Washington Laws on Tenant Eviction Due to Non-Payment of Rent

By Tiffany Garden
Washington State rules for nonpayment evictions are straightforward.
Washington Park, Washington image by Elizabeth Brown from Fotolia.com

A common problem that landlords face is when a tenant stops paying rent, or gets far behind on rent payments. Rent nonpayment can cause cash flow issues for landlords. The landlord must take the time to follow the legal procedure of eviction to recover possession of the property and get a judgment for back rent. Washington requires landlords to follow a very specific process to get an eviction order, and it prohibits a landlord from throwing a tenant out or causing him to leave by making the rental unit uninhabitable. The laws governing eviction in the state of Washington are established state statutes under the Landlord and Tenant Act.


The first requirement of an eviction in Washington is for a written notice to be served to the tenant. The notice requires a few pieces of information: the lease termination date, the name and address of tenant and landlord, the reason for termination and, if applicable, a method that can fix the problem.

Washington notice periods vary for lease termination reasons. A three-day notice is used when a tenant is late on rent. This is a three-day notice to pay the back rent or leave the premises. In many cases, a landlord and tenant reach an agreement about a method to catch up on rent.


The landlord files a civil lawsuit if the tenant has not left and has not fixed the problem before the notice period finishes. The landlord files the eviction complaint and a summons form. Washington requires a third party or private process server to deliver the summons to the tenant.

Washington has three different types of service it considers legally valid. First is hand delivery of the summons. The second is substitute service, where a summons is delivered to someone old enough to understand what the document is. Washington does not have a clear-cut age requirement for a person receiving substitute service. The last option is posting the summons on the property. Posting and substitute service also require that a copy of the summons is mailed to the tenant.

If the summons is disregarded by the tenant, the landlord is awarded default judgment. If the tenant files an answer with the court, the eviction case proceeds to a hearing. The landlord and tenant argue their case, and the judge makes a decision in the matter. In nonpayment cases, the court usually rules in favor of the landlord.


After the landlord is awarded the eviction order, she files a Writ of Possession with the sheriff. The sheriff is the only authorized party allowed to remove a tenant and his possessions out of the property when the Writ is executed. At this point, the landlord regains legal possession of her rental unit. If the tenant attempts to re-enter, he is considered a trespasser.