What You Need to Know About Washington State Eviction Laws & The Eviction Process
A tenant eviction is something that no landlord wants to have to go through. However, in some cases, it can be the only option left on the table to keep your rental unit running. Therefore, it's important to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible about the state's landlord tenant laws.
Landlords can evict tenants in Washington for a number of reasons, including the failure to pay the rent or violating the terms of the lease agreement or rental agreement. For the eviction to be successful, you'll need to strictly follow the due process laid down under the law. It's important to stay up to date, because these laws may change frequently.
In this article, we'll take you through everything you need to know about how to file an eviction lawsuit, without violating the lease or rental agreement, and Washington's eviction laws, part of the landlord-tenant laws.
Washington Eviction Notice
To begin the Washington eviction process, landlords need to serve the tenant with a written notice. Depending on the type of lease agreement violation, whether that is failing to pay rental fees, late fees, or violating the rental agreement, a different notice will be served when the eviction lawsuit if filed.
For the non-payment of the monthly rent payment, a landlord must serve the tenant a 14-day Notice to Pay or Vacate. Rent is deemed late a day after it falls due. Grace periods and/or late fees for paying rent, if any, are addressed in the lease or rental agreement.
If you wish to evict the tenant because they failed to pay rent, a landlord must provide the tenant with the 14-day Notice to Pay or Vacate. The eviction notice to pay unpaid rent or vacate will give the tenants 14 days to pay rent due before facing a evictions in.
If the tenant adheres and keeps paying rent within the 14 days, no further action on your part is required. But if they don't, a landlord can file an eviction and begin with the eviction process.
Another common reason for evicting a tenant is gross violation. The State categorizes these violations into two types: curable and non-curable. An example of a curable violation would be subletting or making alterations to the rental unit without permission.
For curable violations, the law requires a landlord to serve a 10-Day Notice to Comply. It essentially gives the tenant 10 days to cure or correct the tenant's lease violation or else face an eviction from the rental property.
When it comes to non-curable violations, these are serious lease violations that don't have the option for 'curing'. Examples include conducting illegal businesses, and engaging in criminal activities. Here, a landlord must serve a 3-Day Notice to Vacate. The 3-Day Notice to Vacate gives the tenant 3 days to move out or else face an eviction.
Eviction Proceedings in Washington
In most cases, tenants will comply with the written notice by curing the violation or moving out of the unit, at which time you'll have to determine whether to return the tenants' security deposit. Nonetheless, there are those that will stay put until judgement by the court. For the latter group, you'll need to file the summons and complaint with the court.
The court's clerk will give you two copies: one for you and one for your tenant. Once you serve your tenant their copy, they will have 7 days to respond to the accusation. If the tenant chooses to challenge their eviction, they will need to do so within 7 days.
The following are some common eviction defenses that tenants in Washington put up:
- You are discriminating against them. The Federal Fair Housing Act criminalizes any act of discrimination against a tenant based on protected characteristics. These characteristics are: race, color, gender, familial status, national origin, disability, and religion.
Washington's landlord tenant laws also includes military status, gender expression or identity, and sexual orientation on its list of protected classes.
- You are retaliating against them for exercising their legal right. Just like discrimination, retaliating against a tenant is illegal. Examples of retaliatory acts include: increasing the rent, refusing to renew the lease, cancelling cable access, removing laundry facilities, or draining the pool.
Every Washington tenant has a right to join or organize a tenant union, to withhold rent entirely for an uninhabitable rental unit, to deduct money from rent for repairs, and to complain to authorities for subpar living conditions.
- The rental unit you've provided is uninhabitable. A landlord cannot evict a tenant in Washington for exercising their right to withhold rent payments until they fix a maintenance issue.
Landlords must maintain the rental premises according to the requirements set out by law. For instance, you're responsible for maintaining all electrical, heating, and plumbing, and for ensuring all appliances you've supplied in the rental unit work properly.
- You didn't follow the correct eviction procedure. Your tenants could also use your ignorance of the law as a defense in court. Failing to provide the right notice or failing to provide a notice altogether are common mistakes.
However, the good news is that this might only delay the process, but not stop it.
- You used "self-help" means or unlawful detainer action to evict the tenant. The only way to evict a tenant is by following the due process stipulated under the law. It's illegal for you to take matters into your own hands by changing the locks or shutting off the utilities, for example.
If you do any of these things, your tenants could sue you for damages caused.
Court Hearing & Judgement
If the landlord proceeds with the eviction, a court hearing will only be scheduled once the tenant responds. In some states there is a timeframe on the issuance of a summons and complaint, but Washington isn't specific on when a hearing must be held. Generally, it depends on the schedule of the court.
If the tenant fails to show up to the eviction hearing, then no hearing will be held and you'll win by default, and any attorney fees or court costs will be their responsibility.
Both you and the tenant will have the option to request a trial by jury. A downside of this is that it will only lengthen the process.
If you're lucky and the judge rules in your favor at the eviction resolution, then the superior court will issue a writ of restitution. A writ of restitution gives a sheriff the authority to forcefully remove the Washington tenants from a property in the event the landlord wins the eviction resolution.
Bottom Line: Eviction Rules in Washington State
An eviction process can be a lengthy, laborious, and costly process and if the tenant files any conflicts then the process will be harder. For the eviction process to succeed, you need time, money for filing fees and attorney's fees as well as extensive understanding of the Washington statues. Luckily for you, Windermere Property Management can help you through the entire eviction process!
Windermere is the go-to management company in Spokane and the surrounding areas. We can help you in all aspects of real estate management, including filing an eviction lawsuit. You can get in touch with us here.
This blog is may not be kept up to date with the latest changes in Washington law. For any queries you may have please contact a washington eviction attorney, property management company or any other legal representive.