How to Evict a Tenant in Washington State

By Teo Spengler - Updated March 30, 2017

Evicting a tenant in Washington state begins with a notice terminating the tenancy. Once the time period in the notice has passed, the landlord brings an action for unlawful detainer and, if he wins, can evict a tenant.

Notice to Quit

Washington state law provides for various types of notices to quit. Which to use depends on whether you are evicting someone for cause, and, if so, what that cause is.

If you evict your tenants because they didn't pay rent, use the three-day notice to pay rent or quit. If, during the three day period, the tenants pony up the rent, they can stay on the premises. Otherwise, the landlord can file a complaint for unlawful detainer the day after the notice expires.

If the tenants damage the unit or cause a nuisance, you can give them an unconditional three-day notice.

When tenants violate the terms of the lease or rental agreement, you serve them with a 10-day notice to cure or quit. With this notice, the tenant can remedy the problem within 10 days and stay in the unit, or move out. If the tenant does neither, you can bring an eviction lawsuit at the end of the period.

If your tenants haven't violated the lease or missed rent, you can evict them without cause in Washington if their tenancy is month-to-month. If they have a lease, you cannot force them to leave early without cause. Terminate a month-to-month tenancy with a 20-day notice. Note that a "no cause" eviction does not apply in Seattle, as the city incorporates additional protections and different procedures for tenants than are enforced at the state level.

Unlawful Detainer Complaint and Hearing

If the time on the notice to quit has passed, and the conditions – if any – have not been fulfilled, it is time to file a complaint for unlawful detainer. You must also prepare a Notice or Order to Show Cause, and can file and give it to the tenant at the same time as the complaint. You have to arrange for a third party to hand the tenants copies of the legal documents. They have a limited period of time (generally seven to 10 days) to file a response.

If they file a response and challenge the eviction, the court holds a "show cause" hearing" to hear evidence from all parties before making a final decision.

Eviction

If the Washington court rules in your favor, you have the right to evict the tenants. Even at that time, you cannot attempt to remove your tenants yourself.

Instead, obtain a writ of restitution from the court, then provide it to the sheriff's department. The sheriff serves it on the tenants, usually by posting it on the unit door. The notice has the sheriff’s name and phone number, so that the tenants can let him know when they plan to be out of the unit. The sheriff can enforce the writ three days (72 hours) after it has been served.

About the Author

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.

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