The eviction process, with few exceptions, begins with a notice. The most common include: a three-day notice to pay rent or vacate, a ten-day notice to comply or vacate, a three-day quit notice for waste/nuisance, or for a month-to-month tenancy a notice to terminate a tenancy ("twenty-day" notice).
While the landlord may serve more than one type of notice, this will cause problems if the notices are inconsistent. For example, a landlord would be unwise to serve a nuisance notice in combination with other notices. Consult an attorney if unsure which notices to serve.
Initiating the Eviction Litigation - The Summons and Complaint
If the tenant fails to comply with the notice, the next step in the eviction is to initiate litigation by serving the tenant with a summons and complaint. The tenant must answer the summons by the deadline specified, which must be at least 7 days from the date of service. Because the landlord is a party to the action, the landlord may not serve the summons and complaint.
Default or a Show Cause Hearing
If there is no response to the summons and complaint relief may be obtained from the court by default without notice to the tenant. In Washington a defendant, including a tenant, does not have to do a lot to appear. Even a phone call may be treated as an appearance.
B. The Show Cause Hearing
If the tenant makes an appearance, even an informal one, a hearing is required. The tenant must be given at least 7 days notice of the hearing. The tenant must show cause at this hearing as to why the landlord is not entitled to possession and a judgment for rent immediately, i.e. without the need for a trial. (If service of the summons and complaint was by posting and mailing per a court order the landlord is entitled to possession, but not a judgment.)
The landlord or property manager must attend the hearing.
The Sheriff Steps in
After the writ of restitution is obtained, whether by default or at the show cause hearing, the sheriff will serve it. The tenant will have three business days to vacate, not including the day of service.
Additional resources provided by the author
The process is found in two statutes, RCW 59.12 and RCW 59.18.
This is a short description of the process, not a substitute for legal advice. Entire books are written on the topic.
It is recommended that you retain an attorney. If you are determined to represent yourself there is a link below for an eviction kit.