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Quick Guide to The Washington State Eviction Process

washingtonWhile being a landlord can be a financially rewarding experience, it isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. You are bound to be faced with many challenges. The most important among them is dealing with difficult tenants, and how to evict them if it becomes necessary.

An eviction is a legal recourse you take when you need to remove a tenant from your rental property. This legal action to kick out the tenant is referred to as unlawful detainer. It is a special Washington eviction law proceeding that determines who is entitled to possession of the property.

As a Spokane property management company, we are well aware of the Washing State Eviction Laws and Process so, we have put together a quick guide. This guide’s sole objective is to give you an overview of the Washington State’s eviction process. So without ado, here’s the quick guide to the eviction process in Washington State.


·         Eviction Notice in Washington State

Most evictions begin with an initial eviction notice. Such notices include a notice to terminate a tenancy, a notice to comply or vacate, et cetera. Of course, different notices should be served depending on the reason you’re evicting them.

Landlords may legally evict a tenant for any of the reasons listed below:

  • Expiration of a lease
  • Wastage or nuisance
  • Violations of the lease agreement, and of course the obvious culprit;
  • Not paying rent 

Once any of the above has occurred, you’re at liberty to begin the eviction process. But you should note that you have no general duty to agree to a renewal of a tenant’s lease. As a matter of fact, no law compels you to give any reason for refusing to renew a tenant’s lease.

That notwithstanding, you cannot evict a tenant or refuse to renew a lease for inappropriate or discriminatory reasons.

Common Washington eviction notices you can serve tenants for eviction are:

  • 3-day notice for waste or nuisance
  • a 3-day notice to pay up or move out
  • a 10-day notice to comply with the terms of the rental agreement or move out
  • 20-day “no cause” notice to terminate the tenancy

Serving any of these notices is the first step in the Washington State eviction process.

What Rights Does the Tenant Have?

Tenants also have rights in the eviction process as well. To begin with, you have to drop any proceedings if the tenant agrees to pay the rent within three days. Secondly, you should avoid doing anything outside the due process. For example, conducting a “self-help” eviction process.

You shouldn’t shut off utilities or change locks. It would be a bad idea to be sued by your tenant, wouldn’t it?


·         Obtain an Order to Show Cause

rent-moneyThis is only applicable if the tenant fails to pay rent or any outstanding balances on time. You need to seek for a writ of restitution once the allowed period has expired. A court date is then set and the tenant has to prove why they shouldn’t be evicted.

The court date has to be at least a week or a maximum of 30 days from the time the legal papers were served.

Assuming you win the case, you’ll be handed a writ of restitution. A writ of restitution authorizes the county sheriff to enter your property and carry out the eviction process.


·         Summons and Complaint

The next step is serving a summons and complaint. Remember, the tenant might still be living in your rental unit even after you win the case against them. If they are unwilling to concede, you can still proceed to obtain any outstanding rent.

File for an eviction complaint in court. This should cater for the unpaid rent and costs written into the lease agreement. The Summons and Complaint notice is issued to notify tenants that there’s an action against them. The law requires the notice to be served by someone who is over the age of 18 and not a party to the action.

Tenants have one week to respond.

If the tenant is unable to respond to the Summons and Complaint, they automatically lose the eviction case.


·         Show Cause Hearing

legal-helpYou may move to default without further notice if the tenant does not respond to the eviction complaint. This hearing is very beneficial to you because the burden is wholly on the tenant. A tenant is required to give the reason(s), if any, why a writ of restitution, or eviction, shouldn’t be issued.

In many Washington counties, a free attorney is appointed to the tenant.

If the tenant is unable to show up in court or cannot show cause, the property is returned to you. This typically occurs via a Writ of Restitution. It gives orders to the sheriff to restore the property back to you.

However, if the lease term is yet to expire, the tenant can reinstate the tenancy by paying the full amount. This is only if you’re evicting the tenant for non-payment of rent loses.

Moreover, the court may award you other requests made in the complaint. For example, you may have requested the court to make a judgment for outstanding rent.


·    The Sheriff

If you win the case, the tenant will be issued a judgment on the amount of money owed. The money owed may include rent, attorney fees, court costs, and other fees.

The sheriff will also serve the tenant with a writ of restitution if they haven’t vacated yet. Tenants have 3-4 days to vacate the property from the court date. In very rare circumstances can an eviction be halted once a writ of restitution has already been handed out.

Once the sheriff has enforced a writ of restitution, you are obligated to store any property that remains behind. You can then hold the tenant responsible for storage or hauling costs.


·    Disposal of Property

If payment for storage of tenant’s property isn’t received in 30 days, you’re at liberty to sell the property.


·    Conclusion

It is advisable to seek a lawyer’s assistance to obtain comprehensive advice relating to the Washington landlord-tenant laws. This is necessary as problems can arise at any point during the eviction process.

In the end, eviction is something no tenant wants to hear and no landlord wants to execute. Nonetheless, it becomes the only recourse if there’re rent issues or there’re violations to lease terms.

This short summary of the Washington State eviction process is by no way a substitute for legal advice.

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