Common Eviction Defenses



Notices must be served in strict compliance with statutory methods.  Actual notice need not be proven; but, actual notice will not save defective service.  For example, appeals courts have dismissed cases in which husband and wife tenants undisputedly each saw and had in their respective hands a notice to pay rent or vacate, but only one copy was served, rather than two copies.

Email does not count.  Mailing is sometimes required, but alone is never sufficient.

The lease terms may impose additional requirements.

See our instructions on serving notices for more details.

Form and Content.

The standard for compliance is substantial compliance, a lower standard than for the manner of service.  Nevertheless, the form and content of the notice is important and a defective notice could lead to dismissal.

Summons and complaint.


Service of the summons and complaint is as in any civil action.  Service of process must be by a disinterested third party.  There are many other rules and nuances, but as in any civil action without proper service the case will not be heard, no matter the merits of the underlying case.

Form and content.

The summons must be the mandatory summons prescribed by statute.  The law is changed from time to time.  Some attorneys, pro se landlords, and form kits do not keep up.  This will cause a dismissal of the case.

There is no complaint form, but there are some form and content requirements.  Failure to abide by these may result in dismissal and possibly liability under fair debt collection practices law.


The landlord must keep the premises habitable at all times.  Also, the landlord will as a matter of contract law be expected to keep the premises in as good a condition as required by the lease.  The tenant may be entitled  to offset in rent, and perhaps not owe any rent.


Both state and federal law has changed the process of eviction after foreclosure.


Tenants have a right to 60 days notice after the foreclosure sale (a/k/a deed of trust sale or auction).  Under federal law the tenants may be entitled to 90 days notice, or to finish the term of an unexpired lease.


Owners in possession have new notice rights.  If you are an owner in possession facing eviction after foreclosure, do not agree to any settlement, accept any money (typically $1,000), until you get legal advice.

Further Information.

This is a very short summary of some common issues and defenses in eviction actions (a/k/a unlawful detainer actions) in Washington.  It is no substitute for legal advice.  Please note that we represent property owners. Tenants should to seek advise elsewhere.  Contact us for more information.