If the Tenant Has Signed a Lease, The Tenancy Terminates at a Specified Time:
A year lease would expire at the end of the 1 year least term. The tenancy automatically terminates on this date and the landlord can legally exclude the tenant from the premises. However, the landlord may choose to continue renting to the tenant, and the tenancy is converted to a month-to-month.
If No Lease (Or Expired Lease), There Is a Periodic Tenancy.
A Periodic Tenancy is created when premises are rented for an indefinite time. The tenant pays rent periodically, such as month to month or (week to week). There can be a written lease, or a verbal agreement, but so long as there is the acceptance of rent, a tenancy is created.
The Periodic Tenancy Ends upon 20 Days Notice.
A month-to-month tenancy may be terminated by the landlord 20 days after service of a notice to terminate the tenancy. If the tenant is not out by the 20 days, the landlord may seek a writ of restitution from a commissioner, who may sign an order authorizing the sheriff to schedule a physical eviction. RCW 59.18.200
A Landlord May Not Exclude a Tenant from the Premises without a Court Order.
Until the time the sheriff carries out the eviction, the landlord may not try to physically evict the tenant by himself. Any tenant excluded from the premises may recover possession of the property or terminate the rental agreement and may recover the actual damages sustained. The prevailing party may recover the costs of suit or arbitration and reasonable attorney's fees. RCW 59.18.230, 290
A Landlord May Not Lock-out a Tenant.
In addition to the statutory prohibition, A lessor's unlawful lockout of tenant is a breach of the tenant's implied covenant of quiet enjoyment. This means that the landlord broke his contractual obligation under the agreement, and would be liable for damages. 59.18.230
A Landlord Is Prohibited from Any Other "self-help" That Results in a Constructive Eviction.
A Landlord may not intentionally terminate a tenant's utility service. The Landlord can temporarily shut off utility service only to make needed repairs. 7. A Landlord may not seize the property of a tenant nor detain or put a lien on tenant's personal property. RCW 59.18.230
A Tenant Is Entitled to Damages:
If the tenant files a wrongful eviction suit, the tenant is entitled to recover all the damages that reasonably flowed from the landlord's wrongful act, including the expense of moving. Damages must be proved with reasonable certainty which would mean documentation, photos and receipts.