Landlord Attorney Travis Scott Eller

Residential tenants can get a free attorney in many Washington counties. Commercial tenants usually hire a private landlord-tenant 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. 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.

The eviction process

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.  You can download our free eviction notice forms. The eviction notice forms come with instructions.

If the tenant does not comply with the initial eviction notice the landlord must go through the eviction process in court. This is always true, even if the landlord does not care about collecting money owed and just wants the tenant out.

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

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, or whether the landlord is interested in trying to collect rent or other money owed by the tenant. The landlord is legally required to  go through the eviction court process, even if the landlord just wants the property back and does not care about money owed.

For more details see our pages on the Residential Eviction Process or Commercial Eviction Process.

If you are facing a landlord-tenant dispute you should consult with a landlord-tenant attorney familiar with current landlord-tenant law. Download our Eviction Request form or contact us for more information.

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.

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.

Source of income.

Local laws in many places in Washington state limit landlords’ use of source of income in making rental decisions. Landlords in some local jurisdictions are prohibited from considering source of income, such as Section 8 vouchers. There are currently laws regarding source of income in Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Seattle, Olympia, Tumwater, Vancouver, unincorporated King County, Renton, and Seattle.

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.

These laws vary from one local jurisdiction to another, and new laws may be added in additional locations at any time. If unsure, consult with a landlord-tenant attorney.

Seattle first-in-time rule.

Seattle enacted  first-in-time rule ordinance in 2016 that requires landlords of residential rental 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 constitutionality of the first-in-time ordinance is being challenged in a lawsuit.

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.