Step 1 in the Eviction Process for Landlords in Clark County, Washington
The eviction process can be confusing for an inexperienced landlord. Even experienced landlords can make mistakes. This series of articles will give a basic overview of the eviction process, from start to finish.
The quickest way to evict a tenant is to utilize the “unlawful detainer” action. The unlawful detainer action is a summary lawsuit designed to quickly and efficiently return the possession of real property to a landlord if a tenant is found guilty of an unlawful detainer. Because unlawful detainers move quickly, landlords are expected to follow the law to exacting standards.
Before an unlawful detainer action is filed, the first step is to prepare and serve the proper pre-unlawful detainer notice on the tenant. All pre-unlawful detainer notices are governed by RCW 59.12 (the unlawful detainer statute) and RCW 59.20 (Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act) and need to be properly worded and served. However, landlords should be careful to review their leases or rental agreements prior to the service of the notice. Sometimes leases or rental agreements have different timelines landlords must follow than what is set forth in RCW 59.12 or RCW 59.20.
For example, if a tenant is delinquent in the payment of rent, under RCW 59.12, the landlord must serve a notice notifying the tenant that she or he has three days to pay the rent owed or vacate the premises. However, the landlord’s rental agreement with the tenant might give the tenant 6 days to pay rent or vacate. In that case, the rental agreement would control. Regardless of the amount of time the tenant is required to receive, the notice should be specific and clear in the amount of rent owed. If there are any late charges that are due, those should be itemized separately from the rent owed. The notice must then be personally served, or in the alternative, left with a person of suitable age and discretion and also sent via first class mail, or if there is no person of suitable age and discretion, then by posting it on a conspicuous place on the premises and also sending it via first class mail. In the event personal service cannot be made, and either delivering the notice and mailing, or posting and mailing is necessary, the tenant will get one extra day to comply with the notice. So, if the notice gives the tenant 3 days to pay rent or vacate, then the tenant will get 4 days.
It is important to get an affidavit of service and an affidavit of mailing from the person who serves/mails the notice. This is proof that the notice was served in compliance with the law.
Although the non-payment of rent is the primary reason for evicting tenants, there are also other reasons to evict. These include: failing to vacate after a rental term has expired; for violating another provision of the rental agreement (e.g., an unauthorized occupant, smoking in the house, or some other violation of the rental agreement other than the agreement to pay rent); committing waste on the premises; being unauthorized to be on the premises (a “squatter”); or for committing any gang related activity.
In the next article, we will discuss filing the unlawful detainer action in Clark County, WA and what a landlord needs to know about all the documents that are required to be filed and served.