Eviction Law in Seattle, WA

What Is an Eviction?

An eviction is the forceful exiting of tenants following an issued notice by the property owner or landlord. Evictions usually come as a result of failure to pay rent, or from violations of the lease agreement. However, evicting a problem tenant can be a long and costly experience as landlord-tenant laws favor tenants. Getting a better understanding of how Seattle, Washington eviction law can help.

Even though eviction notices happen as a result of serious problems with the tenant, not all eviction notices lead to an actual eviction. Oftentimes, eviction notices serve as a final warning for the tenant. If the tenant can then pay rent, or begin to follow the lease agreement, they may avoid eviction.

When Can Landlords Send a Termination Notice?

The Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent

If a delinquent Seattle, WA tenant frequently pays rent late, or has not paid rent at all, there is a good reason for eviction. Some states do have a grace period for an occasional late payment. However, if a tenant makes a habit of always paying late, that grace period does not apply and the property owner can provide an eviction notice.

Washington law makes it mandatory for landlords in Seattle to give a 14-day notice for nonpayment of rent. The state encourages owners to contact the Housing Justice Project afterward, but this is not required.

You should always provide your tenant with “late rent” notices and keep a copy for yourself in your files. That way, if the eviction case goes to court, you have paper evidence of their failure to pay rent on time.

The Tenant Violates the Terms or Conditions of the Lease Agreement

Lease agreements are legal contracts. This means if your tenant violates the contract in any way, it can be grounds for eviction. For example, if your lease agreement says that your tenant cannot have an additional person living in the unit, and they violate that rule, you can begin the eviction notice process.

The lease agreement is also legally binding for the landlord. This means that any Seattle landlord must also follow the rules laid out in the agreement, such as making repairs, and performing maintenance written into the lease.

The Tenant Damages the Property

Tenants are going to cause damage to the property; it’s unavoidable. Wear and tear when living in a home is normal. Still, there’s a difference between scratches on the wall or broken blinds, and intentional destruction of property.

If it’s clear that your tenant is causing severe damage to your property, such as breaking through walls or smashing windows, this may be cause for eviction. However, if your tenant makes repairs themselves, and doesn’t make any major changes to the property, this might not be grounds for eviction.

The Tenant Uses the Property for Illegal Purposes

If your tenant is using your Seattle property for illegal purposes, such as selling drugs or weapons, this can be clear grounds for eviction. Reporting the issue might also bring criminal charges against the tenant.

However, you should prepare to provide evidence that the tenant is using the property for illegal purposes. If law enforcement came to the property to address these issues at any time, these reports can prove helpful.

How to Evict a Tenant in Seattle, Washington

If you want to evict a tenant for any reason, then you need to understand the eviction process. Here’s how it works.

Step 1. Check Your Local Laws

Eviction laws are different in each state and can also vary at the city level. Therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws before taking any action. Always ensure you have a legally valid reason for an eviction before giving notice. A qualified Seattle eviction lawyer can help review your case to determine if you do.

The City of Seattle has resources available for landlords and tenants to understand their rights. Most of these considerations fall under the many sections of the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. Even with moratoriums in place for the pandemic, the law does have legitimate reasons to pursue a Just Cause Eviction Ordinance. Tenants have many protections, but the following justify pursuing this course of action:

  • Failing to remit rent after receiving a pay or vacate notice
  • Refusing to comply with legal notifications
  • Selling the building
  • Wanting to offer the property to a family member
  • Needing to demolish or rehabilitate the property

Step 2. Give a Formal Notice of Eviction

If you have tried to reason with your tenants and they continue to violate the terms of your lease, you should then provide them with a formal notice of eviction. Your eviction notice will serve as an ultimatum or final warning. It should explain how your tenant is in violation, as well as what they can do to stop the eviction process.

The eviction notice should also include a deadline for the tenant to either pay rent or move out, and the amount that the tenant owes. If you’re unsure of how to create an eviction notice, you can use online templates or seek legal advice.

As of July 2021, the King County Sheriff’s Department cannot serve or threaten to serve eviction orders. Staffing shortages and the hazardous nature of this activity mean that even writ of restitutions may not get served. As a result, keeping track of changes and having a Seattle eviction lawyer who understands changes in the law will help significantly.

Step 3. File the Eviction with the Court

You must file the eviction notice with the court within a few days. The court will then set a hearing date and will notify the tenant of the hearing by a summons. It’s most likely that the adjudication of the eviction process will involve the King County Superior Court in Seattle.

Step 4. Contact an Experienced Seattle Eviction Lawyer and Prepare for the Hearing

You should find an attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare for the hearing. Then, when you go to the hearing, you should bring the following documents:

  • Lease agreements
  • Records of payments
  • Bounced checks
  • Record of communication between you and the tenant
  • Record of the eviction notice
  • Proof that the tenant received the notice

Step 5. Evict the Tenant

If you’ve won the hearing, your tenant will have time to move out of your property. The amount of time allowed is dependent on the state, but it typically ranges from 48 hours to one week. If the tenant refuses to leave, you can contact Seattle, WA law enforcement to forcibly remove them from the property.

Step 6. Collect Past-Due Rent Payments

If your tenant owes you rent money, you may still have a long fight ahead to collect past-due payments. You can try to collect these payments through a number of methods:

Work with an Experienced Eviction Attorney in Seattle, Washington

The tenant will likely try to argue that you did not follow proper procedures for providing an eviction notice. Having a qualified Seattle attorney on your side can take the pressure off your back, and help ensure a victory in court. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Washington state lines.

Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with a Seattle eviction lawyer!

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