Landlord Attorney Travis Scott Eller
Mr. Eller 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. Mr. Eller practices landlord-tenant law and provides eviction service in Seattle, Tacoma , Everett, Olympia, and all of King County, Pierce County Snohomish County, and Thurston County.
Travis Eller provides eviction service, handles landlord-tenant litigation, and helps landlords defend civil rights complaints. Mr. Eller gives lectures at landlord-tenant seminars attended by rental property owners, property managers, and other attorneys. The National Institute for Trial Advocacy has awarded Travis Eller its "Advocate" designation.
A Washington landlord who wants a tenant out must go through the eviction process, also called an unlawful detainer action.
Residential tenants can get a free attorney in many Washington counties. Commercial tenants usually hire a private landlord-tenant attorney.
While state law sets out the basic framework of the eviction process, local laws often change this basic framework in important ways. If a landlord is not aware of eviction laws and procedures, the landlord may miss an important element of the eviction process, and might have to start over. 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.
Some landlord-tenant issues involve contract disputes, particularly in commercial leasing. A small percentage of eviction cases are too complicated for the typical summary eviction process, and the court sets the eviction case for trial. Landlord-tenant issues that are often litigated include property damage, security deposit disputes, unpaid rent, unpaid CAM charges, unpaid utilities, habitability issues, and disputes over contractual obligations under the lease terms.
If you find yourself in a landlord-tenant dispute that is or may end up being litigated you need to consult with an attorney who has tried cases. Travis Eller has experience in litigation, arbitration, and mediation. He has achieved "Advocate" designation with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.
Ask for an initial consultation about navigating through the litigation process.
Civil Rights Complaints
Sometimes landlords may find themselves defending against a civil rights complaint, even though the landlord genuinely believes they did nothing wrong.
Fair housing and civil rights complaints are serious legal matters. They involve formal legal procedures and processes. Fair housing and civil rights complaints can lead imposition of heavy fines, penalties, and court costs on landlords.
Speak to a landlord-tenant attorney about defending against a fair housing or civil rights complaint.
A landlord is always required to go through the eviction process for any tenant who refuses to leave. A landlord must go through the eviction process even if the landlord just wants the property back, the tenant is clearly in violation of the lease, or there never was a written agreement. 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. An eviction court order is required to remove any tenant who refuses to leave. The eviction process is also known as an unlawful detainer action.
Both residential evictions and commercial evictions usually begin with an initial eviction notice–such as a notice to pay rent or vacate, notice to comply or vacate, or notice to terminate the tenancy. You can download our free eviction notice forms. The eviction notice forms come with instructions.
The next step in the eviction process is serving a summons and complaint. These documents (unlike the initial eviction notice) cannot be served by the landlord. The next steps in the eviction process will depend on how the tenant responds.
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 can get a free attorney who will review the case for procedural errors and substantive tenant defenses. Commercial tenants often retain private counsel. Hiring a landlord-tenant attorney with the knowledge and experience to guide your case through the eviction process can save time and money.
Some narrow circumstances occasionally require a different type of eviction lawsuit called an ejectment action. This may be necessary to evict a former employee, evict a long-term guest allowed to live in the property, or a buyer in possession when a real estate sale fails to close.
If you are facing a landlord-tenant dispute you should consult with an landlord attorney familiar with current landlord-tenant law. Contact us for more information.
Eviction Notice Forms
Service of an Eviction Notice
Eviction Forms for use in Washington outside Seattle
Eviction Forms for use in Seattle
Post-foreclosure Notice to Occupants
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. It is important for landlords to keep up to date on changes in landlord-tenant law. This is a quick summary of just some of the recent changes in landlord-tenant law.
Washington has passed a law requiring residential landlords to accept essentially all sources of income. Landlords must accept public and private benefits and subsidies as income, may not refuse to rent to tenants based on source of income, and may not charge more rent or fees, or otherwise discriminate based on source of income.
Tenant criminal background checks.
Under federal HUD guidelines issued in 2016, landlords may face fair-housing liability if the landlord imposes a blanket rule regarding screening potential residential tenants for criminal history. Note that this is a federal guideline, so it applies even outside of Seattle. Landlords must now take into account the severity of the criminal activity, how recent the activity was, and the applicants conduct since. In Seattle, landlord cannot use criminal backgrounds checks at all.
Seattle has passed more stringent restrictions on tenant criminal background checks. Under the new City of Seattle Fair Housing ordinance landlords may not use criminal background checks when screening potential residential tenants, with only narrow exceptions.
Tacoma Tenants Rights Ordinance
Tacoma has passed an ordinance that requires landlords to give tenants 90 days notice when the tenancy is being terminated due to “demolition, substantial rehabilitation or change of use of a residential dwelling.” The law is set to expire at the end of September. The City of Tacoma is expected to pass new laws in the interim.
Recent Changes in Seattle Landlord-Tenant Law
Seattle first-in-time rule ruled unconstitutional.
Seattle security deposit and move-in fees limitations.
A Seattle ordinance limits security deposits move-in fees. The 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.
Seattle voter registration information requirement.
Seattle law requires landlords to give voter registration information to tenants and prospective tenants. Failure to do so allows the tenant to terminate the rental agreement and/or sue the landlord. The landlord could face a claim for actual damages, attorney fees, and monetary penalties of up to $1,000.
Seattle rental property registration.
Seattle landlords of residential rental properties are required to register the rental property with the City of Seattle. Failure to do so may be a defense in an eviction case.
No, for now.
The Seattle First-in-Time ordinance required landlords of residential properties in Seattle to accept the first financially qualified tenant, leaving no discretion to the landlord.
This law was ruled unconstitutional by a local judge.
An appeal is likely, however. Check back for future updates.
I own a motel/hotel/or etc. A guest refuses to leave, or has not paid. He says he is a tenant and has rights, and that I have to evict him. Is that true.
Usually transient lodging guests do not have to be evicted through a court process. The owner can simply kick them out.
However, under some circumstances the transient lodging guest may be considered a tenant. For more see our page about transient lodging or contact us.
Probably not if they can be said to live in your place. A court order is required to remove someone who has established residency. This normally means an eviction lawsuit.
The various notices (3-day, 10-day, 20-day) are NOT steps in a progression. These are all different notices for different situations. If a landlord serves one notice (say a 3-day) then after that notice period expires serves another (say, a 20-day) a court may rule that the landlord waived the first notice (the 3-day). If the landlord serves a 20-day after the previous notice expires the landlord is starting over from scratch.
The landlord may serve multiple notices at the same time, if applicable. But, the landlord should NOT serve new notices after previous notices have expired.
The next step in the eviction process is serving a summons and complaint, NOT new notices.
Can I just serve a Notice to Terminate Tenancy a/k/a “20-day” notice, and then call the sheriff/change locks?
With the notice to terminate tenancy a/k/a “20-day” notice the landlord must go through the exact same court eviction process as with a 3-day notice to pay rent or vacate and/or 10-day notice to comply or vacate.
If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the notice to terminate tenancy is not a faster eviction process. It is slower.
A notice to terminate tenancy is only applicable if the tenancy is month-to-month. In Seattle, the landlord must also have just cause.