Proposed Washington Just Cause Eviction Statute

Seattle has had a just cause eviction ordinance for years. A recent proposal would impose a state-wide just cause eviction law for all residential tenancies in Washington.[1]

The new law would make it impossible for Washington landlords to evict residential tenants—including month-to-month tenants—except for one of a few enumerated causes.

The proposed just cause eviction law would extend the cure periods for non-payment of rent and other breaches of the tenancy terms to fourteen days. Current law allows the landlord to serve a 3-day notice for non-payment of rent, and a 10-day notice for any other breach of the tenancy terms.

The landlord or an immediate family member would be allowed to move into the rental property on 90-days notice, so long as they intend to occupy the rental as their primary residence for at least twenty-four months. However, the landlord would not be allowed to evict for this reason if the rental property is occupied by a tenant over sixty-years old, or by a disabled tenant.

Even after the landlord has incurred the expense of attorney fees, courts costs, and delay, the proposed just cause eviction law would allow tenants to reinstate their tenancy by paying just the rent amount (or other unpaid charges). The tenant would not have to compensate the landlord for the considerable litigation expenses associated with an eviction, but could remain in the property by simply paying the underlying rent amount for a period of up to fifteen days after the landlord “wins” in court. During this post-eviction case cure period, the writ of restitution is stayed, meaning the sheriff cannot evict the tenant.

The proposed law also grants courts open-ended power to vacate or stay eviction “upon good cause and such terms as the court deems fair and just.” In other words, if a court feels sympathy for the tenant the eviction will essentially never happen. That is not (much) exaggeration.

These rules would also apply to purchasers at trustee sales.  The buyer cannot evict a tenant occupying the foreclosed property except for just cause. This would undoubtedly upend foreclosure sales.  What investor will bid at a foreclosure sale on a property they cannot obtain possession of?

The upshot of this law if passed will be delay and uncertainty, and likely further acceleration of rental rate increases. Landlords will be of course be forced to pass on to the remainder of their tenants the costs of owning and maintaining units with perpetually late paying, or non-paying, occupants

[1] HB 2804.