Frequently Asked Questions
The answer: In 2019, the Washington state legislature passed a series of new laws that strictly govern all residential landlords in Washington. None of these changes apply to any commercial tenancies. Please note that some of these rules refer a new section in RCW 59.18, but those new sections have not been established yet. These new rules will go into effect on July 28, 2019. There is a link at the bottom of this question with further information as to the current laws and the new laws. Clients are free to call our office with questions, and if you do, please ask for an attorney, not a paralegal.
The main laws are:
HB 1138: Governing military deployment and changing the current law as to what a landlord can and cannot do
HB 1440: Changing rent increase notices to 60 days everywhere in Washington, no matter the amount of the rent increase. Some city ordinances, such as those in Seattle that mandate additional information be added to any rent increase notice, are still enforceable.
HB 1462: Establishing a program everywhere in Washington for tenant relocation caused by substantial rehabilitation or change of use of a residential unit. Some city ordinances, such as those in Seattle that mandate payment of relocation expenses, are still enforceable.
SB 5600: This bill does several things, including:
- Establishes a 14 day pay rent or vacate notice, and defines “rent”;
- Restricts collection of late fees in evictions;
- Reverses the application of funds clause in many leases (note that leases for outside of Seattle will need to be updated);
- Limits awards for attorney fees for default judgments;
- Establishes a new option for a tenant to seek to reinstate their tenancy for any eviction based on non-payment of rent;
- Clarifies when a sheriff can serve a writ of restitution;
- Eliminates the requirement to pay a bond to reinstate a tenancy; and
- Removes the requirement for a court order before service of the summons and complaint by alternative means is allowed.
You need one notice for every adult named in the lease that is still occupying the property.
For example, if you have 3 roommates, you need to serve 3 notices. If you serve by posting and mailing, you need to post 3 notices and mail 3 notices. For a husband and wife, you need to serve 2 notices.
It is always better to prepare a single notice with all of the names on it and then use photocopies for service, rather than a separate notice for each individual tenant.
In mailing the notices, you can put all of the notices in a single envelope addressed to all of the tenants. A better practice is to use a separate envelope for each of the named tenants.
When serving a notice, you should include the names of all adults occupying the units on all notices for that unit.
The unlawful detainer statute sets out in RCW 59.12.040 the ways in which a notice such as a 3-day pay or vacate must be served to give the court jurisdiction for the unlawful detainer. There are three ways to serve a notice, and the ways are in order of preference.
The first way is by personally serving the notice on the person named in the notice.
If you cannot personally serve the person named, you default to the second method of service. For that method, you must go to the unit the notice applies to, knock on the door and if someone other than the named person answers the door, give them a copy of the notice and then you must mail a copy of the notice to the named person at the unit address. The law prohibits service on someone that is not “of suitable age or discretion” meaning you cannot serve someone that is under 15 years old or known to you or reasonably inferred to be mentally disabled.
The third way of service is to knock on the unit door, and if no one answers the door, to affix a copy of the notice on the door (you should put the notice in an envelope with the named person’s name on the envelope) and tape it to the outside of the door. You must then also mail a copy of the notice to the named person at the unit address.
If you have to mail a copy of the notice, the mailing only has to be first class. It does not have to be certified or by return receipt.
If you have to use either the second or third method of service, you must first knock on the door or the service of the notice is invalid, and the court may throw out the eviction case, and if you have to mail the notice, you must add on 1 extra day to the compliance period.
You do not count the day that the notice is served but do count every other day following that service day. The compliance days are calendar days, so weekends and holidays are counted.
The only charge that can be included on a 3 day notice to pay rent or vacate is the base rent. You should not include any other charges, including late fees, notice fees, month to month fees, storage fees, utilities, etc. All of those other charges must be put on a 10 day notice to comply or vacate.
If there is more than a single month’s rent owing, you will need to break out the rent owing by month rather than lumping it all together under ‘rent’ or rent for a single month.
A 10-day notice is a notice to the tenant to comply with some requirement of the rental agreement or rules and regulations. The notice must state three things: first, the section of the lease, rules and regulations, or statute that the tenant has violated (i.e. payment of utilities or quiet enjoyment for the other tenants); second, the specific conduct of the tenant receiving the notice that violated the rental agreement or rule (i.e. having loud parties or an unauthorized occupant); and third, what actions the tenant must take to come back into compliance.
Once given, the tenant has 10 full days with which to comply, so any violations in that 10 day period can’t be used to trigger the violation. If the notice is for payment of utilities or deposit, the tenant has 10 days to tender the money to the management. If the notice is for noise or loud parties, the tenant can continue making the noise or having the loud parties for the 10 days. It is only if the rule has not been complied with after the period in the notice that the management can begin eviction procedures.
If the notice is for loud parties or noise complaints, have the tenants making the noise complaint keep a log during the 10 days because if the tenant continues the noise during the period of the notice after they have been specifically told to stop, it shows bad faith on the tenant’s part which the court will take into consideration during any later eviction.
A 10-day notice has a lifespan of 60 days. If the violation does occur within 60 days of the service of the notice, that second violation allows the landlord to begin the eviction action. If the violation is after 60 days from the date of the first notice, you must serve a new 10-day notice.
You can serve multiple 10-day notices on the same day for different rule violations, and it is generally a better idea to use a separate 10-day notice to address each rule violation rather than a single 10-day notice which lists multiple rule violations.
The general rule is that you cannot accept the rent after you know of a violation of the 10-day notice. For more specific instructions, please contact the office.
Remember, you can count the weekends and court holidays for any 10 day or 20 day notice.
If the tenant owes any charge other than rent, you can give the tenant a 10-day notice to comply with the rental agreement, with compliance being the payment of the amount owing. The most common charges owing are utilities, deposits and fees (security and pet), charges for repairs of damage caused by the tenant.
After an Eviction Notice has been served
The answer depends on what type of notice was served and when the money is tendered and accepted. With a 3-day to pay rent or 10-day to comply for any non-rent charges, if the tenant tenders the full amount within the time period on the notice, you must accept it. A pledge by an outside agency within the time period of the notice for later payment is not a proper tender of funds under the notice and you do not have to accept it. Please note that there may be an exception to this general rule related to pledges if the property is located in Seattle—please contact our office for additional information.
If your lease requires the funds to be paid by money order or certified check, make sure you put that in the notice, but that requirement must be in the lease or rules before it is enforceable in the notice. After the compliance time in the notice has expired, you do not have to accept any payments, even payments in full. If you do accept the money without some kind of stipulation, that acceptance will cancel the eviction and you should let the attorney know as soon as possible.
Do not accept any payments after you have turned the case over to an attorney’s office without first contacting that office to find out what the court costs and attorney fees are at that time, and do not accept any payment without also requiring payment of those fees at that time or you may be prohibited from collecting them later in the tenancy.
With a 20-day notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy, you can accept the rent through the date given on the notice to terminate the tenancy, but any rent money accepted for a rental period beyond the termination date in the notice will invalidate the notice. For example, if the notice terminates the tenancy on July 31st, you can accept July’s rent but not the rent for August.
With any other type of notice (3-day for waste, nuisance, 3-day for drugs, or 3 day to quit), acceptance of rent after service of the notice will waive the notice and you cannot use the notice or the incident that caused the notice to be served as the basis for an eviction.
If you receive money in the night box, or accept it unknowingly, you should return it immediately by personal delivery if possible, and if not, by mail. Do not hold onto the money for any length of time waiting for the tenant to come in and pick it up. Before you return it, make a copy of the check and return it with a letter telling the tenant that you cannot accept the money and that the eviction will continue. If you return the money by mail, post a copy of the check and letter on the tenant’s door as soon as you can, and mail the original—certified mail is best. Always keep a copy of the check and the letter in the tenant’s file.
If the payment is late or missed, and you want to begin an eviction, you will still have to serve a proper notice (3-day for rent or 10-day for all other charges) before you can begin the eviction. If you make a payment arrangement with a tenant after an eviction has been started, inform the attorney before accepting any money and we will prepare and have the tenant sign a stipulation setting out the specifics of the arrangement and the consequences of failing to comply.
The notice is served and the tenant has either 3 or 4 days to comply, depending on how the notice was served. On the 5th day, it is turned over to the attorney for a summons and complaint that will either go out that day or the next day. The summons has a response date which will be 10 days out from the day the summons goes out for service. If the process server is unable to personally serve the summons, additional time must be added for an order for alternative service. See the question relating to inability to serve the summons and complaint for more on this situation.
Once the summons is served, if the tenant does not respond in writing by the response date, we can take a default judgment and obtain a writ of restitution within a couple of days after the response date. If the tenant does respond within the time frame, we must then schedule a show cause hearing that will be approximately 12 to 15 days after we receive the response. Once the writ of restitution is issued by the court, the sheriff will post the writ on the business day after it is issued, and inform the tenant that they have three business days, not counting the day the writ was posted, to vacate. As a practical matter, the physical eviction will take approximately an additional 15-25 days, depending on which county the property is located.
Please note that King County now requires all filing to be done electronically, and attorneys are no longer to present ex parte orders to the Commissioner for signature. This process has added both costs ($31.49 per order) and time (between 2-5 days between filing and receipt of signed orders back from the Court) to the process. This extra time will delay King County Evictions.
A copy of the base lease (in general, the lease addenda are not required), the notice or notices that the eviction is based on, applications of tenancy for all named tenants, and a current ledger.
A copy of the Eviction Intake Form, the notice that the eviction is based on, and a current ledger.
We need the applications for the dates of birth and social security numbers to for the Department of Defense search required prior to any judgment, and for the sheriff’s form required by all counties.
We may request other documents from you later on in the process.
The downside of serving the summons and complaint by posting and mailing is that the statute states that if the tenant is served this way, the landlord is not entitled to a money judgment, but only to the writ of restitution. This does not mean that the court has found that the tenant does not owe the rent, but only that no judgment for the rent, court costs and attorney fees is granted in the eviction. The landlord can and should include all of the rent and eviction fees in the amounts owing by the tenant when the tenant is notified of the charges within 21 days of the tenant’s move out date.
Due to the court opinion limiting alternative service judgments to only a writ of restitution, our office will always call the management and see if you want to try and personally serve the summons and complaint, to allow you to recover a money judgment. It is often the case that the tenant will open his or her door to you the manager whereas he or she will not open it to a process server.
Under this section, once the eviction is filed, an additional court document is sent to the Tenant. If they receive that additional document, in addition to answering the eviction complaint, the Tenant must also do one of 2 things: either to pay the undisputed past due rent into the court registry, and continue to pay the rent as it becomes due, or file a statement sworn under penalty of perjury stating that they either do not owe the rent or that they have a legal or equitable setoff or defense.
If the tenant fails to do either of the above-listed items, the court is required to issue the writ of restitution returning the apartment to the landlord. No show cause hearing is required for the order to issue a writ. The court can set the monetary issues for trial, but must issue the writ. Please note that some courts do not follow this requirement, even though it is set out in the law.
Our office uses this additional document for all non-payment of rent cases that are filed with the court, including with orders to show cause.
If you have any questions about the use and requirements of section 375, please give any attorney at our office a call.
If you believe you have both, you can post a notice of abandonment on the door (see the forms section of this website) and, after 2 or 3 days if the tenant has not contacted you to tell you he or she is still occupying the unit, go into the unit and inspect. Look for fresh food in the refrigerator and toiletries as these are good indications of occupancy. If you determine that the unit is abandoned, you may take it over and change the lock and terminate the tenancy.
The main question in abandonment is what to do with any belongings that the tenant has left in the unit. According to the Landlord Tenant Act, you must first determine the value of the items. Use garage sale value to set a price on each item. If the total value is $250.00 or less, the landlord must store the items for 7 days and then dispose of them or sell them and apply the proceeds of the sale to any amount owing. You cannot sell family photos, personal papers and keepsakes, and those must always be stored for 45 days. If the value of the items is over $250.00, you must store the items for 45 days and then dispose of them or sell them and apply the proceeds as above.
As soon as you determine that the items must be sold, you must send notice to the tenant’s last known address telling the tenant the time, date and location of the sale and that the tenant can reclaim the items prior to the sale by paying to the landlord the reasonable costs of storage and moving. The date of this letter starts the 7 or 45 day storage period running. The landlord cannot keep the items until the tenant has paid any rent, cleaning or repair charges.
If you believe that the unit has been abandoned after a writ of restitution has been issued, you are better off going through the physical eviction rather than taking the unit over as abandoned. The only exception is if no writ of restitution has been issued and if the tenant has notified you that he/she has vacated or you get the keys back.
The reason for continuing with the eviction rather than doing the abandonment is that it is usually quicker, and once the sheriff has indicated where the goods are to be placed during the physical eviction and after you have placed the goods there, your liability for those goods has ended. So long as you hold them after an abandonment, you still may have some liability should the goods get damaged or go missing.
This means that as soon as the landlord or attorney finds out about the bankruptcy, we must stop the eviction immediately and obtain an order from the bankruptcy court granting us relief from the automatic stay to continue the eviction process. Once we have obtained relief from the automatic stay, we must then continue in state court with the eviction.
Under a change in the bankruptcy laws, if the writ of restitution for a residential tenancy has already been granted prior to the filing of the bankruptcy action, the automatic stay will only affect the collection of the judgment, but it will not slow down or stop the physical eviction and the return of the apartment to the landlord. If the eviction is for a business, the automatic stay will also stop the physical eviction date.
The major problem when a tenant files bankruptcy prior to the judgment and writ of restitution is the delay that it will cause. Bankruptcy judges schedule their hearings only twice a month (once a month in Snohomish and Kitsap County). In addition, bankruptcy rules require 24 days prior notice of a hearing to the debtor. Our office can seek permission from the bankruptcy judge to shorten that 24-day time down to about 7 to 10 days, but that it entirely up to the bankruptcy judge.
As a practical matter, if the tenant files bankruptcy, you should plan on a delay of between four to six weeks in the eviction.
Landlords must comply with the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance (Seattle Municipal Code 22.206.160). This section sets out the 16 specific reasons that a landlord must comply with, and state in the notice to terminate, in order to give a month-to-month tenant a notice to terminate or not renew their tenancy. In Seattle, a notice of non-renewal is treated as a notice to terminate tenancy.
Anywhere outside the Seattle City limits, a landlord can increase the monthly rent for a month-to-month tenancy by giving the tenants 30 days written notice of the rent increase. Within the Seattle city limits, a landlord can increase the “housing costs” by up to 10% with a 30-day written notice. An increase in rent of 10% or greater requires a 60-day written notice. Please note that “housing costs” is defined as: “the compensation or fees paid or charged, usually periodically, for the use of any property. land, buildings, or equipment. For purposes of this chapter, housing costs include the basic rent charge and any periodic or monthly fees for other services paid to the landlord by the tenant, but do not include utility charges that are based on usage and that the tenant has agreed in the rental agreement to pay, unless the obligation to pay those charges is itself a change in the terms of the rental agreement.” (SMC 7.24.030)
Landlords within the Seattle city limits are required to give all tenants and prospective tenants a copy of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) tenant information packets with every lease, including all renewal leases. (SMC 7.24.080). A copy of the packet can be found on DPD’s web site in our links section. Have the tenant sign or initial a document acknowledging receipt of the packet with every rental agreement and renewal.
For all tenancies in the City of Seattle, where the tenant’s pay any of the utilities for their unit, landlords are required to give the tenants a copy of the Seattle RUBS ordinance (SMC 7.25) and to comply with all of its requirements, as to any billing addendum and keeping copies of bills and making them available for tenant examination.
Leases which purport to be month-to-month but provide for a penalty to the tenant if the tenant does not remain in the unit for a set period of time are illegal within the Seattle city limits. Penalties include a termination fee or a forfeiture of the security deposit. If a lease has such a provision, the landlord’s liability includes a penalty of $1,000.00, actual damages, double the amount of the penalty in the rental agreement, reasonable attorney fees and costs. (SMC 7.24.060).
Other requirements under Seattle laws are the following:
A requirement that all units be registered under the RRIO program and any units not so registered will delay any eviction from that unit;
A requirement that a landlord accept third party vouchers during the compliance period of an eviction notice if the vouchers: (1) are in writing; (2) are payable within 7 days of the date of the voucher; (3) do not contain any other restrictions on eviction; and (4) pay off the notice in question (either in full or when combined with payment tendered by the tenant;
A prohibition on application of funds clauses in leases;
A prohibition of non-refundable move in fees, including transfer or roommate addition fees;
An opportunity to pay deposits in payments (with the number of payments dependent on the length of lease);
Limits on the amount of deposits, and pet deposits.
This list is not complete– other prohibitions are subject to enactment at any time by the Seattle City Council.
In 2018, the Washington state legislature enacted a new state law known as the Source of Income Law. Under that law, any residential property in Washington cannot refuse to accept any applicant on the grounds that they are a participant in any federal, state, local or non-profit voucher program, including section 8.
Under this law, if the landlord has an income to rent ratio in their screening criteria such as requiring the applicant to make 3x the rent amount, the landlord must deduct the full amount of any voucher from the monthly rent and then apply the rent to income ratio on the balance.
Landlords are prohibited from taking any of the following actions against a participant of any qualifying voucher program:
Refuse to rent to or lease to;
Expel a current tenant (so no more opting out and terminating existing tenants)
Make any distinction, discrimination, or restriction based on source of income in the price, terms, conditions, fees, or privileges, or facilities under the lease
This may prohibit the charging of month to month fees, since such fees are not allowed under Section 8
Attempt to discourage the rental due to source of income
Assist, induce, incite, or coerce another person to violate this law
Coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with any person exercising their rights under this law
Represent that a unit is not available for inspection or rental when it is available
Publish, circulate, display or advertise any communication that indicates a preference based on source of income
Sources of income under that law include:
Benefits or subsidy programs including housing assistance, public assistance, emergency rental assistance, veterans benefits, social security, supplemental security income or other retirement programs, other programs administered by any federal, state, local or non-profit entity.
Can’t limit it to garnishable wages
Can’t limit it to subsidies that continue for the full lease term
Does not include income derived in an illegal manner
The most common reasonable accommodation is for the management to allow a disabled tenant to have a service or companion animal when the management either has a no pet policy, or to allow the animal without payment of the pet fee or deposit.
A reasonable modification is a change to the physical structure of the apartment or community to accommodate a tenant’s physical disability.
The most common reasonable modification is the installation of grab bars.
The reasonable accommodation/modification must be something that will allow the disabled person to enjoy life at the community at the level of a non-disabled tenant. It is very important to distinguish between a reasonable accommodation and a reasonable modification because, in most instances, if the tenant is requesting a reasonable modification, it is the tenant who is generally responsible for the costs of the changes, including purchasing all materials and the costs of installation (and possibly removal at the end of the tenancy).
It is acceptable for the management to request a written request for the accommodation/modification (unless the disability is such that it interfers with the tenant’s ability to put the request in writing) and a written statement from a medical official (doctor, nurse, etc.) that the accommodation is required for that particular tenant.
Refusal to grant a reasonable accommodation or modification, or delays in responding to a request for a reasonable accommodation/modification can lead to a discrimination complaint by the tenant. Responses to the tenant should always be in writing and dated.
Because reasonable accommodations/modifications are so fact particular, it is best to consult your attorney when receiving such a request.
24 hours: where the tenant is deprived of hot or cold water, heat, electricity or where the problem is imminently hazardous to life;
72 hours: where the tenant is deprived of the use of a refrigerator, range or oven or a major plumbing fixture supplied by the landlord;
10 days: all other cases.
Most importantly, these time frames are the time limits by which the landlord must begin to fix the problem, not by which the repairs must be completed. If the repair is delayed due to circumstances beyond the landlord’s control (delay in a contractor’s schedule, ordering a part, etc.), the landlord must complete the repairs as soon as possible.
If the tenant has given the written notice of the problem and the above time passes without the landlord beginning the process of fixing the problem, the tenant may do any of the following, after giving written notice of the election to the landlord:
terminate the rental agreement and move out with no further liability to the tenant for rent;
bring a court action against the landlord for the problem;
pursue other remedies available under this chapter
repair and deduct the costs from the rent (limitations on amount and sometimes estimates are required)
In order for the tenants to take any action with respect to work orders, the statute says that the tenant must be current in their rent and other obligations, including utilities, to exercise these options.
To change a rule or put a new rule in place, send out written notice to all tenants at the same time. Make sure the letter is dated, and a copy of it and any attachment is put into every tenant’s file. The letter can be posted or mailed—it does not need to be both posted and mailed, but at this time, cannot be emailed.
In that letter, or an attachment to the letter, set out all of the terms of the new or amended rule, and tell the tenants that the new rule will go into effect as follows:
Immediately for any new tenants or any current tenant that signs a renewal lease;
As of the first day of the 2nd month following the date of the new rule notice for any tenant that is month to month; (for example, if the notice goes out in October, then the new rule would go into effect on December 1st) Note that if the change is a rent, utility or other monthly charge, then you have to give 60 days’ notice, so the notice should say the first day of the 3rd month instead of the 2nd month. If the change is not rent related, then it can say 2nd month.
As of the last day of any current unexpired lease.
By sending out the notice to all tenants at the same time, it makes it easier on you to track who got the notice and who did not and helps you to explain to tenants why the new rule may only be enforced against some tenants before it is enforced against all tenants.
At the time you send out the notice, you need to either change your current lease or addendum or create a new one that includes the new rule. New tenants and renewals will sign the new documents.