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Eviction Process in Washington

Summary of Eviction Process in Washington

Grounds: The first step with any tenant is to determine the grounds for eviction. Before proceeding with the eviction process, the tenant must either have stayed beyond the end of the lease term, or be in default.

Is Notice Required by the Lease: Whether or not a tenant is in default often depends on the definition of "Default" under the lease. Leases often provide that a default exists when the tenant "fails to pay an amount due under the lease and it remains unpaid after five days written notice from the landlord." If a default requires notice before the tenant is in "default" under a lease, then the safe thing to do is to provide notice of default before moving to the eviction process.

If the lease does not require notice, or does not define default, then the failure to comply with a lease term is a default immediately upon such failure.

So the second step is to look at the lease to see if it defines a default, and whether any actions (usually notice) are necessary to turn the "wrongdoing" into a formal default.

The third step then is to take any such action required - usually written notice of some sort - to put the tenant in default.

NOTE: It is very important to comply with the notice requirements of the lease. Thus, to put a tenant in default, it is key to read both the "Default" section, and the "Notice" section. The Notice section often requires notice in a particular manner, and often requires additional time when a notice is sent by mail. For example, a Default section might require five days written notice, but the Notice section may add three days if the notice is mailed, thus giving the tenant eight days before it is in default. It is also very important to send the notice in the manner required by the notice section of the lease, and to the notice address(es). If you know that the notice address is a bad address, send it there anyway, and send another notice to what you believe is the correct address.

Statutory Notice: Once the tenant is in default, we can move to the fourth step, which is the statutory notice to pay or vacate, or the notice to cure or vacate.

A notice to pay or vacate gives the tenant either 3 or 4 days (depending on how it is served) to either pay, or vacate. If the tenant does neither, it will be in "unlawful detainer."

A notice to cure or vacate is for defaults not involving the payment of rent. It must give the tenant either 10 or 11 days (depending on how it is served) to cure or vacate. If the tenant does neither, it will be in "unlawful detainer."

The statute requires service in rather particular manner, so it is best to get an attorney to do this if you intend on moving to the next step and actually evicting the tenant.

Lawsuit: Once a tenant is in "unlawful detainer" the landlord can move to the fifth step and file and serve an unlawful detainer summons and complaint.

The summons and complaint generally give the tenant 7 days to answer the complaint. If the tenant does not answer or otherwise appear in the case, the landlord can obtain a writ of restitution without notice to the tenant.

Once a writ of restitution is obtained, it takes the sheriff about two weeks to evict the tenant, depending on how busy they are.

NOTE: This is a summary of the unlawful detainer process. Circumstances vary depending on the facts of each case, the language of the lease, and changes in the law. This summary is not legal advice and may not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is created by the posting of this summary, or by any reliance on the summary. If you would like to discuss hiring an attorney at JBSL to represent you, please contact Matt Adamson at 206.344.5280.

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