When a landlord wants a tenant to move out, certain procedures must be followed. This section discusses why landlords can evict tenants, and what methods must be used.
There are four types of evictions under the law, each requiring a certain type of notice.
Not Paying Rent
If the tenant is even one day behind in rent, the landlord may issue a three day notice to pay or move out. If the tenant pays all the rest due within three days, the landlord must accept it and cannot evict the tenant. A landlord is not required to accept a partial payment.
Not Complying with the Terms of the Rental Agreement
If a tenant does not comply with the rental agreement (for example, keeping a cat when the agreement specifies no pets), the landlord may give a ten day notice to comply or move out. If the tenant remedies the situation within that time, the landlord cannot continue the eviction process.
Creating a Waste or Nuisance
If a tenant destroys the landlord's property, uses the premises for unlawful activity (including gang or drug-related activities), causes damage that reduces the value of the property, or interferes with other tenants' use of the property, the landlord may issue a three day notice to move out. The tenant must move out after receiving this type of notice. There is no option to stay and correct the problem.
Except in the city of Seattle, landlords may evict month-to-month tenants without having any particular reason, as long as the eviction is not discriminatory or retaliatory. If the landlord wants a tenant to move out and does not give a reason, the tenant must be given a 20 day notice to vacate. The tenant must receive the notice at least 20 days before the next rent is due. The tenant can be required to move out only at the end of a rental period (the day before a rental payment is due). Usually, a 20 day notice cannot be used if the tenant has signed a lease. Check the specific rental document to determine if a lease can be ended this way.
If the rental is being converted to a condominium, the tenant must be given a 90 day notice.
Notifying Tenants of Eviction
For a landlord to take legal action against a tenant who does not move out, the landlord must first give written notice to the tenant in accordance with the law (Revised Code of Washington 59.12.040). The landlord may deliver the notice in person, or he may leave a copy with some person of suitable age or discretion and send a copy by mail, or he may also post the notice on the property where it can be easily seen by the tenant.
After an Eviction Notice
If the tenant continues to occupy the rental in violation of an eviction notice, the landlord must go to court to begin what is called an unlawful detainer action.
If the court rules in favor of the landlord, the sheriff will be instructed to move the tenant out of the rental if the tenant does not leave voluntarily. The only legal way for a landlord to physically move a tenant out is by going through the courts and the sheriff's office.