Washington Eviction Notices
Washington State eviction notices are documents that a landlord is required to serve on their tenants before terminating a lease. The notice informs the tenant of how many days they have to vacate the rental property in order to avoid being evicted (the timeframe will vary depending on the cause of termination). If the tenant hasn’t paid their rent or has committed a curable lease violation, they will be given an opportunity to retain their tenancy by paying the full past-due amount or remedying their violations within the given notice period. Failure to comply with an eviction notice will result in the tenant being sued for possession of the property by the landlord.
How to Evict a Tenant (Process)
The eviction process begins with the landlord serving the tenant with an eviction notice. If the tenant fails to comply with the notice by paying the rent, remedying their lease violations, or moving out on time, the landlord can file an eviction action (known as an “Unlawful Detainer”) against them. If the tenant chooses to contest the lawsuit, they will need to file an Answer and appear in court to present their case to a Judge. The Judge will make a judgment in favor of the landlord (the plaintiff) or the tenant (the defendant). If the landlord wins the case, a Writ of Restitution will be issued, awarding possession of the property to the landlord. Furthermore, a judgment will be given, which details the damages/rent and fees that the tenant must pay to the landlord. The process is described in detail below.
Step 1 – Notice to Quit
There are four (4) types of notices that can be served on a tenant depending on the type of tenancy and the reason for the eviction:
3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate – For non-payment of the rent.
10 Day Notice to Comply or Vacate – For tenants who have committed lease violations.
3 Day Notice to Quit for Illegal Activity – For illegal activity, wastage, or nuisance.
20 Day Termination Letter – To end a month-to-month or “at will” tenancy.
If the tenant has failed to pay rent or has committed a curable lease violation, they will be given the notice period indicated on the form to pay the full amount owed or remedy their violation. The Three (3) Day Notice to Quit for Illegal Activity is unconditional, and the tenant must move out within three (3) days of receiving the notice. Month-to-month tenancies can be terminated for any reason, but the tenant must receive a minimum of twenty (20) days notice before the landlord ends the rental agreement. Month-to-month or “at-will” tenants in Seattle, however, must be given just cause for eviction.
Step 2 – Serve the Notice to Quit
The landlord must serve the notice on the tenant in one (1) of the following accepted ways: delivery in-person, delivery performed by a person other than the landlord with an additional copy sent by mail, by posting the notice on the premises with a copy mailed to the tenant, or by leaving the notice with another resident with a secondary copy sent by mail.
Step 3 – Eviction Summons and Complaint
If the tenant fails to comply with the demands of the notice within the specified time period, the landlord can then file an Unlawful Detainer action in court. To accomplish this, the landlord must complete an Eviction Summons and Complaint. If the tenant has unpaid rent, the landlord must also fill out a Payment or Sworn Statement Requirement. An “Eviction Kit” containing eviction instructions and all of the necessary court forms can be obtained from the Superior Court for a fee. Once the kit has been purchased, the landlord can make copies of the documents for future use.
Step 4 – File Forms With Superior Court
The Eviction Summons and Complaint must be filed with the Superior Court of the county in which the property is located. The landlord should also submit a copy of the eviction notice, a proof of service (if applicable), and any documents which support their case (records of non-payment, evidence of lease violations, etc.). The court will charge the landlord fees for filing the Unlawful Detainer, and for any forms and copies that may be required. These fees vary depending on the case and the court in which the action is filed.
Step 5 – Serve the Eviction Summons and Complaint
The tenant must be served with a copy of the Eviction Summons and Complaint by a Sheriff or process server, which the landlord will be charged for. Once the court papers have been served, the tenant will need to file a written answer within seven (7) days if they wish to contest the case. If the tenant does not present an Answer within the required timeframe, a default judgment will be ruled against them. The Answer must be filed in-person, by mail, or by fax. Once the tenant has filed an Answer, a hearing date will be arranged by the court, and an Order to Show Cause will be served on the tenant, informing them of the court date. Most Washington counties will supply the tenant with a free attorney should they decide to contest the eviction action.
Step 6 – Attend Hearing
Both parties are required to attend the hearing (called a “Show Cause Hearing”). Failure of the tenant to attend will result in a default judgment in favor of the landlord. The Judge will listen to both sides of the case before judgment is issued. If the ruling is made in favor of the landlord, the Judge will issue a Writ of Restitution granting the landlord possession of the property. Furthermore, the Judge will make a judgment for the amount of any past due rent/damages and fees that shall be awarded to the landlord. If the tenant wins the case (or if the landlord doesn’t attend the hearing), the suit will be dismissed by the judge.
Step 7 – Removal of the Tenant
If the tenant does not vacate the property following a judgment against them, the Sheriff will serve them with a Writ of Restitution by a Sheriff. The Writ gives the tenant three (3) to four (4) days to move out. If the tenant has not moved out within that period of time, the Sheriff will return and oversee the eviction. The landlord must change the locks and remove the tenant’s property from the unit. If the tenant does not claim their belongings within thirty (30) days by paying the storage fee, the landlord will be at liberty to dispose of them as they see fit.