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Before using this information, please read:
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.
In the event that a tenant abandons a unit, Washington State landlord-tenant law defines abandonment and lays out specific obligations for the landlord to follow in regards to the tenant’s property. RCW 59.18.310 defines abandonment as when a tenant stops paying rent and reasonably indicates to the landlord, through word or actions, that they no longer intend to continue renting the unit.
The landlord may claim abandonment if the tenant leaves for some period of time and does not pay rent. The landlord can then enter the unit and remove the tenant’s belongings, but they must hold them in storage and make an attempt to notify the tenant in writing. If the property is valued at less than $250, the landlord may throw away or sell the items (except personal papers, family pictures, and keepsakes) after 7 days from the notice of sale or disposal is mailed to the tenant. If the property is valued at above $250, the landlord may throw away or sell all the items after forty five days if the tenant doesn’t write to claim them. The landlord can use the money to cover the costs of hauling and storing the property, and towards any debt the tenant owes them, including back rent money.
Any money left over must be held for the tenant for one year, after that time it becomes the landlord’s money. If the tenant claims the items, it must be in writing and they must pay the cost of hauling and storing the property before they can get the property back. This is a very attractive law for a landlord that does not want to go to court to evict. It can be abused as a self-help remedy for a landlord. Do not engage in behavior that gives the landlord an opportunity to claim abandonment.