Seattle property management companies and landlords need to follow a series of specific steps when performing a residential eviction in Washington. Brian Read, an experienced landlord and tenant attorney who has worked with RPA for several years, has joined us on the blog to discuss the process.
Pay or Vacate Notice
Assuming the tenant has failed to pay the rent, the first step is to serve a Pay or Vacate Notice. In Washington, it’s a Three Day Notice to Pay or Vacate. Leases might sometimes allow for more time, but typically it’s three days. The landlord has to make sure the notice is correct content-wise and also properly served.
Once the notice is served, if three days go by and the tenant has not paid or vacated, the only way to advance the matter forward is to bring a lawsuit. An eviction lawsuit is quite specific and different from other types of lawsuits. There’s a specific summons that is an actual form you must use, and a complaint that sets forth the facts of the eviction. Those documents have to be served by a process server. A landlord cannot serve the lawsuit.
Once that has been served, a few things can happen. Ideally, the tenant simply moves out. They might respond and ask for a payment arrangement or extra time to move. You might be able to work out an agreement or a stipulation with the tenant. This stipulation is enforceable by the court if they don’t follow the agreement. Sometimes, tenants don’t respond at all and they don’t move, at which point you can enter a default judgment with the court. Other times, they do respond and it’s not possible to settle the case so you schedule a court hearing after you receive the response.
The court hearing will last about five or ten minutes in Superior Court. The only issue is who has the right of possession. Usually the landlord wins that, and incidental to that is getting a judgment for any rent that is owed.
Schedule the Eviction
The final process is to schedule the eviction. You give the paperwork to the Sheriff and the Sheriff will go out, usually the day after the court hearing, to serve the paperwork on the tenant. It’s called a Writ of Restitution. That gives the tenant three business days to vacate and if they don’t move out within those three days, the Sheriff and landlord schedule a physical eviction date. The landlord will have about an hour to bring a crew of movers and a lot of trash bags because the Sheriff won’t give you much time. Everything will be put onto the street or sidewalk. You may have an obligation to store the tenant’s property if the tenant requests that. It doesn’t happen often, but be prepared for the possibility.
That’s the eviction process in a nutshell for the state of Washington. If you’re faced with a nonpaying tenant, please contact us at Real Property Associates, and we’d be happy to help you.