction process. As a landlord, you must follow these laws carefully when evicting a tenant for violating a term in your lease agreement.
In Washington, an eviction can only be successful if the landlord follows the statewide process. Retaliatory evictions or “self-help” evictions are illegal even in the case of squatters, though they follow their own separate procedure.
To help with understanding these laws, the following is a step-by-step process of the Washington eviction process!
1. Eviction Notice
As a Washington landlord, you must begin the eviction process by serving a written notice. The notice must be in line with the violation committed. These are possible grounds for eviction and their appropriate eviction notices:
Nonpayment of Rent
This is a common cause for eviction in Washington. The state considers rent to be late a day after it’s due. Any grace periods should be addressed in the lease agreement. After the rent is due, you must provide the tenant with a 14-Day Notice to Pay if you want to evict them.
If the tenant honors the notice and pays rent, you must stop further proceedings against them. However, if they choose to remain on the property without paying the rent due, you can proceed with the eviction process.
Violation of Lease Terms
You can also evict a tenant in Washington for failure to uphold their lease obligations. Washington eviction laws give landlords two options in this regard.
The first option involves violations that can be corrected. Examples of correctable violations include unauthorized pets, excessive property damage, and exceeding the occupancy limit. In such cases, you must provide your tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Comply. This will give the tenant a maximum of 10 days to fix the violation. For example, they must repair the damage they have caused to the unit within this time frame.
Again, if the tenant fails to correct the violation and remains on the property, you can proceed with the eviction process after the notice period expires.
The other option landlords have involves non-curable violations to the lease agreement. Examples include unlawful businesses and criminal activity. In these cases, you must give the tenant a 3-Day Notice to Quit. So, unlike the first option, tenants won’t have an option to correct the violation.
Please note, however, that you aren’t required to provide a notice for tenants involved in the following illegal activities: unlawful use of a firearm, physical assault that results in an arrest, and illegal drug activity.
No Lease Eviction
You may also be able to evict a tenant who overstays the term of their lease agreement. This can include both tenants operating a weekly lease and a monthly lease.
Landlords often serve this type of notice to tenants they don’t wish to rent to anymore. You must provide such a tenant with a notice of at least 20 days.
2. Eviction Complaint
Next, you must file an eviction complaint in the appropriate Washington court. This will cost you anywhere between $150 and $230, depending on the location where you’re filing the complaint.
After the successful filing of the complaint, the court clerk will issue you with a summons. The sheriff or their deputy is usually the one mandated with serving the summons and complaint to a tenant.
3. Answer Filing
Unlike some other states, tenants in Washington must provide an answer to an eviction complaint. This should typically occur anywhere between 7 and 30 days after the summons has been issued.
If the tenant fails to provide an answer, the court will most likely rule in favor of the landlord. But, if the tenant does answer, then the following are possible defenses they may give:
- You tried to evict them using “self-help” tactics. For example, you removed their belongings from the property, locked them out of the property, or shut off their utilities
- You didn’t follow the proper eviction procedure. For instance, you failed to provide the proper notice
- You failed to take care of serious repair issues that impacted the unit’s habitability, resulting in the tenant withholding rent payments
- You are trying to evict the tenant for exercising their legal right
- The eviction is based on a protected characteristic. The Fair Housing Actmakes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant on the basis of their protected characteristics. Protected characteristics in Washington include race, color, age (40 years or older), marital status, sexual orientation, immigration status, and national origin
4. Court Hearing & Judgment
A court hearing will only be scheduled once a tenant provides a written answer to an eviction complaint. As mentioned, if the tenant fails to provide an answer, the judicial officer will probably issue a default judgment in your favor.
In Washington, there is no timeframe on how quickly a hearing must be held after a tenant files an answer. The timeframe will be dependent upon the judicial officer’s trial schedule.
After a ruling, either party can request a jury trial. If requested, the process will lengthen.
5. Writ of Restitution
If the court rules in your favor, you’ll be issued with a writ of restitution. Again, there is no exact timeframe on how soon the court can issue it. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on the trial schedule of the judicial officer and the location.
The writ of restitution serves as the tenant’s final notice to vacate the unit. It gives a tenant some limited time to move out of the unit on their own. After the notice period expires, the sheriff will have the authority to remove the tenant from the unit forcibly.
If you have a problem tenant in your rental unit and want to begin the eviction process, you must stick to each element of the eviction laws in order to avoid the situation being turned against you. For some landlords, this can be overwhelming to handle, which is where Amera Property Management can help!
We can take care of all property management responsibilities for you, including everything from tenant screening to security deposits, so you can avoid the added stress and know your property is in good hands. Contact us today to learn more about our services!
Disclaimer: This post isn’t a substitute for expert legal advice. Laws change and the information herein may also become redundant. If you have a specific question, kindly consider hiring a qualified attorney in Washington or contact an experienced property management company like us directly.