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By Patrick Price
Updated on Jun 10, 2022
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff, Staff Editor.
Washington state law requires that landlords must give tenants between 3 and 30 days' notice before terminating the tenancy and filing an eviction lawsuit, depending on the situation and the reason for the eviction. Your landlord cannot just evict you at will—so make sure that you know your rights!
Housing in Washington has always been relatively expensive. Now, with an uncertain global economy, war, pandemics, and whatever might come next, many renters of The Evergreen State are in danger of losing their homes. That's why it's more important than ever to be aware of the state's eviction laws and your rights as a tenant.
To fill you in on the details, Jerry, the super app that saves users money on car and renters insurance, has put together this quick guide on the eviction process in Washington. You will learn the steps, rules, and what you can expect regarding a timeline.
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Washington eviction 101: the three ways you can be evicted
Except in certain exempt situations, a landlord has to provide written notice to tenants before evicting them—this is always the first step in the eviction process. The amount of notice given depends on the reason for the eviction. Additionally, some scenarios require the landlord to allow tenants to correct the problem (pay outstanding rent, repair damaged property, etc.) before filing an eviction.
There are many ways that a person can wind up facing eviction in the state of Washinton. In general, however, they are breakdown into these three categories:
- Nonpayment of Rent: Rent is late the day after it is due. Unless your lease specifies a grace period, the landlord can submit the written notice initiating the eviction process that same day.
- Violation of Lease/Rental Agreement Terms: Any breach of the lease terms is grounds for eviction. In situations where the violation is correctable, landlords must allow either 10 or 30 days to correct the violation, depending on the nature and severity of the issue. Only three days' notice is required for violations that are not correctable.
- No Lease/End of Lease: If you don't have a formal lease agreement or your lease is up (at-will tenants, month-to-month renters, etc), then the landlord must give at least 20 days' notice before eviction. This does not apply in the case of squatters. If a landlord/owner discovers squatters on their property, they may contact the police to have them removed without going through an eviction process.
Keep in mind that there are some situations where a landlord could terminate your lease, even if none of the three reasons for eviction are present. According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), a landlord may terminate a lease under the following conditions:
- If the owner (or one of their immediate family members) wants/needs to occupy the unit themselves and no reasonably equivalent unit is available. The owner must give the tenant 90 days’ notice.
- If the owner is attempting to sell a single-family residence. The owner must give the tenant 90 days’ notice.
- If the owner is planning on demolishing, extensively remodeling, or changing the purpose/use of the property. The owner must give the tenant 120 days’ notice.
- If the building has been condemned. The owner must give the tenant 30 days’ notice.
- If the tenant lied about their status as a sex offender or failed to disclose that status according to law, the landlord can give them a 60-day notice to vacate.
If the tenant does not resolve matters within the allotted time, the landlord has the right to file an eviction lawsuit. First, they must officially termite the lease and instruct the tenant to vacate. In most cases, this is as far as the matter goes since people usually comply and vacate the residence once the lease is terminated.
Tenants that refuse to leave or challenge the validity of the lease termination will go through the eviction process with the courts. If the landlord wins the suit, they'll need to call local law enforcement to remove the tenant forcibly.
Key Takeaway It’s illegal in Washington for a landlord to evict tenants without proper cause and notice.
A timeline of eviction in Washington
Even after you've received a proper warning, had your lease terminated, and had an eviction lawsuit filed against you, it might be several weeks before you're actually forced to leave the housing unit. The entire eviction process can take quite a while. Here's a look at what to expect at each stage of the eviction process in Washington:
|Step||How long it typically takes||What to expect|
|Eviction Noticed||3-30 days||You will receive a written notice from the landlord informing you of your imminent eviction. If it’s possible to correct the situation, you’ll be given a time window in which to do so to avoid eviction|
|Summons and Complaint||Within 60 days of filing||Once your landlord files a suit, you’ll be served with a Summons and Complaint informing you of the lawsuit and outlining the next steps. It will include a court summons demanding that you appear before the court to address the landlord’s claims.|
|Tenant response||5-15 days||You'll need to respond to the summons and complaint quickly. If you fail to do so in time, you'll automatically lose the suit.|
|Hearing||20 days after the hearing request||The court will review your's and the landlord's statements, consider any relevant evidence, and make a ruling on the case.|
|Eviction||Within three to four days after the hearing||If the landlord wins the case, a Writ of Restitution is issued. You will be required to vacate the premises—otherwise, law enforcement will forcibly remove you.|
All in all, the eviction process in Washington typically takes about three weeks. Though, in some cases, it can take more than two months.
How to resist eviction in Washington
Unfortunately, it does happen that landlords try to evict tenants without proper grounds and without following the correct procedure. Make sure that you’re aware of your rights and how to fight back against unfair eviction practices.
Here’s a quick look at some of the things you can do to resist eviction in Washington:
- Address the cause of the eviction: This is usually the simplest and easiest way to avoid eviction. When you receive the initial notice from the landlord, simply address the issues mentioned (pay past due rent, repair damages, etc).
- Point out a procedural mistake: Now that you know the proper eviction procedure, you’ll know if it’s not being followed correctly. If your landlord has not handled the eviction process to the letter, it could be enough to get your eviction lawsuit thrown out.
- Argue that the landlord failed to maintain the property: Just like tenants, landlords can fail to live up to their part of the rental agreement. If your landlord has not been fulfilling their maintenance responsibilities, you can avoid eviction by proving they are also in violation of the lease.
- Call out discrimination: If you believe that the landlord has engaged in illegal discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act, you might be able to turn the tables on their eviction suit.
If you think you have a case, you can even sue the landlord for wrongful eviction. If you win, you could be awarded financial restitution for damages—plus, you’ll get to keep your home!
MORE: How to find the best renters insurance
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The most common reason why people get evicted from their homes is that they have failed to pay rent on time. Unfortunately, this situation is all too common and understandable in a place with inflated housing costs like Washington.
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