How do you evict a tenant who has disappeared and left their belongings in the apartment?
3 attorney answers
Totally agree with Ms. Powell's analysis. Unfortunately the Olympic Peninsula is pretty short on lawyers. The closest landlord guy I know of would be Matt McLain of Tacoma, although Howard Marcus from shoreline may also be willing to wade across the sound to help you out. Don't waste any time about it as you may end up being able to go only for possession if you can't serve the tenant. Your landlord lawyer will also be able to instruct you on handling the tenant's goods. Do NOT attempt to do this yourself.
There is a statute about abandonment in the RLTA, but unfortunately no one ever READS it. It starts out saying, "If the tenant fails to pay rent and indicates by words or conduct an affirmative intent to not continue the tenancy . . . " so you only have one of those conditions here. He's failed to pay rent, but has made no statements indicating his intent to abandon, so you have to evict him. You cannot get a judgment until the court acquires personal jurisdiction over him, but you can get a writ. The writ requires that you also send a notice regarding his property. If he fails to respond to that then his property goes to the nearest public right of way.
This is not self - help law. Please find and hire a local eviction attorney to ensure that you follow the letter and the spirit of the applicable law. That is the fastest way to get your property back so you can re-rent it. Elizabeth Powell
Using Avvo does not form an attorney client relationship.
You likely would want to hire an attorney to avoid unintentionally not following a statutory procedure. Your not following the statutory procedures likely would result in your case being dismissed. You likely would also be ordered to pay the tenant's attorney's fees and other costs.
If you can show to the court that you cannot find the tenant despite diligent efforts, you likely can ask the court to allow you alternate ways of service (such as posting the summons and complaint on the front door of the rental and mailing the tenant copies).
Once the court has jurisdiction and the tenant does not show up in court, a writ will be issued that eventually results in the sheriff coming by to watch you and your helpers removing the tenant's properties from the premises.
Depending on your relationship with the tenant and your financial ability to not have rent paid for several months, you may want to consider whether the tenant would become a reliable paying tenant again. Some persons run into temporary problems that prevent them from paying but quickly find ways to pay their bills. There is no guaranty that the next tenant you find will be a more reliable tenant.
If you unilaterally decide that the tenant has abandoned the premises and start removing the tenant's properties without a court order, you may find yourself facing a judge who disagrees with you.