How to Evict a Tenant in Washington State
Step #1: Give Tenant Appropriate Notice
Whether it is because they haven't paid their rent or it is because they have caused damage to the rental unit, there are a number of qualifying reasons why a tenant may be served a notice to quit. In Washington State, unless the activities being performed by a tenant in a rental unit are against the law, a tenant has the right to rectify the situation. In regards to paying rent, they have 3 additional days once you serve them notice to rectify rent that is behind and late fees. For no cause situations, it may be up to 20 days.
Step #2: Obtain an Unlawful Detainer
If a tenant does not rectify the situation according to the demands of the notice, then a landlord must go to the court in order to obtain an unlawful detainer. This is considered a lawsuit in Washington State, which means you will be serving a tenant with an eviction summons and complaint and is required for a legal eviction. A tenant has up to 7 days to answer the complaint. If they do not, then a landlord will be issued a default judgment and the eviction will be authorized. A tenant may also file for a notice of appearance.
Step #3: A Show Cause Hearing
If a tenant has filed an answer of defense with the court that has also been served to a landlord's attorney, then a show cause hearing will occur with both parties involved. This is where a default judgment may be issued if no defensive response has occurred, but otherwise is a hearing between both parties. A judge may decide the case, but tenants may also opt for a jury trial if they wish as well. If the landlord wins the case, then a judgment will be issued for rent, the legal costs of the landlord, and the eviction will proceed.
If the tenant wins, then the case will be dismissed and the eviction process must start over. The filing for the eviction, however, will appear on a tenant's record.
Step #4: Final Notice
When a court authorizes an eviction, they will issue what is called a writ of restitution. This is served by a sheriff's deputy and will give tenants a final 72 hours to move out of the property on their own. If they do not move out, the sheriff will be asked by the court to oversee the removal of the tenant and their belongings. If the sheriff misses the deadline for serving this and the tenant remains on the property 5 days after the valid enforcement date, the eviction process must start over.
Most landlords will choose to settle with a tenant that needs to be evicted to limit legal costs or the possibility of losing in court to start over. Follow these four steps, however, and you'll be able to evict a tenant in Washington State.
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