An Eviction Action Starts with an Eviction Notice.
An unlawful detainer begins with with service of an eviction notice on the tenant. The eviction notice must state a reason for the eviction. The grounds for an eviction include:
1. Default in payment of rent. The tenant has 3 days to pay rent or vacate.
1. Causing Nuisance. Tenant must vacate in three days
2. Failure to vacate after expiration of the lease. (no notice required)
3. Failure to vacate after 20 days notice to terminate a month to month tenancy.
4. Breach of lease provisions and failure to comply or vatate after a ten day notice.
5. Failure of a trespasser to vacate after service of a three day notice
6. Permitting gang related activity on the premises. 3 days notice to vacate. RCW 59.12.030
Service of the Summons and Complaint.
If the the tenant has not complied with the eviction notice, the landlord begins an unlawful detainer action with service of a summons and complaint. The summons and complaint must be in a specific statutory form. Summons that fails to inform the tenant of the right to respond by mail or fax does not strictly comply with the statute. 59.12.070, 59.12.080
Tenant Must Appear or Answer the Summons
The tenant's answer or notice of appearance must be in writing by the return date listed on the summons. (fourteen days). Faxed appearance or answers are allowed. If the tenant does not answer by the date, the landlord can get a default judgment. 59.18.365., RCW 59.18.380
Scheduling the Show Cause Hearing If the Tenant Answers.
A show cause hearing is a pretrial hearing to determine if the landlord should be restored to possession of the property immediately (I.e. have a writ issued to evict the tenant). To schedule a show cause hearing, The landlord asks the court commissioner to order the tenant to appear at a show cause hearing. The Order to show cause must specify a hearing date not less than seven nor more than thirty days from the date of service of the tenant.
At the show cause hearing, the commissioner is required to examine the parties and witnesses and determine whether the landlord has the right to be restored to possession of the property. A a summary judgment standard is often used: the landlord must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the plaintiff is entitled to a writ as a matter of law.
The Unlawful Detainer May Be Dismissed or Set for Trial, Or a Writ of Restitution Issued.
In some cases, the court will dismiss the action and the tenant resumes his tenancy. OR: If the commissioner decides that there are genuine issues, he could set the case for trial within 30 days. Factual issues in unlawful detainer trial must be tried by a jury unless a jury is waived. OR: At some show cause hearings, the commissioner may decides that landlord had proper grounds to evict the tenant. Her will order a "writ of restitution." This order restores possession of the property to the landlord. It gives the sheriff's office authority to carry out a physical eviction at certain date.
A Tenant Can "stay" the Writ of Restitution or "reinstate" the Lease in Some Case.
If a writ of restitution is issued at the show cause hearing, the tenant can "stay" execution of the writ by paying into the court registry the rent and courts costs determined to be owing plus the monthly rent as it becomes due, until the date of trial. 59.18.380
OR: A tenant can reinstate his lease in some case. A tenant who has been evicted for nonpayment of rent may be restored to possession after a judgment if her lease has not yet expired by paying the amount of the judgment plus costs into court within five days of the judgment's entry. RCW 59.18.380. 410
Review of the Court Commissioner's Decision May Be Requested by Either Party
Either party may request a revision of a commissioner ruling by filing a motion within TEN days. There has to be a valid legal argument for the court to review. RCW 2.24.050
A Note on Damages:
Damages that can be awarded to the landlord are restricted because of the limited nature of the unlawful detainer proceeding. Judgments are restricted to 1) Rent found to be owing and 2) Damages arising out of tenant's unlawful detention of the premises. Typically this is the per diem rental for each day the tenant remains until evicted 59.18.410
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