Seattle Just Cause Eviction


A Seattle residential landlord may evict a tenant only for just cause.  A Seattle residential landlord may not evict without just cause, not even a month-to-month tenant.

Just cause to evict includes:

  • Failure to comply with a notice to pay rent or vacate.
  • Failure to comply with a notice to comply with the lease or vacate.
  • Habitually late rent or habitual failure to comply with lease terms. This requires service in a twelve-month period of at least four notices to pay rent or vacate, or three notices to comply or vacate.
  • Failure to vacate at the end of the lease term.
  • The landlord wishes to occupy the premises as a primary residence. Requires 90 days notice.
  • The landlord intends to sell a single family dwelling. Requires 90 days notice.
  • The tenant’s occupancy is conditioned upon employment and the employment is terminated. (Note that under Washington state law this may in some circumstances require an ejectement action, rather than an unlawful detainer action. Seek the advice of a landlord-tenant attorney if uncertain.)
  • The landlord seek to do substantial rehabilitation in the building. Requires a relocation license and a permit before terminating the tenancy.
  • The landlord seek to demolish the building, or convert it to condominiums or to commercial use. Requires a relocation license and a permit before terminating the tenancy.
  • The landlord seeks to discontinue use of an unauthorized housing unit after receipt of a notice of violation. The landlord must pay relocation assistance. The number of occupants violates the maximum allowed by law. The landlord must give 30 days notice to the tenant to reduce the number of occupants. After the 30-day notice expires the landlord must give a 10-day notice to comply or vacate. If the number of occupants exceeded the legal maximum with the knowledge or consent of the landlord then the landlord may be required to pay relocation assistance.

Tenant in breach.

If a Seattle residential tenant fails to pay the rent, or otherwise commits a material breach of the rental terms (such as failure to pay a deposit or utilities, or unauthorized pets or unauthorized occupants) this is just cause to evict and the eviction process is essentially the same as for rental properties outside Seattle.

The landlord must serve a notice to pay rent or vacate or a notice to comply or vacate, as applicable.  The landlord does not serve additional notices, unless the first notice was cured and there is another breach of the rental agreement later.

Tenancy must be month-to-month for some just cause tenancy terminations. 

If the tenant fails to pay rent, or fails to comply with material terms of the rental agreement then the landlord may terminate the tenancy. This is true whether the tenancy is month-to-month or there is an unexpired lease.

For other just cause grounds–such as the landlord’s intent to occupy the premises as a primary residence, or an intent to sell the rental property–the tenancy must be month-to-month. The just cause eviction ordinance does not authorize the landlord to break a lease on these grounds.

Habitual late rent payment or other breaches.

If a tenant is habitually late with rent, or habitually breaches other rental agreement terms this is just cause to evict. Habitually late with rent is defined as causing the landlord to serve at least four notices to pay rent or vacate in a twelve month period. Habitual non-compliance with the rental agreement is defined as causing the landlord to serve at least three notices to comply or vacate in a twelve month period.

Note that habitual non-payment of rent or other habitual non-compliance is just cause eviction grounds to evict a month-to-month tenant, not a tenant with an unexpired lease. A tenant who continually cures notices is legally allowed to stay in the property indefinitely.  But, note that if the tenant fails to cure a notice there is no need to serve additional notices, and in fact the landlord should not serve additional notices if tenant fails to cure the first notice.

Landlord moving into rental property.

If the landlord wishes to move into the property, or to allow an immediate family member to move in, this is just cause to evict. An immediate family member includes spouse or domestic partner, parents, grandparents, children, and siblings of the landlord or the landlord’s spouse or domestic partner.

This just cause applies only if there is no substantially similar unit available in the same building. The landlord must give 90 days notice. The landlord may ask the City of Seattle to reduce the notice period to 20 days for hardships such as illness or accident, unemployment, or job relocation. The last day should be the last day of a rental period (typically a calendar month).

The landlord or an immediate family member should occupy the rental unit as a primary residence for at least 60 consecutive days during the first 90 days following the date of termination of the tenancy. Otherwise, there is a rebuttable presumption of a violation of the just cause eviction ordinance.

Landlord selling rental property.

The landlord may end a month-to-month tenancy in Seattle if the landlord intends to sell a single family home.  The landlord must give 90 days notice. The last day must be the last day of a rental period.

The landlord may seek to have the City of Seattle reduce the notice period to 60 days for hardship such as illness or accident, unemployment, or job relocation.

The landlord is required to make reasonable attempts to sell within 30 days after the tenant vacates the rental property.  There is a rebuttable presumption that the landlord did not intend to sell if the landlord fails to list the property or advertise it for sale within 30 days of the tenant vacating the rental property, or if the landlord takes the property off the market within 90 days of the tenant vacating the property.

The Seattle just cause eviction ordinance applies only to residential rentals, not commercial rentals.  Rental agreement terms that waive just cause eviction laws are void and are not enforceable.

This is a short description of the Seattle just cause eviction ordinance.  It is not a substitute for legal advice.  Contact us for more information.