They called me later that evening and said its abandonment and they've already moved my things. How do I gain access and get a new key and make them go through the eviction process?
In no way did I abandon my place or give the impression I would be leaving by any particular date. I just said I would try to find a new place on Craigslist .
The landlord cannot change the locks for non-payment of rent even if you share the unit. If you abandoned the apartment, he could, provided he gives you notice. An abandonment is demonstrating an intent not to return (such as returning the keys or saying I'm not coming back) while in default for nonpayment of rent. RCW 59.18.310. You are behind in rent, but did not say you are not coming back, so you have not abandoned.
If your landlord will not allow you back in, I recommend asking the police for assistance. They will sometimes help in these circumstances if you can show you live there. If not, you can sue the landlord for access to the property and/or damages for any loss of use or lost property. This would be expensive, but is your last option if the landlord won't act responsibly and the police won't help.
It's not abandonment if they can reach you. That is a huge leap of logic. Landlords in WA can never use self-help to effectuate an eviction, they always have to go through the courts and have the sheriff execute the writ. I agree with Mr. Cutting, that if you can demonstrate to law enforcement that you live there (bank statement, driver's license, utility bill?) they may help you. If they do not help you, you are going to need a lawyer. Elizabeth Powell
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