How to Evict a Tenant in Spokane, Washington

Many landlords in Spokane, Washington contact our office because they want to learn how to evict a tenant who is either not paying rent or causing damages to the property.

The first problem we have when it comes to help landlords is that many of them either have no written lease OR the lease that they have is not very good.

Many landlords fail to secure an attorney to review their leases so they have local enforceability. Many landlords make the mistake to go online and download an inexpensive or free form and attempt to enforce it. This leaves the landlord in a very weak position. Washington statutes and case law; however, municipalities like Spokane and Seattle add further requirements that must be followed. If the landlord fails to comply with those extra requirements, the landlord could be held liable for damages.

The Residential Landlord Tenant Act, RCW 50.18, codifies the requirements and laws a landlord and a tenant must comply with. When a lease is not properly drafted or nonexistent  the code would dictate the rights and responsibilities of each party.  It is important to note that the act is heavily enforced against the landlord. Spokane County Courts try to benefit the tenant when interpreting the code.

This is the biggest reason a landlords want to ensure that they properly comply with leases, notices, and time periods. One mistake (whether intentional or not) would reset the process requiring the landlord to start the entire action, giving the tenant more time on the property, and requiring new payment fees.

The Residential Landlord Tenant Act, RCW 50.18 does not apply to mobile homes, residents of hotels and motels, residents of correctional facilities (jail, educational, religious, etc.).

Tenants with an earnest money agreement to purchase the home or dwelling, housing provided for seasonal farm work, apartment house managers, and when the use of the property is for commercial purposes (i.e. an office).

If the lease fails to outline the requirements of an eviction (i.e. what constitutes a breach), the landlord must comply with the requirement of the Landlord Tenant Act. Many of the procedures outlined by the code will depend on the type of rental agreement established between the landlord and the tenant.

In a month to month agreement (where the tenancy is supposed to continue for an indefinite time), the landlord must give proper notice of the breach. The amount of time (three day notice, 10 day notice, etc.) depends on the type of breach the tenant is incurring (i.e. late payment of rent, gang activity, damage to the dwelling, etc.). If the tenancy has a written lease for a definite amount of time, the landlord could simply elect not to renew the lease and there is no need for notice (if the tenants agree to leave at the end of the tenancy).

After proper notice is given, and no remedial action has been taken by the tenant (if remedial action can be taken; for example, bring the amount of rent due to current), the landlord may bring an unlawful detainer action to evict the tenant. The action must be filed in Spokane Superior Court, and then it needs to be served upon the tenant. The action should contain the proper summons and complaint AND a motion and order to show cause.

The motion should set a hearing for a show cause argument no less than seven days and no more than thirty days from the date of filing of the motion and order noted above.

All documents must be properly served upon the tenant. A certificate of service needs to be filed with the court as the court will need verification that service of process was effectuated lawfully.

The landlord then needs to appear at the show cause hearing with documents ready to enter in case the tenant does not appear (very common). If the tenant does appear, the tenant must then establish why they should not evicted. The tenant usually is unable to articulate the reasons why an eviction should not be entered.

If the court signs the paperwork, the landlord should have ready a money judgment document and a writ of restitution. The landlord should then take the write of restitution to the Spokane Sheriff’s department for enforcement.

The Sheriff department will go out to the property and give notice of the eviction. This will take about 24 to 72 hours. Usually, tenants are already out or they have vacated. If not, the police could give them another 24 hours or more to voluntary leave or they will come in and physically remove the tenants and their property.

It is important to note that this is only a very general outline of the process. In addition, a mistake on the paperwork could reset the entire process. It is critical that a landlord hires an attorney to effectuate the eviction properly so the landlord can regain possession of the premises. Our office helps landlords with this process. Please contact us at (509) 927-3840, or visit our contact page.