Eviction – Frequently Asked Questions
I am being evicted. What does this mean?
A landlord can evict a leaseholder when the leaseholder acts wrongfully in some way. A leaseholder is whoever is listed on the lease. The wrongful acts that can get you evicted are based on Washington State Law. Washington State Law is often referred to as a statute.
When your landlord evicts you, it means that you have a specific amount of time before you must leave the place that you are renting. This period of time is referred to as a notice period. You will receive a document from your landlord when they are evicting you. This document is called an eviction notice.
I have been told I am in an unlawful detainer. What does that mean?
A tenant is in an unlawful detainer after three things have occurred. First, the tenant has acted wrongfully in some way. The wrongful act is determined by Washington State Law. Second, the landlord has provided the tenant the proper documents (the eviction notice) in a legally acceptable manner. That process is called proper service, and there are legal requirements about how this process is done. Third, the tenant has failed to either fix the issue or move out. Depending on the problem, the tenant can resolve the issue that caused them to be evicted. The landlord will outline how to fix the issue in the eviction document they provide. However, other issues cannot be resolved, and the tenant must move out of the place they are renting by the date listed on the eviction document. If these three things occur, the tenant is in an unlawful detainer.
My landlord told me I need to leave before my lease is up. How do I know if my landlord informed me of this correctly?
Your landlord will provide you with a paper that will say that you need to leave and why you need to leave. This paper is called an eviction notice. There are legal requirements about how the eviction document needs to be given to you, the tenant. This process is referred to as proper service. There are three ways that your landlord can legally provide you with the eviction document.
The first preferred method is by providing you with the eviction document physically, in person. This method is called personal service. Personal service is when your landlord hands you, the person the lease is under, the document at the rental property. If your landlord can complete this, then they gave you the notice legally.
The second method occurs when your landlord cannot locate you at the rental property. In that case, your landlord can hand the notice to someone of a suitable age at the rental property. There is not a strict definition for a suitable age. The main idea is that the person who is handed the document can understand its important nature. Your landlord must follow this up by mailing the notice to the address that you, the leaseholder, resides. Both of those things must be done for the document to be legally given to you.
If your landlord cannot complete the first option and if one of the two items in option two cannot be completed, your landlord has one final way of delivering the eviction document. The third and final way is to post the document to a prominent place at the rental property. For example, this can be on your front door. If this method happens, take a picture of the document where you found it. Next, they must hand a copy of the eviction document to any person of any age residing at the rental property. Finally, they must mail a copy of the document to you, the tenant, at the rental address. Your landlord must complete all three of those steps to have legally provided you the eviction document.
I was appropriately given an eviction notice. How do I know if the notice itself is legally correct?
When your landlord gives you the eviction document, the law requires them to write specific things in the notice. There is an essential list of what is required on a notice. The document will always need to be dated with the date the landlord provides you with the notice. It will also need to have the date you are required to move out of the rental property. The address, location, and any other identifiers of the rental property you are being asked to leave will also need to be included in this document. Also, your landlord must give a specific reason why they are evicting you. However, these reasons must be state law-approved reasons. For example, if you did not pay rent, this is an appropriate reason your landlord can evict you. However, sometimes even if a landlord gives a reason, the landlord also allows the tenant to eliminate that reason and then stay. This option is called “curing.” For example, if you pay the amount of missed rent, this will fix the issue, and you will be allowed to stay. But your landlord must be really clear about the reason they are evicting you and whether you have the opportunity to correct the problem. If you cannot correct the problem, your landlord must specify when you must leave the property. Finally, your landlord must have signed the document for it to be considered legally acceptable.
What are the reasons I can be asked to leave, and how long do I have until I must go?
There are many reasons a landlord can evict a tenant. We will go over a list of reasons and the notice period for each reason.
First, if you have a specific end date and you remain at the rental property after this date has passed. Your landlord can ask you to leave immediately, which is referred to as having no notice period. Another reason is if you have not paid your rent. Your landlord can ask you to leave within 14 days. Similarly, if you break a rule in your lease that is not the paying rent rule, your landlord can ask you to leave within ten days. This reason is usually referred to as breaching your lease. An example of this would be owning a pet when your lease says you cannot have pets.
There are a handful of reasons that your landlord can evict you with only a three-day notice period. One reason is allowing waste. Waste is not clearly defined, but it would include things like not keeping your rental property clean or even not paying taxes (if taxes are a requirement for your rental.) Another reason is if you are conducting an illegal business at your rental property. Further, if you are acting in a way that threatens, endangers, or harms others. This is often referred to as being a nuisance. In addition, your landlord can ask you to leave with only three days’ notice if you are participating in gang-related activity. Finally, a property owner can ask someone to leave with three days’ notice if someone enters a property with no lease in place and without permission. This reason is called being a trespasser.
I am being evicted. Can I fix the issue so that I do not have to leave?
There are two types of evictions. With one type, you have the option to correct the issue. This type is often referred to as “curable.” With the second type of eviction, it cannot be corrected, and you will be required to move out of the rental by the date provided by your landlord. This type is often referred to as “non-curable.”
There are only two categories of evictions that you can fix. First, if you are asked to leave for not paying your rent, this can be fixed. You have the 14-day notice period to either pay the rent in full or leave the rental property. You can try to pay a partial amount, but your landlord is not required to accept it. If you pay the total amount within the 14-days, your landlord is required to accept the payment. Once your landlord accepts the payment, the issue is considered fixed, and you will not have to leave.
*If you need rental assistance and live in King County – please reach out to the Housing Justice Project.
Second, if you are evicted for breaking a rule in your lease that is other than not paying rent, this can also be fixed. Your landlord may refer to this a breaching your lease. The notice that your landlord gives you will clearly state how you can fix the issue. For example, if you own a dog and your lease says that no dogs are allowed, the notice will tell you that you will not have to leave if you remove the dog from your rental residence. If, within ten-days, you correct the problem that caused you to break the rule(s) of your lease, then it is considered fixed, and you should no longer have to leave the rental property. These are the only two types of eviction reasons that can be fixed. If you are evicted for a different reason than the two above, your eviction is considered final.