When a tenant violates the lease or rental agreement in some way, the landlord or their authorized agent may choose to create and serve a Washington eviction notice. Also known as a notice to quit, this document tells the tenant that they’ve violated the lease or rental agreement in some way and that they have a certain amount of time to correct the problem or vacate the property. All Washington eviction notices are subject to the state’s landlord-tenant laws. This is the first action taken in the legal eviction process. After service, the tenant must refuse to comply with the notice for the landlord to have the legal right to file an eviction lawsuit.
As you may have noticed, a Washington eviction notice is a key part of the eviction process. This document must give the tenant (and the court) certain information:
It’s important that you also create and complete a Certificate of Service (and keep a copy of it along with a copy of the eviction notice). This document lists the date that service happened, the name of the person who was served, how that person was served, and includes a signature from the person who completed service.
Service for an eviction notice must be done by hand delivering the notice to the tenant, using a service agent and mailing an extra copy of the notice to the tenant, attaching the notice to the front door or another conspicuous place on the property and mailing an extra copy to the tenant, or by serving another resident in the unit and sending another copy of the notice via mail. For documentation purposes, you may also find it helpful to use certified mail with a return receipt requested.
3-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Payment of Rent
A 3-day notice to quit for non-payment of rent is used to inform the tenant that they haven’t paid their rent. They are given 3 days to pay what’s due or leave the property. This notice is governed by § 59.12.030(3). Landlords may find it helpful to state how much rent is due, the accepted payment methods, and where the tenant may pay what’s owed.
3-Day Notice to Quit for Illegal or Harmful Activity
A 3-day notice to quit for illegal or harmful activity is governed by § 59.12.030(5). It provides that if a tenant is involved in illegal activity, waste, or nuisance activities, they are given three days to vacate the property. They are not given the opportunity to correct the issue. Landlords may find it helpful to detail the incident that led up to the creation of the notice.
10-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Compliance
A 10-day notice to quit for non-compliance is used when the tenant violates the lease or rental agreement in some way that isn’t covered by the other eviction notices we’ve mentioned. Section 59.12.030(4) gives the tenant 10 days to either comply with the lease or rental agreement or they may choose to vacate the property. The landlord should mention the manner in which the lease or rental agreement was violated.
20-Day Notice to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy
A 20-day notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy isn’t a traditional eviction notice. It can be used by either the tenant or the landlord. It informs the recipient that the property will be or must be vacated by the end of the 20 day period. This notice is regulated by § 59.18.200.
Eviction notices must be legally served as mentioned above. Landlords must wait for the entire notice period to determine whether the tenant is going to comply. If they do not comply at the end of the notice period, the landlord may then file an eviction lawsuit.
Without a court order, the landlord may not lock out the tenant in any way, shut off the utilities to the rental property, or dispose of the tenant’s belongings. These are known as “self-help” eviction methods. If the landlord doesn’t have that vital court order, those actions are illegal. Additionally, landlords may not evict a tenant because of their nationality, race, skin color, gender, disability, religion, or family status. Doing so would violate The Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act is a federal law. Landlords also may not use retaliatory eviction. That happens when the landlord attempts to evict a tenant for reporting uninhabitable conditions or code violations to the housing authority.
If a landlord engages in any measure that is considered an illegal eviction, they may be sued by the tenant. The court may order the landlord to pay the tenant and they may also be fined if it is found that they violated state or federal law.
Tenants have rights in Washington. You can learn about your rights by visiting Washington LawHelp’s website. Being served with an eviction notice is a scary experience. You need to understand why it was issued and what you need to do. So, read the eviction notice carefully. If you have questions, contact your landlord.
If you think that the landlord is illegally evicting you, schedule an appointment with a landlord-tenant attorney. They can assess the facts surrounding your situation and let you know whether you have a legal claim against the landlord. If you have a legal claim, they can explain your next steps. You can also contact Washington LawHelp to determine if you qualify for low-cost legal help. They also have several resources that you may be able to use to help yourself. You could also contact Gonzaga University Law School, Seattle University Law School, or the University of Washington Law School and ask if they have an active legal clinic. Some legal clinics provide help for tenants.
Washington landlords must follow both federal and state law. Make sure that you don’t engage in the illegal eviction practices we discussed above. You should also ensure that if you must evict a tenant that the tenant is legally served. To learn more about the eviction process, your rights, and your obligations, schedule a consultation with a landlord-tenant attorney in the county where your rental property is located.