Tenants Seeking a Last Minute Stay to Avoid Eviction

A landlord must go through an eviction process (unlawful detainer action) in court in order to evict a tenant.  Sometimes a tenant does not bother to defend an eviction case and loses by default.  If this happens, a sheriff deputy will post a writ on the rental unit door, informing the tenant to move out in three days or face a physical eviction.

Some defaulted tenants to avoid being physically evicted go to court only after the sheriff posts the writ, but before the statutory three-day period expires. The tenant will then seek a stay on the writ, essentially a legal time-out that temporarily stops the eviction process.  Courts sometimes grant a stay without notice to the landlord or the landlord’s attorney.

Two recent Court of Appeals cases reversed the local Superior Court’s granting a stay on the writ of restitution without first giving notice to the landlord.[1] As a result of these holdings, the court must now require the tenant to give notice to the landlord before the court hears a motion to stay the writ.  The Court of Appeals also ruled that local trial courts must require the tenant to post a bond if the court ultimately grants a stay on the writ.

It can be frustrating to go through the eviction process, have the tenant not respond or defend the eviction at all, then after the sheriff posts a writ on the tenant’s door, have the tenant finally go to court and get a stay on the eviction process. There is often little a landlord or a landlord’s attorney can do, particularly if the court does not require notice before granting a stay.

These recent appellate rulings may help landlords avoid this frustrating situation.

[1] Randy Reynolds & Associates, Inc. v. Harmon, No. 49588-1-II, slip op. at 4 (Wash. Ct. App., Oct. 31, 2017); Hawthorne v. Pomerleau, unpublished (No. 48745-4-II  November 14, 2017).