The following list details the eviction procedure for residential tenants under Washington Law. In the steps calling for an attorney, law allows the landlord to instead do their own eviction. However, except for the determined and/or experienced, WLA recommends that an attorney (or eviction service with an attorney) be used, especially for your first eviction. (Also, violating tenants are more likely to move without costly court litigation and/or additional rent losses if the given paperwork is served and handled by an attorney).
A lease or rental agreement violation is reported, seen or otherwise perceived to occur.
1. An initial request is made by landlord for tenant to comply, or work out any misunderstandings
2. A formal written notice with time period to cure is hand-delivered to tenant, or posted on premises with mailed copy
3. The tenant is given 3 to 40 days to affect remedy, as specified by law (3 days for rent; up to 40 days to move, etc).
4. If an acceptable remedy is not forthcoming within the allowed time period, the landlord enlists an attorney or service.
5. A formal lawsuit (unlawful detainer) is drawn up by the landlord’s attorney to meet required legal specifications.
6. The respective paperwork is duly served on the tenant by the sheriff or authorized process server.
7. The tenant is given more days to move or settle with landlord before filing.
8. Not settled, the landlord or landlord’s attorney pays a filing fee, and files the paperwork with the court.
9. THE MATTER GETS POSTED AS A FILED UNLAWFUL DETAINER CASE FOR PUBLIC RECORD.
10. The case goes to court; the tenant gets a fair hearing; the court must rule for tenant in unclear situations.
11. If tenant refuses to move, paperwork (writ of restitution) is prepared and given to Sheriff’s Office.
12. Sheriff’s deputy posts 72-hour notice on tenant door and arranges date/time for landlord to meet at property.
13. Sheriff’s deputy physically removes tenant and authorizes landlord workers to remove all belongings from the unit.
14. If tenant, by earlier opportunity, did not request their property be put in secured storage (at their expense), their belongings are put in the public right-a-way with no additional responsibilities on landlord’s part.
NOTE: If landlord elects to issue a 20-day no-cause eviction notice (under a month-to-month agreement), or 30-day termination notice of a lease, the process starts above at Step 3 with effective date midnight, the last day of the rental month or lease term.
For gang-related activities, RCW 59.12.030 (7) also allow for direct service of unlawful detainer papers without first serving a notice.
All above options still apply if there is not a written lease or rental agreement involved.
Out of every 1000 cases where tenant was contacted regarding a violation, easily half are resolved with no further action. Of the remaining half, a formal written notice on door typically results in timely resolution for all but about 10%. (To speed up the process, some landlords and managers skip the verbal/phone/email warning step and go straight to the formal written notices.) Of the remaining few requiring court action, over 90% move without additional dispute. Typically, only one out of several hundred initial written violations will ever result in a physical removal by the Sheriff.
An eviction going through all the steps above typically takes about 20-25 days from time the case is turned over to an attorney (Step 5), to the time the tenant is physically removed by the Sheriff. Preparation, service, filing, legal and sheriff fees typically total around $1200. Landlords that do their own often find that the added processing time (more lost rent) offsets any savings in attorney fees.
The best way to cut landlord losses is to issue formal written notices promptly. A common mistake made by beginner landlords or managers is to unduly delay the process (in response to promises or excuses that later can evaporate). With so many tenant-protected features already build into the process, seasoned landlords understandably do not feel obliged to add any further to the lengthy given time-frames. They have learned to not depend upon tenant promises to move (in lieu of going through a seemingly expensive eviction process). More still, they have found that said tenants prove quite resourceful and capable in finding other living alternatives. On the flip side, there is some wiggle-room provided with deposit money on account that is not already used up (such as trading deposit credit for some up-front payment of the last month’s rent rather than no rent payment for the last month).