Washington Eviction Process

Timeline. Evicting a tenant in Washington can take about 1 to 3 months (or longer) depending on the reason for the eviction. If tenants file an answer or request a jury trial, the process can take longer (read more).

Below are the individual steps of the eviction process in Washington.

Step 1: Notice is Posted

Landlords in Washington can begin the eviction process for several reasons, including:

  1. Nonpayment of Rent – Once rent is past due, notice must be served giving the tenant the option to pay rent in order to avoid eviction.
  2. Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement – Written notice must be provided for lease violations, except for certain types of illegal activity (any type of illegal activity is considered a violation of the lease/rental agreement).
  3. No Lease / End of Lease Term (Tenant at Will) – If there is no lease or the term of the lease has ended, the landlord does not need any additional reason to end the tenancy as long as proper notice is given.
NOTES
  • Retaliatory Evictions. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for complaining to the landlord or to the appropriate local or government agency regarding the property.
  • Evicting a Squatter If the individual occupying the property did not have the permission of the landlord when initially moving in, does not have a lease (or verbal agreement) and has no history of paying rent, then a landlord/owner would contact law enforcement to remove the squatter instead of going through the eviction process (read more).

Each possible ground for eviction has its own rules for how the process starts.

Eviction Process for Nonpayment of Rent

A landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time.

In the state of Washington, rent is considered late the day after it’s due; grace periods (if any) are addressed in the lease/rental agreement.

Once rent is past due, the landlord must provide a 14-Day Notice to Pay if the landlord wants to file an eviction action with the court. This notice gives the tenant the option to pay the past due amount in full within 14 days in order to avoid eviction.

If the tenant does not pay the rent due by the end of the notice period and remains on the property, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement

A tenant can be evicted in Washington if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of a written lease/rental agreement.

Landlords have two options when it comes to lease violations. For curable, or correctable, violations, landlords are required to provide tenants with a 10-Day Notice to Comply, giving tenants 10 days to correct the violation in order to avoid eviction.

Typical lease violations under this category could include things like damaging the rental property, having too many people residing in the rental unit, and having a pet when there’s a no-pet policy.

For non-curable lease violations, including criminal activity, waste, nuisances on the rental property, and unlawful businesses, landlords must give tenants a 3-Day Notice to Quit. In these situations, tenants do not have the option to correct the violation and must move out by the date listed on the notice period.

Note that landlords are not required to provide written notice for tenants who are involved in the following types of illegal activity:

  • Illegal drug activity
  • Physical assault that results in an arrest
  • Unlawful use of firearm or deadly weapon that results in an arrest
  • Gang-related activity

If the tenant doesn’t correct the violation/remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Eviction Process for No Lease / End of Lease

In the state of Washington, if tenants “hold over,” or stay in the rental unit after the rental term has expired, then the landlord must give tenants notice before evicting them. This can include tenants without a written lease and week-to-week and month-to-month tenants.

Often this type of eviction applies to tenants who are at the end of their lease and the landlord doesn’t want to renew.

Regardless of the length or type of tenancy, landlords are required to provide the tenant with at least 20 days’ written notice prior to beginning an eviction action.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Step 2: Complaint is Filed and Served

As the next step in the eviction process, Washington landlords must file a complaint in the appropriate Superior court. In Clark County, this costs $197 in filing fees split into two payments. The second payment is due after the tenant files their answer or an Order to Show Cause is requested by the landlord.

The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant by the sheriff, sheriff’s deputy, or anyone over the age of 18 who isn’t part of the case, through any one of the following methods :

  1. Giving a copy to the tenant in person
  2. Leaving a copy with someone of “suitable age” who resides in the rental unit
  3. Mailing a copy via first class mail (AND leaving a copy with someone at the mailing address)

Washington state law doesn’t indicate how quickly the summons and complaint must be served after the complaint is filed, but they must served prior to the hearing.

A few days to a few weeks, depending on the service method and how quickly the landlord chooses to serve the summons and complaint.

Step 3: Answer is Filed

In Washington, tenants must file a written response, or answer, to the landlord’s complaint. The summons will list the date by which the answer must be filed.

This will typically be 7-30 days after the summons was issued. The court date for the eviction hearing is usually assigned after the tenant’s answer is received by the court.

If the tenant fails to file an answer, the judicial officer will issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord, meaning the tenant will be required to move out without having the opportunity to attend a court hearing.

7-30 days. Tenants have 7-30 days after the summons is issued to file their answer with the court.

Step 4: Court Hearing and Judgment

A court hearing is scheduled once the court receives a tenant’s answer. If no answer is received, a default judgment in favor of the landlord will be issued.

There is no timeframe in Washington state laws indicating how quickly after a complaint is filed, summons is issued, or answer is filed, that a hearing must be held. It will depend upon the local trial calendar/judicial officer’s trial schedule in each Superior court location.

If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, it will not be continued, and the judge will rule in favor of the landlord.

Either the landlord or tenant can request a jury trial, which will add more time to the process.

If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, a writ of restitution will be issued and the eviction process will proceed.

A few days to a few weeks, depending on the court location and the judicial officer’s trial schedule.

Step 5: Writ of Restitution Is Issued

The writ of restitution is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit, and gives them the opportunity to move out of the rental unit before the sheriff returns to the property to forcibly remove the tenant.

If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, the landlord will ask the court to issue a writ of restitution. This can be done at the hearing or at a later date.

A few hours to a few days. The landlord must request the writ of restitution, but it can be issued the same day as the hearing.

Step 6: Possession of Property is Returned

For evictions due to non-payment of rent, the tenant has 5 days to move out once the writ of restitution has been posted.

For all other evictions, the tenant will only have 3 days to move out once the writ of restitution has been posted.

In both cases, if tenants remain in the rental unit once the deadline has passed, they will be forcibly removed from the rental unit by law enforcement officers.

3-5 days, depending on the reason for the eviction.

Washington Eviction Process Timeline

Below is a summary of the aspects outside of the landlord’s control that dictate the amount of time it takes to evict a tenant in Washington. With that being said, these estimates can vary greatly, and some time periods may not include weekends or legal holidays.

  1. Initial Notice Period – between 3 and 20 days, depending on the notice type and reason for eviction.
  2. Issuance/Service of Summons and Complaint – A few days to a few weeks after the complaint is filed.
  3. Answer is filed – 7-30 days after the summons is issued.
  4. Court Hearing and Ruling on the Eviction – A few days to a few weeks; more if jury trial is requested.
  5. Issuance of Writ of Restitution – A few hours to a few days.
  6. Return of Possession – 3-5 days, depending on the reason for the eviction.

Flowchart of Washington Eviction Process

For additional questions about the eviction process in Washington, please refer to the official legislation, the Revised Code of Washington §59.12, §59.16, §59.18, and Superior Court Civil Rules, Rule 4, for more information.