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.
1) Give your landlord at least 20 days written notice.
The law requires that month-to-month tenants give landlords at least 20 days written notice before vacating their units. If you are unsure about what kind of rental agreement you have, see more details in Rental Agreements. The landlord must receive written notice of your move-out date 20 days before the end of the rental period. For example, if your rent is due on the first of the month, and you plan to vacate by 30th, then the landlord must receive your written notice by the 10th of the month. Be sure to get proof that you sent your notice to vacate by sending it certified mail and regular first class mail and keeping a copy for your records. If you do not give your landlord proper 20 days written notice, or if you stay longer than the date you gave notice for, your landlord can charge you for the following month’s rent.
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.
A termination of tenancy is different than an eviction. A termination is the landlord ending the rental agreement and asking the tenant to vacate the rental unit. A tenant can have their tenancy terminated and move out without being evicted. An eviction is the actual court process and lawsuit to have a tenant removed from the property if they fail to leave.
Month-to-month tenants must be given written notice of at least 20 days before the end of the rental period that their landlord is terminating their tenancy. 20-day notices are also sometimes called “no cause” notices. In most cities in Washington, the landlord does not have to give a reason why they are asking the tenant to leave, and currently no extensions exist in Washington state law. If a tenant who has received a 20-day notice to vacate does not vacate within the 20-day period, they become a “holdover” tenant, and the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against them.
The exception to this general rule is the Just Cause Eviction Protection in the City of Seattle that requires landlords to state a ‘just cause’ for the eviction or termination of tenancy for month-to-month tenants.In order to promote housing stability, the Tenants Union would like to see that all Washington State tenants have just cause protection against eviction.