There are many laws a Washington landlord must follow to avoid committing an illegal act. One of the more important of these acts to avoid is the "self-help" eviction. Evicting a tenant in an improper way is illegal and can result in serious sanctions against the landlord.
Making sure you avoid "self-help" evictions at all costs is crucial to your success as a landlord. Experienced eviction attorney Quinn Posner is here to provide you with the advice you need to avoid common landlord pitfalls so that you comply with Washington law.
What is a "Self-Help" Eviction?
A self-help eviction is defined as a landlord's actions outside of the law to deny a tenant the right to occupy the rental premises. These kinds of evictions are prohibited by Washington law.
R.C.W. 59.18.290 states:
It shall be unlawful for the landlord to remove or exclude from the premises the tenant thereof except under a court order so authorizing. Any tenant so removed or excluded in violation of this section may recover possession of the property or terminate the rental agreement and, in either case, may recover the actual damages sustained. The prevailing party may recover the costs of suit or arbitration and reasonable attorney's fees.
Legal eviction proceedings are the only way to remove a tenant. Using your own methods is not legal and will result in actual damages, costs of a lawsuit or other proceedings, and attorney fees.
As a landlord, you should always follow the correct process for evicting a tenant. Even when you have legal cause to evict a tenant, resorting to acts outside of the court system is not permitted.
Changing the Locks
One of the most common ways landlords self-help evict is to change the locks on the rental property. Many landlords think "it's my property, so I can change the locks." However, denying a tenant access to the rental property outside of the court can get you into trouble.
Removing Tenant's Possessions
Removing a tenant's possessions and placing them on the curb, in a storage unit, or other place is illegal without going through the courts. Even if you take great care of the possessions you remove, you will be liable for violating the tenant's right to possess the property.
Shutting Off Utilities
Other landlords turn off utilities to the premises in an attempt to force the tenant out. This is considered just as much a self-help eviction as other methods, even though the landlord did not actually remove the tenant.
Blocking Access to the Property
Preventing a tenant from accessing the property via a driveway, sidewalk, alley, or other method of getting into the property is not permitted without going through the formal eviction process.
Consult a Washington Eviction Attorney
Understanding the complexities of the eviction process can be challenging, but with the help of experienced legal counsel you can avoid the common pitfalls that landlords fall into.
Experienced eviction attorney Quinn Posner represents landlords in Camas, Washougal, Vancouver, and the rest of Clark County. Contact Quinn Posner today to schedule a consultation.