Being a landlord can be a financially rewarding experience, but it also has its challenges. Dealing with problem tenants is often the most difficult part of the job, especially if an eviction becomes necessary. If you feel that terminating a tenancy is your best option, it’s wise to seek advice from an attorney to ensure you don’t violate any laws or make mistakes that could cause the court to rule in the tenant’s favor.
A Guide to the Washington Eviction Process
Issuing a Prelawsuit Unlawful Detainer Notice
Once you enter into a lease with a tenant, they are generally entitled to use your property until an event occurs that ends their rights. You cannot initiate an eviction before this happens. The law allows landlords to terminate a tenancy for the following reasons:
- Failing to pay on time
- Failing to comply with the terms of the lease
- Committing a minor criminal act, leaving waste, or being a nuisance
- Engaging in drug activity, gang-related activity, or a serious criminal act involving a deadly weapon
If any of these circumstances apply, you may serve a three-day notice to pay the rent that’s due or vacate the property, a 10-day notice to comply with the terms of the agreement or vacate, a three-day notice to eliminate waste or stop nuisance behavior, or a 20-day notice of termination.
Filing an Eviction With the Court
If a tenant doesn’t comply with a notice, you can file an Unlawful Detainer Action with the court to begin the eviction proceedings. The tenant then has to be served a Summons and Eviction Complaint. If they respond, you will need to file a motion for an order to show cause and attend a hearing. If they don’t respond, you will be awarded a Writ of Restitution.
Laws a Landlord Must Consider
It is illegal in every state for landlords to use intimidation tactics to try and force a tenant to leave. As such, you may not change the locks to deny access, make threats, shut off the utilities, or remove their belongings from the property. These are known as self-help evictions and engaging in such behavior can cause you to lose your case or become financially liable if the tenant decides to file a lawsuit.
If you’re unsure what might be considered unlawful, consult an attorney. After being given a Writ of Restitution to vacate the property, a tenant has three days to remove their personal possessions. After this time, you can have the sheriff schedule a mandatory move within 10 days.
Regardless of your reason for wanting to remove a renter from your property, the guidance of an attorney can prove invaluable through the eviction process. For more than two decades, McPherson & McPherson Attorneys at Law has been the go-to source for representation in landlord-tenant disputes. Attorney Molly McPherson has helped numerous property owners throughout Island County, WA, resolve tenant terminations smoothly and quickly. She will ensure you know your rights and follow the proper procedure. Call (360) 678-4407 to schedule an attorney consultation or visit the firm online for more information.