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Can I evict a tenant who is in jail?

Seattle, WA |
Filed under: Real estate

We served a 3 Day Pay or Vacate on a tenant who owes $50 for June and has not paid July. We heard later that day from another tenant that the tenant is in jail. I have confirmed that this is true, and he has no set court date and no set release date. The property owner was at the building and met someone who is not on the lease, but staying in the unit. This person said she was trying to help with rent, but nothing has come from her.
Can we evict the tenant for non-payment while he is in jail? Or has the apartment been abandoned? Can we take possession of the unit, change the locks, and get the stragglers out? Nobody except the jailed tenant is on the lease, or has ever paid rent to us.

Attorney Answers 1


You may evict a tenant who is in jail if they have not paid rent or made arrangements to pay rent. The main issue here is whether or not rent was paid, not necessarily what their current life situation is right now. One thing to bear in mind is that the unauthorized tenant may also require proper notice in any unlawful detainer proceedings. Make sure to include them in the caption on all paperwork since you know they exist, and it does not hurt to provide them with their own copy of the summons and complaint.

Hiring an attorney for these matters is always recommended.

This answer is for informational purposes only and should not be construed to establish an attorney client relationship. Before taking any legal action, it is always advisable to discuss your specific situation with an attorney.

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1) The tenant has, per my post, not paid since June when he made a partial payment. From what you said, it sounds like we can evict him even though he is in jail. That was more my concern, rather than wanting him out BECAUSE he's in jail, it's just are we allowed to evict him for non payment ALTHOUGH he's in jail. I believe you are saying we can. Thank you. 2) I do not know the names of any of the unauthorized people staying there, I have knocked on the door and received no answer. Can I include them without their names? Will "person in physical possession of the property" or "Tenant Smith, et al" or "John and Jane Doe" work? Thanks for your time and expertise!

Ryan J. Weatherstone

Ryan J. Weatherstone


There are a couple ways to word a caption for a person you do not know the name. Et. Al. is one way and means "all others," you could put "and all others residing at the premises," or you could put "John or Jane Doe, unknown resident." Your attorney will probably have their own preference. Good Luck.



Thank you so much :)

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