A covenant of quiet enjoyment is implied in Washington leases. The landlord warrants that once the tenant has taken possession it will not be disturbed by the landlord or any third person with a right of possession. Wrongful evictions by the landlord, actual or constructive, breach this implied covenant. Interference by third persons that cause a breach of this covenant may occur if the landlord’s estate terminates, for example by foreclosure. The third person must actually interfere with the tenant’s possession.
The tenant must vacate to claim constructive eviction. In residential tenancies this condition lacks much punch in most scenarios in light of the warranty of habitability.
By Travis Eller
Implied in every lease agreement in Washington is a covenant, or duty of the landlord, to deliver exclusive possession to the tenant. Preventing a tenant from gaining exclusive possession to land to which he or she is entitled under an agreement breaches this covenant and excuses any obligation to pay rent. A tenant waives the right to rescind the lease but may still sue for damages when prevented from gaining possession of the demised premises at the beginning of the term, but waiting and occupying the premises as soon as they are available.
A lessee who is wrongfully refused possession of the leased premises by the lessor is entitled to general damages measured by the difference between the fair rental value of the premises and the rent called for in the lease.
A lessee denied possession because of the presence of a holdover tenant is not limited to an action for damages, but may enforce the lease by an ejectment action. This is contrary to the common law rule which required a tenant to have actual possession to acquire an estate in land and have standing to bring an ejectment action.
 Draper Machine Works, Inc. v. Hagberg, 34 Wn. App. 483, 486, 663 P.2d 141 (1983).
 Draper Machine Works, Inc. v. Hagberg.
 Draper Machine Works, Inc. v. Hagberg.
 Ivy v. Argentieri, 2 wash app 999, 471 p2d 122 (1970). Engstrom v. Merriam, 25 Wash. 73, 64 P.914 (1901).
 McLoed v. Russell, 59 Wash. 676, 110 P.626 (1910).
 Univ. Props., Inc. v. Moss, 63 Wn.2d 619, 388 P.2d 543(1964).
 Blanc’s Cafe v. Corey, 110 Wash. 242, 188 P.759 (1920). Duckworth v. Michael, 172 Wash. 234, 19 P.2d 914 (1933).
 Blanc’s Cafe at 244.
I recently taught in Tacoma a seminar on landlord-tenant law.
The feedback from attendees was very positive.
The sponsoring organization sent an email informing me that:
The attendees who filled out an evaluation rated your presentation as Excellent.
Your presentation was informative and had good materials
You appeared very knowledgeable
If we can assist with questions in landlord-tenant law please do not hesitate to contact us.
I have had the pleasure of presenting two landlord-tenant lectures at continuing legal education seminars this year – one in Tacoma and another in Seattle. My topic each time was landlord and tenant obligations.
The seminar sponsor shared audience feedback, which was quite positive.
Feel free to contact us if you need representation in a landlord-tenant matter.
Some landlords think that if they serve a notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy they can just call the sheriff once the notice expires, and the sheriff will evict the tenant. Wrong.
Similarly some landlords believe if they do not care about money owed, and just want to evict a tenant – they do not need to serve a notice to pay rent or vacate. Wrong again.
A landlord with a month-to-month tenant may serve a notice terminating the tenancy, even if the tenant is current on rent and otherwise in compliance with lease terms. Special rules apply in Seattle under the Just Cause Eviction ordinance. But, after the notice expires the process is the same – summons and complaint, a hearing if the tenant answers the complaint, etc. etc. The landlord can not just fill out a form and get the sheriff running out to evict the tenant.
Likewise, if the landlord has a tenant behind on rent the landlord must serve a notice to pay rent or vacate – assuming there is no other basis for eviction. Even if there is another basis, a notice to pay rent or vacate is almost always faster. Even if the landlord does not want to accept rent, in order to evict a tenant who is behind with rent the landlord MUST serve the notice to pay rent or vacate. If within the notice period the tenant pays, the tenant stays.
This is legally required. There is no way around it, even if the landlord “just” wants to evict. A proper notice must first be served.
The only exception is a tenant who overstays a lease that has expired by its terms. Even then, although a landlord does not have to serve a formal notice first, the landlord nevertheless must go through the remainder of the process.
A landlord gets no points for not having a written lease. An oral rental agreement is still a rental agreement. The person in the property is still a tenant. The process is the same.
There are no magic bullets or short-cuts.