Landlord Attorney Travis Scott Eller

Residential tenants can get a free attorney in many Washington counties. Commercial tenants usually hire a private attorney. Often when an eviction goes wrong for the landlord it is a procedural misstep that an experienced landlord-tenant attorney might have helped the landlord avoid.

Travis Scott Eller is an experienced real property and landlord attorney serving Seattle/King County, Tacoma/Pierce County, Everett/Snohomish County, and Olympia/Thurston County.[1]  He focuses much of  his practice on real property and landlord-tenant law. Mr. Eller handles residential evictions and commercial evictions, post-foreclosure evictions, as well as real property disputes and litigation.  Travis Eller regularly handles a volume of landlord-tenant cases. Mr. Eller gives lectures at landlord-tenant seminars attended by rental property owners, property managers, and other attorneys. Mr. Eller is knowledgeable, experienced, well known by the courts and the sheriff’s civil units.

Landlord attorney Travis Scott Eller often teaches landlord-tenant law to property managers and other attorneys at continuing legal education seminars. Mr. Eller is active in the public speaking educational organization Toastmasters, is a member of the high IQ society MENSA, and has achieved the “Advocate” designation with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

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Recent Changes in Landlord-Tenant Law 

There have been many important changes in landlord-tenant law at the federal, Washington state, and local levels in the past few years.  If you are facing a landlord-tenant dispute you should consult with a landlord-tenant attorney familiar with current landlord-tenant law.

Seattle Source of Income rule.

Seattle  residential landlords must accept all sources of income when screening tenant applicants. Seattle landlord must also allow tenants delinquent in rent to pay late under certain conditions.

Seattle first-in-time rule.

Seattle enacted an ordinance in 2016 that requires landlords of residential properties to accept the first qualified applicant. Landlords are required to track when potential tenant inquires are received. The new law leaves no discretion to the landlord. The ordinance is being challenged in a lawsuit.

Seattle security deposit and move-in fees limitations.

Seattle local law limits security deposits to the first full month’s rent.  Pet deposits are limited to 25% of the fist full month’s rent. Non-refundable fees are limited to a few specified items, and cannot exceed 10% of the first full month’s rent. Seattle residential landlords are required to accept a payment plan for all move-in costs.

Criminal background check rules.

Under federal HUD guidelines issued in 2016, landlords may face fair-housing liability if the landlord imposes a blanket rule regarding screening potential tenants for criminal history. Landlords must now take into account the severity of the criminal activity, how recent the activity was, and the applicants conduct since.

Seattle voter registration information requirement. 

Seattle landlords are now required to give voter registration information to tenants and prospective tenants. Failure to do so allows the tenant to break a lease and/or sue the landlord.

The eviction process

Self-help eviction is illegal in Washington. A landlord may not force a tenant out by changing locks, turning off utilities, or other strong-arm measures. This is true whether or not there was a written lease or rental agreement. The landlord is legally required to  go through the unlawful detainer court process, even if the landlord just wants the property back and does not care about money owed.

Both residential evictions and commercial evictions usually involve an initial eviction notice–such as a notice to pay rent or vacate, notice to comply or vacate, or notice to terminate the tenancy.  These initial eviction notices are not always required–for example, when a lease expires by its terms, or in post-foreclosure evictions. Post-foreclosure evictions, however, have additional requirements. Also, all LLCs and corporations  must be represented by an attorney.

Next the landlord must have a third party serve the tenant with legal pleadings. If the tenant vacates at some point in the process the eviction case ends. If the tenant does not vacate and fails to respond to the complaint the landlord may file a motion for default without notice to the tenant. If the tenant responds to the eviction complaint the landlord must set the case for a hearing and give notice to the tenant. This is true even if the landlord is not trying to collect money owed, and is only focused on getting the tenant out of the rental property. Eventually, if the tenant does not vacate the sheriff will post a writ of restitution on the property giving the tenant a deadline to vacate. If the tenant still fails to vacate, the sheriff will ultimately physically evict the tenant.

In Seattle, a landlord in a residential eviction must also comply with the just cause eviction ordinance.

The commercial eviction process and the residential eviction process are similar, but not identical. In residential evictions in many Washington counties the tenant can have a free attorney.  Free attorneys are available in King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, and Thurston County for tenants in residential evictions. Many of the same procedural defenses–such as the time and manner of service of eviction notices, for example–apply both in residential and commercial evictions. Some defenses that might apply in a residential eviction case–such as habitability–would not apply in a commercial eviction.

Procedural missteps can cause delay in the eviction process, or even cause the landlord to have to start the eviction over. Residential tenants in many Washington counties have a free attorney who will review the case for procedural errors and substantive tenant defenses.  Commercial tenants often retain private counsel.

Retaining an attorney with the knowledge and experience to guide your case through the eviction process can save time and money.


[1] Our rates are the same for all three counties. The sheriff fees varies from county to county.