Steps of the eviction process in Washington:
- Landlord serves tenant written notice.
- Landlord files complaint with court (if unresolved).
- Answer is filed.
- Court holds hearing is held & issues judgment.
- Writ of restitution is issued.
- Possession of property is returned to landlord.
Evicting a tenant in Washington can take about one to three 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.
Grounds for an Eviction in Washington
In Washington, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause. Legal grounds to evict include not paying rent on time, staying after the lease ends, violating lease terms or not upholding responsibilities under Washington law. Even so, proper notice must first be given before ending the tenancy.
|Nonpayment of Rent||14 Days||Maybe|
|End of / No Lease||20 Days||No|
|Lease Violation||3 Days or 10 Days||Maybe|
Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent
In Washington, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. To do so, they must first give 14 days’ notice to pay rent or vacate the premises. If the tenant does neither after that time, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
Unless the lease states otherwise, rent is due at the beginning of each pay period and is considered late in Washington the day immediately after its due date. So for example, if rent is due on the first of the month, it is considered late starting on the second of the month (if not paid in full). There is no right to a legal grace period (i.e., five days); however, weekends and legal holidays are excluded.
Once rent is considered late, the landlord can begin the eviction process by serving the tenant with proper notice.
Eviction for No Lease or End of Lease
In Washington, a landlord can evict a tenant without a lease or with a lease that has ended (known as a “holdover tenant” or “tenant at will”). To do so, they must first terminate the tenancy by giving proper notice to move out (20 days for tenants that pay month-to-month).
Once the tenancy ends, if the tenant remains on the property, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
Eviction for Violation of Lease or Responsibilities
In Washington, a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the terms of their lease or not upholding their responsibilities under Washington landlord-tenant law. Some violations allow the tenant to fix (“cure”) the issue to avoid removal and other violations do not allow the tenant to fix the issue (“incurable”) and must move out.
If the issue is curable the landlord must give 10 days’ notice before proceeding with an eviction and if the issue is incurable the landlord must give 3 days’ notice to vacate without the chance to fix the issue, or in some instances, the tenant must vacate immediately.
Tenant responsibilities include:
- Keeping the premises clean and sanitary.
- Disposing of all rubbish garbage and other organic or flammable waste in a clean and sanitary manner.
- Paying all costs for extermination and fumigation caused by the tenants’ negligence.
- Using and operating all appliances and facilities.
- Not intentionally or negligently destroying, defacing, damaging, impairing, removing any part of the premises.
- Not permitting a nuisance or common waste.
- Not engaging in drug-related activity or gang related activity
- Maintaining the smoke detector and replacing batteries if needed.
- Not engaging in activity that is imminently hazardous to the safety of other people on the premises.
- Not engaging in any activity that entails physical assault on others.
- Not threatening or using any firearms or deadly weapons which could result in an arrest.
For more minor offenses, the landlord must give 10 days’ notice to fix the issue or move out.
Examples of curable lease violations:
- Not maintaining a certain level of cleanliness.
- Removing the appliances without the landlord’s permission.
- Not maintaining the smoke detector.
For more serious offenses, the landlord must give 3 days’ notice to vacate and the tenant isn’t given the opportunity to fix the issue and must move out.
Examples of incurable violations:
- Committing waste.
- Causing a nuisance.
- Allowing an unlawful business to operate on the property.
If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with filing an eviction action.
Note, landlords are not required to provide prior 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.
In these instances, a landlord may immediately proceed with filing an eviction action with the court.
Illegal Evictions in Washington
In Washington, any of the below is illegal.
No matter the situation, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by:
- Changing the locks.
- Shutting off utilities.
- Removing tenant belongings.
If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant actual damages sustained. A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.
It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant in response to exercising a legally protected right. These rights include:
- Complaining about habitability issues to the landlord or any authority tasked to enforce the law.
- Filing a complaint to a government authority.
- Pursuing a legal right to remedy habitability issues.
If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant the cost of the suit or arbitration and attorneys’ fees.
Step 1: Landlord Serves Notice to Tenant
A landlord can begin the eviction process in Washington by serving the tenant with written notice. The notice must be delivered by one of the following methods:
- Giving it to the tenant in person;
- Mailing the notice to the tenant’s last known address via regular mail AND leaving a copy with someone of suitable age and discretion at the rental unit; or
- Posting the notice in a conspicuous place at the rental unit, AND leaving a copy with someone of suitable age and discretion at the rental unit, AND mailing a copy to the tenant.
Mailing may only be done if the tenant cannot be found at the rental unit. Posting may only be done if the tenant’s current address is unknown.
It is important for a landlord to always maintain a copy of the signed and served notice as proof of proper service of notice.
14-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
If a tenant is late on paying rent (full or partial) in Washington, the landlord can serve them a 14-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. This notice gives the tenant 14 calendar days to pay the entire remaining balance or vacate the premises.
20-Day Notice to Quit
For a tenant with no lease or a month-to-month lease in Washington, the landlord must serve them a 20-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. This eviction notice allows the tenant 20 calendar days to move out.
For tenants that don’t pay monthly, the amount of notice does not change.
10-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate
In Washington, if a tenant commits a minor violation of the terms of their lease or legal responsibilities as a tenant, the landlord can serve them a 10-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This eviction notice gives the tenant 10 calendar days to fix the issue or move out.
3-Day Notice to Quit
In Washington, if a tenant commits waste, causes a nuisance or practices an unlawful business on the property, the landlord can serve them a 3-Day Notice to Quit. This eviction notice gives the tenant 3 calendar days to move out without the chance to fix the issue.
Note, if a tenant is involved with illegal drug or gang-related activity, physical assault, or uses a firearm or deadly weapon unlawfully the landlord can file for an eviction immediately.
Step 2: Landlord Files Lawsuit with Court
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 and competent to be a witness to the service, by giving a copy to the tenant in person or leaving a copy with someone of “suitable age” who resides in the rental unit
If after reasonable effort and due diligence, the summons cannot be personally delivered, the court may authorize the following methods:
- Posting a copy in a conspicuous place on the premises, not less than nine days from the return date stated in the summons; and
- Mailing a copy through regular and certified mail to the tenant’s last known address not less than nine days from the return date stated in the summons.
Washington state law doesn’t indicate how quickly the summons and complaint must be served after the complaint is filed, but they must be 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 Holds Hearing & Issues 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 and 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 Clerk of the Superior Court to issue a writ of restitution. This can be done at the hearing or at a later date.
The writ shall be served by the sheriff in person, or if the tenant is unable to be found, a copy may be affixed in a conspicuous place on the premises.
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 five 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 to 5 days, depending on the reason for the eviction.
Washington Eviction Process Timeline
In Washington, an eviction can be completed in 1 to 3 months but can take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, which days courts are (or aren’t) in session and other various possible delays.
Below are the parts of the Washington eviction process outside the control of landlords for cases that go uncontested.
|Initial Notice Period||3-20 Calendar Days|
|Court Issuing/Serving Summons||~3 Business Days|
|Tenant Response Period||7-30 Calendar Days|
|Court Ruling||3-21 Business Days|
|Court Serving Writ of Restitution||1-3 Business Days|
|Final Notice Period||3-5 Calendar Days|
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.
- 1 WA Rev Code §59.18.057 (2019)
(3) …notice in writing requiring in the alternative the payment of the rent or the surrender of the detained premises, served (in manner in RCW 59.12.040 provided) on behalf of the person entitled to the rent upon the person owing it, has remained uncomplied with…for the period of fourteen days after service for tenancies under chapter 59.18 RCW.
- 2 WA Rev Code §59.18.200 (2019)
(1)(a) When premises are rented for an indefinite time, with monthly or other periodic rent reserved, such tenancy shall be construed to be a tenancy from month to month, or from period to period on which rent is payable, and shall be terminated by written notice of twenty days or more, preceding the end of any of the months or periods of tenancy…
- 3 WA Rev Code §59.12.030 (2019)
(4) …after a neglect or failure to keep or perform any condition or covenant of the lease or agreement …other than one for the payment of rent, and after notice in writing requiring…the performance of such condition or covenant or the surrender of the property…Within ten days after the service of such notice the tenant…may perform such condition or covenant and thereby save the lease from such forfeiture.
- 4 WA Rev Code §59.12.030 (2019)
(5) When he or she commits or permits waste upon the demised premises, or when he or she sets up or carries on thereon any unlawful business, or when he or she erects, suffers, permits, or maintains on or about the premises any nuisance, and remains in possession after the service…upon him or her of three days’ notice to quit…
- 5 WA Rev Code §59.18.180 (2019)
(3) If drug-related activity is…a basis for termination of tenancy…the landlord may proceed directly to an unlawful detainer action…(4) If criminal activity on the premises as described in RCW 59.18.130(8) …is alleged to be the basis for termination of the tenancy, and the tenant is arrested…then…the landlord may proceed directly to an unlawful detainer action against the tenant who was arrested for this activity…
- 6 WA Rev Code §59.12.030 (2019)
(7) When he or she commits or permits any gang-related activity at the premises as prohibited by RCW 59.18.130.
- 7 WA Rev Code §59.18.290 (2019)
(1) It is 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 attorneys’ fees.
- 8 WA Rev Code §59.18.240 (2019)
So long as the tenant is in compliance with this chapter,
the landlord shall not take or threaten to take reprisals or
retaliatory action against the tenant because of any good faith and
(1) Complaints or reports by the tenant to a governmental
authority concerning the failure of the landlord to substantially
comply with any code, statute, ordinance, or regulation governing the
maintenance or operation of the premises, if such condition may
endanger or impair the health or safety of the tenant; or
(2) Assertions or enforcement by the tenant of his or her rights
and remedies under this chapter.
- 9 WA Rev Code §59.18.250 (2019)
…In any action or eviction proceeding where the
tenant prevails upon his or her claim or defense that the landlord has
violated this section, the tenant shall be entitled to recover his or
her costs of suit or arbitration, including a reasonable attorney’s
fee, and where the landlord prevails upon his or her claim he or she
shall be entitled to recover his or her costs of suit or arbitration,
including a reasonable attorney’s fee: PROVIDED FURTHER, That neither
party may recover attorney’s fees to the extent that their legal
services are provided at no cost to them.
- 10 WA Rules of Superior Courts, Civil Rules, Rule 4 (2019)
(c) Service of summons and process, except when service is by publication, shall be by the sheriff of the county wherein the service is made, or by the sheriff’s deputy, or by any person over 18 years of age who is competent to be a witness in the action, other than a party…
- 11 WA Rev Code §4.28.080 (2019)
(16) …to the defendant personally, or by leaving a copy…with some person of suitable age and discretion then resident therein. (17) …where the person cannot with reasonable diligence be served as described, the summons may be served…By leaving a copy at his or her usual mailing address with a person of suitable age and discretion…and…mailing a copy by first-class mail, postage prepaid…
- 12 WA Rev Code §59.12.070 (2019)
A summons must be issued as in other cases, returnable at a day designated therein, which shall not be less than seven nor more than thirty days from the date of service…
- 13 WA Rev Code §59.18.410 (2019)
(2) When the tenant is liable for unlawful detainer after a default in the payment of rent, execution upon the judgment shall not occur until the expiration of five court days after the entry of the judgment.
- 14 WA Rev Code §59.18.390 (2019)
(1) The sheriff shall, upon receiving the writ of restitution, forthwith serve a copy thereof upon the tenant, his or her agent, or attorney, or a person in possession of the premises, and shall not execute the same for three days thereafter.