What is an eviction?
An eviction is a legal proceeding where a landlord seeks a court order which terminates a tenancy, dispossesses a tenant from rented premises, and awards judgment for costs of suit and for reasonable attorneys fees.
Reasons for evictions include failing to pay rent, failing to comply with a written term of a rental agreement such as unauthorized persons residing in the dwelling, maintaining a nuisance or committing waste. Outside Seattle city limits, a month-to-month tenancy may be terminated on twenty days written notice for no stated cause. Inside Seattle city limits, there must be "just cause." Cause is defined in the Seattle Just Cause Ordinance.
What is the process to evict a tenant?
The process is stated in the Revised Code of Washington, chapters 59.12 and 59.18. The landlord must comply with the procedures contained therein exactly. Otherwise, the case is dismissed and the landlord must start over. Briefly, the procedures are as follows:
A notice in writing must be served upon the tenant. Once the time period has elapsed and the tenant has failed to comply with the notice, an eviction summons and complaint (aka pleadings) are prepared. The pleadings are served upon the tenant.
If the tenant fails to respond in writing to the summons by a date certain, the case is filed. An order is presented to a court commissioner. The order terminates the tenancy, awards judgment to the landlord, commands the clerk of the court to issue a writ of restitution, and commands the sheriff to serve the writ and dispossess the tenant. On the day following receipt of the writ, the sheriff will post the writ upon the tenant's door. The writ informs the tenant that he/she shall be dispossessed without notice as early as three court days after service of the writ.
If the tenant responds in writing, the case is filed and a court commissioner sets a court date chosen by for the tenant to appear and show cause why he/she should not be evicted. The order is usually served upon the tenant by mail. The show cause hearing usually occurs between ten and fifteen days after the order is obtained. Should the commissioner or judge agree at the hearing that there is proper basis to evict the tenant, judgment and writ are entered against the tenant as stated in the preceeding paragraph. If no basis is found for eviction, the court commissioner shall dismiss the case and may award judgment for reasonable attorneys fees and costs against the landlord. If there is a "substantial issue of fact," the case is set for trial.
Trials occur within 30 or 60 days. After a trial, a judge will either find for the landlord or the tenant and the appropriate order will be entered. Pending trial, a commissioner usually orders the tenant to post bond for the rent due and as it becomes due into the registry of the court. Most bond orders allow the landlord to obtain judgment and writ if the tenant fails to post bond as ordered by the commissioner.
A small percentage of cases heard at show cause hearings are set for trial. An even smaller percentage of the cases set for trial actually are tried. Why? Tenant's failure to post bond and settlement between the parties are the primary reasons.
How long before the tenant is evicted?
That depends upon what the tenant does. The optimum minimum time, from date of service of the Summons/Complaint to physical eviction with assistance of the King County Sheriff, is two weeks. The usual time is three to four weeks. Factors which move the time beyond the optimum time are: difficulty of personal service of the tenant; the day of the week when the tenant is served (weekday, weekend, holiday); whether the tenant defends the case; and the availability of the sheriff to name a few of the reasons.
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This page last edited 2 August 2000.