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Evictions, What to Do?

Everyday landlords are dealing with evictions, otherwise known as unlawful detainer actions.  Whether it is from a tenant failing to pay rent, not disposing of garbage, or any other violations.  The question that I often face when dealing with such is, what to do next?

First, some information that everyone dealing with a landlord/tenant matter should understand.  For residential leases, although a written lease is not required, it is highly recommended.  The Residential Landlord/Tenant Act (RCW 59.18) and Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act (RCW 59.20) control these leases, whether verbal or written, and provide the basic parameters to be followed.  If you are involved in a landlord/tenant relationship, you should familiarize yourself with this Act.

For commercial leases, it is recommended that you have a written lease.  Without it, there is very little guidance to the agreements provided by law (RCW 59).

The most important thing to remember when dealing with an issue, whether as a landlord or a tenant, is that a process must be followed.  If any step is not followed, or the allocated time is not provided, you can find yourself back at square one, or losing potential rights.

The process of evicting someone is similar whether dealing with a residential or commercial lease.  First, a proper notice must be served with the proper time allocated.  It is important to understand that even serving the notice has certain requirements.  The notice not being prepared correctly (ie. the wrong notice is used or incorrect information included), or not served properly, are the most common reasons Landlords find themselves having to start over. 

After the time period has expired, the Landlord has a number of options to pursue based upon the response of the violating tenant, including proceeding to the courts.  It is important to understand that, except in limited situations, you MUST give the notice before proceeding with an eviction.  For tenants, the same can apply to you when you have an issue with a landlord.

If the choice is to proceed to the courts, typically the next step is setting a show-cause hearing.  This directs the violating tenant to appear and present legal reason why they did not comply with the notice.  If the court disagrees with the tenant, then an order is issued for a Writ of Restitution directing the Sheriff to remove the tenant. 

The Sheriff then has 20 days to remove the tenant(s).  First, the sheriff will serve another notice giving the tenant 72 hours to vacate, not including weekend or holidays.  Next, a time is set up for the sheriff to remove the tenant(s).  At this time, the Landlord must have a crew sufficient to remove the belongings of the tenant(s) within one hour. 

Last, the Landlords must deal with the deposit, if applicable.  The law states that within 14 days of the tenant vacating, a proper notice must be provided to the last known address of the basis for retention of the deposit, and refund of any amounts due.  Failure to do so could lead to a tenant receiving judgment for double the amount of the deposit, even if the money is owed.

The process to evict someone has very specific guidelines to be followed.  If you are facing such, it is recommended to seek legal assistance to ensure that the proper process is followed, which could save you time and money.

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