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Evictions/Unlawful Detainer in Washington

An eviction, or an unlawful detainer action as it is called in Washington, can be a complicated process to handle as a landlord. There are very specific laws that govern evictions in Washington and navigating the litany of different rules and laws can be tricky, and lead to legal punishments for a Washington landlord.

If you are a landlord in Washington, experienced unlawful detainer/eviction attorney Quinn Posner can help. Whether you need help evicting a tenant, or creating documents to better protect your rights as a landlord throughout the entire tenancy, you can count on him to protect your interests.

Preserving a Tenant from Unlawful Detainer/Eviction

Deciding whether to keep a tenant, despite violations of the lease agreement or to initiate an unlawful detainer action may revolve around a variety of factors. These factors may include the following.

  • Whether the violation of the lease agreement can be resolved.
  • The difficulty of finding a replacement tenant.
  • The lack of past violations.
  • Unique or emergency circumstances that make the violation understandable.

If your tenant has violated the terms of the lease agreement but you wish to keep them, there are ways to do so that include direct negotiation and mediation.

It sometimes makes better financial sense to keep a tenant, especially when that tenant has violated the lease unintentionally or through no fault of their own. A tenant that wants to pay but is having a little trouble right now may be worth keeping, but ultimately it is up to you as the landlord. In either case, an experienced attorney can help.

Legal Causes for Evicting a Tenant

As a landlord, it is critically important to know when you are allowed to evict a tenant from your property. Evicting a tenant for the wrong reasons may subject you to high fines and other legal issues, not to mention the incredible headache of a lawsuit against you for illegal actions.

Legal causes for eviction include the following.

  • Failure to Pay Rent: This is the most common reason tenants may be evicted. If a tenant fails to pay rent according to the lease agreement, they may be evicted.
  • Criminal Activity: A tenant who engages in crime on the property may not legally remain.
  • Major Property Damage: A tenant is not allowed to cause significant damage to the rental property.
  • Breach of the Lease Agreement: Lease agreement breaches can be major or minor, and the difference can be confusing. It also matter because the type of eviction notice required under each differs, so consultation with your attorney is key to protecting yourself from legal jeopardy.
  • Terminating the Lease Agreement: In a month-to-month rental, you can give the proper notice and remove a tenant without eviction. If the tenant refuses to leave, you can then initiate eviction proceedings against them.

There are certain reasons you may not use to evict a tenant. Landlords are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of

  • Handicapped Status;
  • Race, Color, or Ethnicity;
  • National Origin;
  • Gender; or
  • Familial Status.

Tenant Rights During an Eviction

Tenants have certain rights during the unlawful detainer/eviction process, and these rights must be protected, otherwise you will run afoul of the law. Violating the law will greatly affect your rights and finances as a Washington landlord.

  • Following the Eviction Timeline: There are certain timelines which must be followed by the landlord, otherwise tenant rights may be infringed upon. This can lead to significant legal and financial sanctions against the landlord.
  • Fourteen-Day Notice: The fourteen-day notice informs the tenant that they have fourteen days to pay or vacate. This means that the tenant has fourteen days to pay the outstanding rent owed OR vacate the property. If they fail to do one of these, then the eviction may proceed subject to a Reasonable Repayment Offer (required for six month after Governor Inslee end his state of emergency) and the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program (scheduled to sunset June 30, 2023).
  • Ten-Day Notice: A ten day notice is required for landlords who seek to evict because of a violation of the lease or rental agreement other than late payment of rent. It requires time be given to the tenant to remedy the violation or move out. If the tenant fixes the complained of issue within 10 days, the landlord may not evict for that reason.
  • No "Self-Help" Evictions: Tenants cannot be forced out of the property by illegal means, called a "self-help" eviction. These are not permitted and can lead to significant legal trouble for a landlord who engages in this kind of conduct.
  • Maintaining Premises: A landlord is required to continue to uphold all of their normal obligations, including the requirement to keep the property in a fit condition for habitation.

Violating a tenant's rights can lead to an unsuccessful eviction, even when the tenant should otherwise be legally evicted. The above is merely an example of a few notices and in no way describes them all.

Process of Evicting a Tenant

It is very important that a landlord follow the correct legal process for evicting a tenant. If they do not do so, the tenant will be able to remain, despite any violations on the tenant's part. The process is very complicated and it must be handled correctly or the eviction will fail. A knowledgeable Washington Eviction Attorney can help ensure that you follow the correct steps. 

Post-Foreclosure Eviction

After a rental property is foreclosed upon, specific eviction processes apply to tenants in the property or owners of the property who refuse to vacate.

  • Owners of the Property: The owners of the property and any other non-tenant occupants are required to vacate 20 days after the foreclosure sale.
  • Tenants of the Property: If tenants live on the property, state law requires the foreclosure purchaser to give tenants 60-days notices to vacate the rental property. However, under federal law, a "bona fide tenant" is entitled to 90-days notice of eviction rather than 60-days notice.

To be a "bona fide tenant," all of the following must be true.

  • You must not be the spouse, child, or parent of the former owner of the property.
  • The lease or tenancy must have been the result of an "arm's length transaction" and not a special deal between family or friends.
  • The rental amount must be a fair market rent, not on a discount basis, or the rent must be lower as the result of a government program that subsidizes the rent.

During the time the tenant is allowed to remain in the property, they are expected to continue to follow the obligations of the tenancy. If the tenant fails to pay rent or violates the terms of the previous lease, eviction proceedings may be appropriate sooner. Otherwise, the new owner of the property must wait until the end of the notice period before initiating eviction proceedings against a tenant who refuses to vacate.

Consult a Washington Eviction/Unlawful Detainer Attorney

If you have a tenant who has violated the terms of the lease, you have rights that can and should be protected. There are specific steps that must be followed to successfully and legally evict a tenant, but with the help of a knowledgeable attorney, you can feel confident that your landlord rights are cared for.

Experienced eviction attorney Quinn Posner represents clients in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, and the rest of Clark County. Contact Quinn Posner today to schedule a consultation.