The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act in Washington defines the rights of landlords and tenants and establishes the steps a landlord must take to evict a renter from a property legally. You may present your case at an eviction hearing if you wish to mount a defense.
A landlord must provide advance notice to the tenant before filing eviction paperwork with the court. The landlord typically posts the notice on the front door of the unit for one of the following three types of lease violations:
- Failure to pay rent
- Non-compliance with a non-monetary lease provision
- Refusal to move after lease termination
This document states the time you have to rectify the breach of the lease before the landlord files eviction papers with the court. For example, if you are late paying the rent, you have 14 days to pay or move out.
An eviction costs a landlord money, so reach out to them to try and reach a compromise that allows you to continue living in the home. Stay calm and realize that they are acting within their legal rights.
If the situation becomes contentious, know your rights. It is illegal for the landlord to change the door locks, shut off the utilities or otherwise make the home uninhabitable for you. You can obtain free legal counsel if you qualify as a low-income tenant.
If you have not vacated the residence within the allotted timeframe, the landlord may file a complaint, and the court will serve you a summons, which may contain the date and time of the eviction hearing. You can respond in one of the following ways:
- Do nothing and wait for the court to make a ruling.
- File a Notice of Appearance that you want to be kept informed.
- File a response to the landlord’s charges.
If the landlord wins the case, you can pay what you owe and avoid the eviction, or you may file a Motion to Stay Enforcement of the Writ of Restitution and for Payment Plan. If the judge approves, you can stay in the property and make agreed-upon rental payments. If you win the case, follow up by filing an Order for Limited Dissemination. This order prevents future landlords from seeing the eviction lawsuit in your credit history.
If you plan to mount a defense or counterclaim to the landlord’s allegations, ensure you act within the required deadlines.