What You Need to Know About Washington State Eviction Laws
A tenant eviction is something that no Washington landlord wants to have to go through. However, in some cases, it can be the only option left on the table. Therefore, it's important to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible about the state's landlord tenant laws.
A landlord can evict a tenant for a number of reasons, including failure to pay rent or violating the terms of the 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 Washington's eviction laws.
Washington Eviction Notices
To kick off the eviction process, you need to serve the tenant with an eviction notice. Different notices serve different purposes.
For the non-payment of rent, you must serve your tenant a 14-days' Notice to Pay. In Washington state, rent is deemed late a day after it falls due. Grace periods, if any, are addressed in the rental or lease agreement.
If you wish to evict the tenant on grounds of nonpayment of rent, you must provide the tenant with this notice. The notice gives your tenant 14 days to pay all the rent due before facing an eviction.
If the tenant adheres and pays within the 14 days, no further action on your part is required. But if they don't, you can proceed with the eviction process by filing for their removal in court.
Another common reason for tenant eviction is gross lease violation. Washington categorizes these violations into two types: curable and non-curable. An example of a curable violation would be subletting or making alterations to the property 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 violation or else face an eviction.
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, you must serve a 3-Day Notice to Quit. It gives the tenant 3 days to move out or else face an eviction.
In most cases, tenants will comply with the eviction notices by curing the violation or moving out, at which time you'll have to determine whether to return the tenant's 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 complaint and summons 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 state 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.
In Washington every tenant has a right to join or organize a tenant union, to withhold rent entirely for an uninhabitable unit, to deduct money from rent for repairs, and to complain to authorities for subpar living conditions.
- The unit you've provided is uninhabitable. You cannot evict a tenant for exercising their right to withhold rent payments until you fix a maintenance issue.
As a landlord, it's your responsibility to maintain the property 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 work properly.
- You didn't follow the correct eviction procedure. Your tenant could also use your ignorance of the law as a defense in court. Failing to provide the right eviction 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 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 tenant could sue you for damages caused.
Court Hearing & Judgement
A court hearing will only be scheduled once the tenant responds. In some states there is a timeframe on the issuance of a summons, but Washington isn't specific on when a hearing must be held. Generally, it depends on the schedule of the court.
If the tenant chooses not to show up, then no hearing will be held and you'll win by default.
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, then the court will issue a writ of restitution. A writ of restitution gives a sheriff the authority to forcefully remove a tenant from a property.
An eviction process can be a lengthy, laborious, and costly process. For it to succeed, you need time, money, and extensive understanding of the Washington statues. Luckily for you, Windermere Property Management can help!
Windermere PM is the go-to property management company in Spokane and the surrounding areas. We can help you in all aspects of property management, including evicting a troublesome tenant. You can get in touch with us here.