The Eviction Process in Washington

The eviction process in Washington is governed by unlawful detainer statutes and landlord-tenant case law. Though there is much overlap, the eviction process for residential and commercial evictions differs in important ways.  To obtain possession of the rental property the landlord must go through the eviction process. This is true even if the landlord is not interested in trying to collect rent or other money owed.

This short summary of the Washington state eviction process is not a substitute for legal advice.

Eviction notice.

Most evictions begin with an initial eviction notice, such as a notice to pay rent or vacate, a notice to comply or vacate, or a notice to terminate a tenancy. Note that for each of these notices you must go through the same eviction litigation process. A landlord may serve these initial eviction notices, as long as the service is done properly. There are detailed instructions on servicing eviction notices on our eviction notice forms.

Eviction summons and complaint.

The next step is serving a summons and complaint. These legal pleadings must be served by a disinterested person—not the landlord. The summons informs the tenant to answer the complaint in writing.

Default or hearing.

If the tenant does not respond the landlord may move for default without further notice. If the tenant does respond to the eviction complaint the landlord must file a motion to set the case for a show cause hearing. The tenant must be served notice of the hearing. In many Washington counties residential tenants get a free attorney at the show cause hearing.

The sheriff.

If the court rules in favor of the landlord the clerk will issue a writ of restitution. The writ is served by the sheriff. If the tenant still does not vacate the landlord may not change locks, or take other self-help eviction action—even though the writ was issued and served. Instead, if the tenant still remains in the property after the writ is served the landlord must schedule a physical eviction with the sheriff.


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