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Termination of Tenancy

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.

Tenants on term leases for specific time periods are expected to vacate the unit at the end of the lease, unless the tenancy is explicitly extended in the lease or in written agreement with the landlord (RCW 59.18.220). If the lease does not go month-to-month automatically or is otherwise extended the landlord does not need to give notice for you to move out at the end of the lease term, even under the Just Cause ordinance.

Landlords cannot terminate tenancies for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory. Retaliation is illegal in Washington State (RCW.59.240, RCW 59.18.250), as is discrimination on the basis of any protected class status, such as race, gender or disability. However, it can still be extremely difficult to win a retaliation or discrimination claim, and still may not be enough to stop an eviction lawsuit from proceeding. Be sure to get as much written documentation as possible. Discrimination laws are governed by fair housing laws in your area. For more information, talk to your local civil rights office. See Fair Housing Resources for more information.

For information about your rights in an eviction process, see Eviction.

Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.