Court of Appeals Upholds Late Fees in 3-Day Notice

Our law firm was not involved in the lawsuit described in this article.

Under Washington unlawful detainer law the landlord should not demand non-rent items on the three-day notice to pay rent or vacate.  This is because the tenants is entitled to at least 10 days to cure any non-rent breach of the lease.

Some local court commissioners will dismiss an unlawful detainer case if there are non-rent items on the notice to pay rent or vacate.  This is particularly true if the notice demands payment in full, or indicates that no partial payment will be accepted because such statements lumps the rent and non-rent items together and put the tenant on notice that all must be paid within the three-day period.

Yesterday Division One of the Washington Court of Appeals issued an opinion upholding issuance of a writ of restitution and judgment despite late fees on the notice to pay rent or vacate (as opposed to the late fees being on a 10-day notice to comply or vacate).[1] The court upheld the trial court’s ruling despite language in the three-day notice instructing the tenant to pay “the above total in full” within three days.

The Court reasoned that late fees are directly related to rent.  This is in contrast to, say, utilities or security deposits.  Unless the tenant fails to pay rent, no late fees are owed, unlike items unrelated to rent.

The opinion is unpublished and therefore has no precedential value and cannot be cited.  A motion to publish is expected.  If granted the opinion would help clarify an important point in Washington eviction law.

[1] Papini Brothers, LLC v. Lawrence, No. 62517-9-I.