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.
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.
Speak to a landlord-tenant attorney about defending against a 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 Seattle Landlord-Tenant Law
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.
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.
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.
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.
Current Legislative Proposals
Below is a partial list of current bills being proposed in the Washington legislature that would impact landlord-tenant law. Note that none of these proposals have yet passed into law.
- Rent control. A proposed new law would lift the state-wide ban on rental caps for residential tenancies, allowing Seattle and other cities to control the amount landlords can charge for rent. HB 1082; SB 5286.
- Source of income. New laws would require landlords to accept all sources of income, including Section 8 and other subsidy programs, social security, and public assistance. HB 1633; HB 2578 SB5407. Note that similar laws already exist at the local level in many places in Washington.
- Notice to terminate month-to-month tenancies. Residential landlords would have to give 30 days to terminate a month-to-month tenancy, or 60 days if the tenant has occupied the property for at least two years (rather than 20 days notice under current law). HB 2040.
- Just Cause Eviction. A proposed law would make it much more difficult, slow, and expensive to evict any residential tenant. Residential tenants could only be evicted for certain enumerated “just cause” reasons. Tenants would be allowed to pay the rent amount late, even after the landlords “wins” in court. Tenants would not be required to reimburse the landlord for the attorney fees and other costs of the eviction in order to remain in the property. Courts would be given essentially unfettered discretion to allow tenants to remain in the rental, even after the landlord prevailed in court in the eviction action. HB 2804.
These are some of the proposals the Washington legislature is currently considering. Check back for 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.
It used to be that simple–a landlord could screen for criminal history so long as the landlord treated all applicants the same without regard to race, religion, etc. Not anymore.
Any landlord’s policy regarding criminal history must flexible enough to take into account the severity of the conduct, how recent the conduct occurred, and the rental applicant’s history since.
Landlords should also avoid using arrest records (as opposed to convictions). An arrest prove nothing, except that someone was accused.
This is true not only in Seattle, but everywhere in the United States. In Seattle, residential landlords may not use criminal history at all, with some very narrow exceptions.
Read more about criminal history use in tenant screening here.