Amending or Waiving Landlord-Tenant Law by Contract

FPA Crescent Associates, LLC (FPA) owns the Crescent Building in Spokane, Washington.  It leased a portion of the building to Pendleton Enterprises LLC (Pendleton).


The lease defined the “lease term” as beginning on the commencement date and ending on the expiration date, unless terminated sooner pursuant to the express terms and conditions of the lease.


The lease authorized FPA to terminate the lease on any event of default.  The lease terms provided that if the tenant defaulted on any of its terms, the landlord then had “the option to terminate this Lease, in which event Tenant shall immediately surrender the Premises to Landlord, and if Tenant fails to do so, Landlord may… enter upon and take possession of the Premises and expel or remove Tenant.”


Washington landlord-tenant law requires the landlord to serve a notice to pay rent or vacate before bringing an unlawful detainer action, i.e. an eviction. The notice must by law give the alternative to either pay or vacate, and must provide a three-day cure period.[1]  However, no notice is required if the lease period expires by the terms of the agreement. If the tenant holds over, the landlord may proceed directly to the unlawful detainer action without a pre-litigation notice.[2]


FPA did not serve a notice to pay rent or vacate. Instead, FPA sued its tenant Pendleton for unlawful detainer without pre-litigation notice, arguing that under the terms of the lease FPA could declare the lease term ended and treat Pendleton as a holdover tenant.


Pendleton moved to dismiss the unlawful detainer action. Pendleton argued that FPA failed to abide by the notice and right to cure provisions of the unlawful detainer statute.  Pendleton argued that for actions based on nonpayment of rent, its landlord FPA needed to give Pendleton notice that it could either vacate the premises or cure the default within three days of service.


FPA argued that the terms of the lease controlled, and that the lease terms did not provide for a notice and right to cure. FPA maintained that the holdover statutory provisions applied, not the non-payment of rent provisions. FPA urged that Pendleton was a holdover tenant as a result of FPA earlier terminating the lease due to default.


The trial court ruled in FPA’s favor. The Court of Appeals disagreed and overturned the trial court.[3]


The fact that a lease contains a right to terminate without notice does not relieve a landlord of providing notice required in an unlawful detainer statutory provision.

by Travis Scott Eller

Washington state landlord-tenant attorney


[1] RCW 59.12.030(3).

[2] RCW 59.12.030(1). Carlstrom v. Hanline, 98 Wn. App. 780(2000).

[3] FPA Cresent Associates, LLC v. Jamie’s LLC, ___ Wn.App. ____ (No. 32705-1-111 October 20, 2015).