How Much Notice Required for Commercial Month-to-Month Tenancies

In Washington there is sometimes confusion about how many days notice a landlord is required to give a commercial tenant to end a month-to-month tenancy. Some say thirty days is required, while only twenty days is required for a residential tenant. Others say only twenty days is required for either a commercial tenant or a residential tenant.

The answer requires a short history lesson.

More than a century ago, when Washington was still a territory, a law was passed allowing either party to terminate a month-to-month tenancy with thirty days notice. The applied to all tenancies, whether commercial or residential.  This law is still in effect.[1]

A few decades later the legislature passed the unlawful detainer statute, still in effect and commonly used today.[2]  This law applies to all tenancies, whether commercial or residential. It only requires twenty days notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy.[3]

About a century later the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) went into effect in 1973.[4]  The older unlawful detainer statutes still apply, except to the extent superseded by the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.[5]  The RLTA has a provision that allows either party to terminate a month-to-month tenancy with twenty days notice.

The answer is that as the unlawful detainer statute only requires twenty days notice, only twenty days notice is required for either a commercial tenancy or a residential tenancy.

The parties should check the lease (even if the tenancy is now month-to-month). Some leases require more notice than the minimum required by statute. Also, residential landlords in Seattle must have just cause to evict, even if the tenant is now month-to-month

[1] RCW 59.04.020.

[2] RCW Chapter 59.12.

[3] RCW 59.12.030(2).

[4] RCW  Chapter 59.18.

[5] See for example, RCW 59.18.420;