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To read the specific laws in the WA State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, click on the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) links throughout the Tenant Services website.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.
Do I have to move out within three days if my landlord serves me a 3-day pay or vacate notice?
No, though some tenants may choose to vacate during the 3-day timeframe. Your landlord cannot evict you from your unit without going through a court process. It is illegal for your landlord to lock you out of your unit, remove your belongings or shut off your utilities, even if you are behind in rent. Eviction in Washington State is called “unlawful detainer.” The unlawful detainer process generally takes about 2-3 weeks from start to finish. Some tenants choose to leave within the 3-day timeline because vacating may allow them to avoid the eviction lawsuit. The landlord may still be able to file a lawsuit against them or send them to collections in an attempt to recover money they owe.
The 3-day notice does give the tenants the option to vacate within the three day timeframe. Vacating within the three day timeframe is the only way, besides paying the amount stated in the notice, to best guarantee that the landlord will not file the eviction lawsuit against you. Once the lawsuit is filed, the eviction will be permanently listed on your record, and could be used against you in the future by prospective landlords. The eviction lawsuit will remain on your record even if your landlord has evicted you illegally, or you win in eviction court. If you do decide to vacate the unit within three days, it is a good idea to document that you have vacated in writing to your landlord.
Sometimes tenants facing an eviction for non-payment of rent that they know they will not be able to stop will decide to move out within the three days in order to avoid having the eviction on their record. In this case, the landlord can still collect the rent and late fees, but cannot proceed with the eviction process. Speak to an attorney regarding your situation and possible options for responding to the threat of eviction. For legal resources, see “Legal Assistance Guide”;/rights/section/legal-assistance-guide.
What is “unlawful detainer”?
Unlawful detainer is defined in Washington State law in RCW 59.12.030. Eviction is an unlawful detainer action to remove a tenant from a property who stays in the unit past their legal right to.
How long does it take to evict a tenant in Washington State?
Generally around three weeks (from the time rent is due until the time the sheriff will come out and enforce the writ), though the timeframe can vary greatly depending upon the circumstances. See Eviction Timeline for a sample eviction process.
How must my landlord serve me a 3- or 10-day notice?
According to RCW 59.12.040, the eviction notice must be given to the tenant personally. The landlord may also leave it with another person of suitable age and discretion within the household, or post it on the door, provided it is also sent in the mail. Your landlord may personally deliver the notice to you. It does not have to be delivered by the sheriff or notarized in order to be valid.
Does the law entitle me to a certain number of days grace period after the day my rent is due?
No. However, most rental agreements indicate a due date for the rent, usually the first of the month, and some indicate a grace period before the rent is to be considered late, usually three to five days later. The landlord-tenant act in Washington State does not specifically entitle tenants to a grace period of any kind.
If the last day from a termination notice (10-day, 3-day, etc) falls on a holiday or weekend, is it counted in the notice period?
If the last day lands on a holiday then you do not count it and instead it falls on the next day. However, weekends are counted like any other day. Make sure it is a holiday recognized by the court (not “Boxing Day.”)
Are there any resources to help me move?
It can be very difficult to find assistance moving into and out of rental units. Few agencies offer this type of assistance. Call “Washington State 2-1-1’:http://www.resourcehouse.com/win211/ at 206-461-3200 or 800-621-4636 or 2-1-1 from a landline to see if there is any help in your area.
Can I negotiate with the landlord to stop an eviction?
Tenants can negotiate directly with their landlord to stop the eviction at any point, though it is generally more productive for tenants the earlier in the process it happens. It is very important that any agreement you come to with your landlord must be in writing, signed and dated by both parties.
Can I withhold rent because the landlord owes me money or hasn’t made necessary repairs?
The law does not allow tenants to withhold rent money in order to gain compensation from the landlord for unmade repairs or other complaints. Not paying your rent in full on the due date will leave you vulnerable to eviction, and once the eviction goes onto your record, it will stay there permanently and can be used against you in the future, even if you end up winning in court. Unmade repairs may factor in to your defenses against an eviction lawsuit, but may not be enough to stop the eviction entirely and does not justify withholding rent without the landlord’s consent except in certain circumstances. If your landlord does agree to reduce rent for any reason, be sure to get written documentation of the agreement that is signed and dated by both you and the landlord.
Can late fees be charged on a 3-day notice?
If late fees are authorized in the lease agreement, then typically they will be included on a 3-day notice.
What if my LL refuses to accept my rent within the 3 days?
Get as thorough documentation as possible to establish that you attempted to pay rent in full within the three day timeframe. Keeping documentation of all your rent payments is crucial to protect yourself against wrongful eviction. Pay your rent by personal check whenever possible. If you can’t pay by personal check, you can use a money order. You can try and prove the amount paid by photocopying the money order after you fill it out but before you separate it from the stub. Your landlord should provide you with a receipt. You can also ask a third party witness to come with you who can attest that the rent was delivered and received.
What can I do if my landlord locks me out of the unit?
RCW 59.18.290 states that lock outs are illegal. Landlords cannot restrict tenants from access to the unit by changing the locks, even if the tenant is in the midst of an unlawful detainer lawsuit or has a writ of restitution issued against them. If illegally locked out, the tenant has a right to regain access to the unit, but must pay for the cost of any damages they do to the unit in order to regain access. Tenants who are being illegally removed from a property can call the police.