Overview of Stages

At Puckett & Redford, we offer a full line of services for residential and commercial landlords and property management companies. We represent landlords in evictions, discrimination actions, and provide defense for landlords who have been sued by present or former tenants.

Landlord representation makes up 100% of our practice, so we are able to provide our clients with the specialized knowledge that comes from practicing exclusively in this area of law.

In processing residential and commercial evictions, our office follows a very detailed procedure for ensuring that the evictions are closely monitored to ensure the most favorable outcome for our clients. For the most part, our billing does not follow the typical hourly rate, but is a flat-fee billing, depending on the required steps for a successful eviction.

We have attorneys and paralegals with many years of experience in handling residential and commercial evictions in a timely and cost efficient manner. We utilize the latest in modern technology to minimize costs and allow us to accurately track the many evictions that we are handling at any time. We handle most evictions in stages and only charge for the amount of work that may be necessary to resolve the problem.

At any time in the process, our clients can call the office with general or specific questions, or for the status of the eviction process. We do not bill clients for phone calls or general questions.

Preparation and Service of Summons and Complaint

After reviewing the notice that the landlord has served, we prepare a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer and arrange with a process server for service of the documents on the tenant.

We give our process servers 5 days to get the tenant served with the summons and complaint.

Monitoring the Process

The process servers that we use report to us daily about the services they have completed. During this period we also monitor whether we have received the Declaration of Service and the Sheriff’s Mandatory Data form from the landlord. The Declaration is signed by the landlord indicating when and how the notice was served on the tenant. We must have these documents before we can continue further with the eviction process.

If the process servers are not able to serve the eviction papers to the tenant, we confer with the landlord about alternative methods of service. We will offer the representative of the landlord an opportunity to try to serve the papers, if they wish to. If this is not feasible we obtain a court order authorizing us to serve the eviction papers by posting and mailing. This is known as alternative service. Please see the FAQ section as to the pros and cons of an alternative service.

Once the tenant is served, if we do not receive a response from the tenant by the response date listed on the summons, and the tenant has not vacated or paid, we proceed with a default judgment.

If we receive a response from the defendant after they are served, we confer with the landlord about a possible payment plan/stipulation or scheduling a Show Cause Hearing.

Alternative Service

If our process server is not able to personally deliver the eviction papers to the tenant after trying, we will consult with the landlord about using an alternative method of serving the papers to the tenant. Sometimes we suggest that a representative of the landlord try to serve the papers in the hope that the tenant will open the door for someone from the management. If this is not possible, we can file the lawsuit with the court and obtain a court order which permits the papers to be served on the tenant by mailing the documents by regular and certified mail along with posting a copy of the papers at the property. The papers must be posted and mailed before the response date.

If the papers are served by the post and mail method, the landlord is not entitled to a money judgment, unless the tenant files a counterclaim or takes other action that subjects them to the jurisdiction of the court in the eviction action. All that the landlord will receive is the order for the writ of restitution for the removal of the tenant from the rental unit.

The tenant still owes the rent and any attorney fees and court costs but the statute which authorizes posting and mailing provides that no money judgment for rent may be entered against the tenant unless the tenant is personally served with the lawsuit papers.

Please note that, due to the electronic filing and presentation required in King & Pierce County, there may be a delay in the process of a few days to get the order authorizing the alternative service.

Default Judgment

If the tenant does not send us a written response by the response date listed in the Summons, we can proceed to prepare a Default Judgment. After we determine that we have received all the paperwork we need from the landlord, we file the lawsuit with the court and present all the necessary papers to a judge or court commissioner. The judge or commissioner signs the Default Judgment which gives the landlord a money judgment against the tenant (except after alternative service), authorizes the landlord to recover court costs and attorney’s fees and provides for the issuance of the Writ of Restitution.

Please note that, due to the electronic filing and presentation required in King County, there may be a delay in the process of a few days to get the Default Judgment.

If the eviction is a commercial eviction, the sheriff’s office will also require an indemnity bond before they will accept the writ of restitution for posting. Our office can and usually does arrange for those bonds. If you have your own bonding company that you usually work with, please let us know and we can provide the information for the bond.

Stipulated Payment Plan (Stipulation)

If we receive a response from the tenant that indicates the tenant wants to make a payment plan with the landlord to preserve the tenancy, we confer with the landlord about this option. If the tenant’s proposal is reasonable and feasible and the landlord approves, we prepare a document (Stipulation) that sets forth the payment provisions and allows the landlord to accept partial payments without jeopardizing his ability to continue with the eviction if the tenant defaults. We usually fax the Stipulation to the landlord and ask him to obtain the tenant’s signature. The payments will then be made directly to the landlord generally only by guaranteed funds.

The Stipulation provides that the landlord may continue with the eviction process without further notice to the tenant if the tenant fails to make any of the payments called for in the agreement. The landlord is not required to serve a new notice and the landlord can keep any money that the tenant has paid.

Once a stipulation is signed, our office does not monitor the payments by the tenants but asks that the landlord do so, as they are receiving the actual payments. If a payment is not timely made, our clients can call or email our office with the information on the missed payment, and we will then prepare a judgment for the outstanding balance and for the writ of restitution.

Please note that, with a stipulation, the landlord is entitled to a money judgment even if the tenant was originally served by alternative service.

The costs of the stipulation are included in the payments that the tenant is required to make to comply with the terms of the stipulation.

Show Cause Hearing

Sometimes we receive a written response from the tenant and we are not able to negotiate a feasible stipulated payment plan. In these cases, we review the response with the landlord to determine whether it is advisable to schedule a court hearing for eviction (Show Cause Hearing). We analyze the contents of the response to determine whether it is likely that the landlord will prevail at such a hearing. This may include review of maintenance logs or records of payments. We will also interview potential witnesses who may be helpful in providing evidence that will support the landlord’s claims.

If we conclude that the landlord is likely to prevail, we file the lawsuit with the court and schedule the Show Cause Hearing. If we conclude that the landlord is not likely to prevail, we consult with the landlord about other options that may be available to deal with the issues involved. These options might include serving a new notice or further negotiations with the tenant.

Before the Show Cause Hearing we review the facts and testimony with the landlord and prepare the necessary court papers. On the day of the hearing, we present the landlord’s case to the judge or court commissioner, cross examine the tenant and make all the arguments that are available to obtain best possible result for the landlord.

We require a representative of the landlord to be at the show cause hearing, even if their testimony is not required by the Court. Too often, if the manager is not present, the tenant can simply tell the Court that they have settled the matter with the landlord and, without a member of the management to confirm or testify against that, the Court may simply dismiss the action.

We believe that it is very important to fully analyze the landlord’s case before filing the lawsuit and scheduling the Show Cause Hearing. Because we operate in this manner, we are able to obtain a favorable result for the landlord at the hearing at least 95% of the time.

At the show cause hearing, the Court can do one of three things: first, the Court can find for the landlord and enter a judgment/order for a writ of restitution against the tenant; second, the Court can find for the tenant and dismiss the lawsuit; or third, the Court can set the matter for an expedited trial. The Court can set an eviction for trial if it finds that there are material issues of fact to be determined. An eviction trial is supposed to occur within 30 days of the date of the order setting the matter for trial. If the case is set for trial, we will ask the Court to, as a condition for going to trial, require the tenant to pay the outstanding rent or other charges into the court registry through the trial date. Our office will then work with the landlord to either find an agreeable settlement to with the tenant or prepare for trial.

Trial work is done at an hourly rate instead of a flat fee.

Coordinate Physical Eviction with Sheriff

We can obtain a court order for eviction through a Default Judgment, a Judgment if the tenant does not comply with the stipulated payment plan, or after a Show Cause Hearing. After a judge or court commissioner signs the Court order for eviction, we take the order to the clerk of the court who issues the Writ of Restitution. We then take the Writ to the Sheriff’s office and pay the appropriate fee for delivery of the Writ to the tenant. We must also provide the Sheriff with a key or code if the property is “limited access” and the bond for a commercial eviction.

The Sheriff usually delivers the Writ to the tenant on the next business day after receiving it. If the tenant does not voluntarily vacate – in our experience many do – we coordinate with the Sheriff to obtain a date for the physical eviction. This date will vary after the Writ is delivered to the Sheriff. We suggest that the landlord closely monitor the property after the Writ is delivered to the Sheriff. Most tenants will vacate without advising the landlord. The landlord does have a limited right to enter the property after a Writ has been issued in order to determine whether the tenant has vacated.

If you find that the tenant has vacated, please notify the office and we will cancel the physical eviction with the sheriff.

If there is a physical eviction, the sheriff is there to keep the peace, not to do the actual moving of the property. The deputy will point out a place for the personal property to be placed when removed from the property and will give the landlord approximately 1 hour to complete the move. Make sure that there are sufficient people to completely empty the unit in 1 hour, and to change the locks, if necessary.

At the time that we deliver the writ of restitution to the sheriff, we are also required, in the case of a residential eviction, to deliver the notices to the tenant to request the storage of property. If you receive such a form back from a tenant, please notify our office immediately so that we may guide you through the process and coordinate with the Sheriff.