New Law Changes Rules for Storage of Tenant’s Belongings Upon Eviction

The legislature has passed and Governor Gregoire is expected to sign Monday, March 17, 2008, a new law that changes the landlord’s obligations to store a tenant’s belongings when a tenant is evicted.

Prior to this new law, a Court of Appeals decision had held that the landlord was obligated to store the tenant’s personal property under the terms of the previous statute.  This required storage for 45 days even if the tenant did not request it and was not present when the physical eviction took place.  The decision only applied to counties under the particular Court of Appeals division and was not uniformly followed.  Also, most sheriff’s departments did not allow storage in the rental property.

Under the new law, the tenant must specifically request storage and the tenant’s personal property may be stored in the rental property.

Under the new law the landlord must prepare a Request for Storage of Personal Property form which the sheriff serves along with the writ of restitution.  The tenant must complete and return the form to the landlord within three days.  If the tenant fails to do so the landlord has no obligation to store the tenant’s belongings.

If the tenant returns the notice to the landlord the landlord must store the belongings if the cumulative value is at least $250.00.  The belongings may be stored in the rental property.

The landlord must then give notice of intent to sell the personal property to the tenant’s last known address.  After the thirty days expire the landlord may sell all the property – including family pictures, personal papers, and keepsakes, and dispose of any items not sold.

Although the statute is silent, the landlord should make reasonable efforts to promote the sale.  This should include classified ads and/or craigslist ads, for example.