Either as a landlord or a tenant, the most important thing to remember in Washington State is that there are not any “self help” evictions, for any reason. This means a landlord cannot force a tenant out by their own means, either physically or by threat or intimidation tactics, regardless of the circumstances. To properly evict a tenant and regain possession of the property, a landlord must petition the courts through what is called an unlawful detainer proceeding.
Unlawful detainer proceedings are codified under Washington State statute RCW 59.12. For residential tenancies, unlawful detainer proceedings are also subject to the Residential Landlord Tenant Act (“RLTA”) under RCW 59.18. These statutory measures for unlawful detainer proceedings are supposed to be summary or expedited proceedings to determine whether a landlord is entitled to possession. Unlawful detainer proceedings may also include additional fees for damages, rent, costs, and potentially attorney’s fees, but additional claims are generally not to be included in the action. Additional claims are usually outside the subject matter jurisdiction of the court on unlawful detainer proceedings.
The grounds for an unlawful detainer action are categorized under RCW 59.12.030. These grounds serve as the general basis to begin the eviction process. However, before commencing any unlawful detainer action, a landlord must provide notice of the basis to evict the tenant pursuant to RCW 59.12.040. A quick summary of the grounds and the notice requirements are as follows:
1. Holding over after a lease for definite period.
No notice, unless required under lease: RCW 59.12.030(1);
2. Holding over after a month to month tenancy.
20 days notice (prior to month or rental period): RCW 59.12.030(2);
3. Non-payment or failure to pay rent
Three days notice (pay rent or vacate): RCW 59.12.030(3);
4. Breach of covenant under terms of agreement or lease.
10 days notice: RCW 59.12.030(4);
5. Waste (damage to property), Nuisance.
Three days notice: RCW 59.12.030(5);
Three days notice: RCW 59.12.030(6);
7. Gang Related Activities.
Three days notice: RCW 59.12.030(7);
Once the notice of these grounds is provided pursuant to RCW 59.12.040, and provided the tenant fails to comply with certain notices (e.g. pay rent, comply with lease terms), then the landlord may proceed with the unlawful detainer action. As an owner you may proceed pro se (on your own) in handling the eviction with the courts, but if you have not done this before you should really consider letting an attorney handle this for you. Most eviction lawyers are reasonably priced and should know how to expedite the process for you. After all, the sooner you can get a new tenant in the better.
This post is just a glimpse into grounds for evictions in Washington State. If you are a landlord or a tenant and facing a potential eviction action you should contact a local attorney in your city or county to review your specific situation before moving forward. As a tenant if you would like more information or assistance regarding your tenancy or an unlawful detainer action contact an attorney or contact a local bar association. There are also potential pro bono services available to tenants through the Housing Justice Project.
In Pierce County, WA, get information by clicking this link: Tacoma Pierce County Housing Justice Project.
In King County, WA, get information by clicking this link: King County Housing Justice Project.