But I Just Want My Property Back

Some landlords think that if they serve a notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy they can just call the sheriff once the notice expires, and the sheriff will evict the tenant. Wrong.


Similarly some landlords believe if they do not care about money owed, and just want to evict a tenant – they do not need to serve a notice to pay rent or vacate. Wrong again.


A landlord with a month-to-month tenant may serve a notice terminating the tenancy, even if the tenant is current on rent and otherwise in compliance with lease terms.  Special rules apply in Seattle under the Just Cause Eviction ordinance. But, after the notice expires the process is the same – summons and complaint, a hearing if the tenant answers the complaint, etc. etc. The landlord can not just fill out a form and get the sheriff running out to evict the tenant.


Likewise, if the landlord has a tenant behind on rent the landlord must serve a notice to pay rent or vacate – assuming there is no other basis for eviction. Even if there is another basis, a notice to pay rent or vacate is almost always faster. Even if the landlord does not want to accept rent, in order to evict a tenant who is behind with rent the landlord MUST serve the notice to pay rent or vacate. If within the notice period the tenant pays, the tenant stays.


This is legally required. There is no way around it, even if the landlord “just” wants to evict.  A proper notice must first be served.


The only exception is a tenant who overstays a lease that has expired by its terms. Even then, although a landlord does not have to serve a formal notice first, the landlord nevertheless must go through the remainder of the process.


A landlord gets no points for not having a written lease.  An oral rental agreement is still a rental agreement. The person in the property is still a tenant. The process is the same.


There are no magic bullets or short-cuts.