Almost every renter occasionally wonders what sort of behavior might lead to eviction. Most renters understand they’re walking a fine line with extreme noise, property damage, or being a repeated nuisance to their neighbors.
But tenant misbehavior that falls short of the extremes presents a more challenging matter. Does a landlord have grounds for eviction when, say, a tenant allows trash to accumulate in their apartment? In Washington state, the Washington Landlord-Tenant Act codifies the behaviors that warrant eviction and the procedures landlords must follow.
Eviction in Washington and Seattle
Different behaviors require different eviction notices
Washington landlords must provide different eviction notices depending on the tenant’s offending behavior. If a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord may submit a three-day notice to pay or vacate the premises. Landlords can also submit three-day notices for criminal activity, consistent nuisance complaints from neighbors, significant property damage. In these latter cases, the landlord does not have to allow any room for the tenant to remedy the violation.
Landlords can submit 10-day notices for less severe violations. For instance, a tenant who keeps a pet in violation of the lease or allows unauthorized persons to live on the premises could receive a 10-day eviction notice. In these cases, the tenant must be given an opportunity to correct the misbehavior prior to eviction.
Finally, in month-to-month rental arrangements, landlords can give tenants a 20-day “no cause” written notice to vacate. Landlords needn’t provide a reason for the notice, but they cannot evict tenants for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.
Seattle’s just–cause requirement
As is often the case in Washington, the situation in Seattle is a bit different. True, Seattle landlords must abide by the provisions of the state landlord-tenant statute, but they must also follow Seattle’s just-cause ordinance, which protects against no-cause evictions of month-to-month tenants who have an oral rental agreement but no written lease. The city’s just-cause ordinance requires landlords to cite at least one of 18 specific reasons to serve a renter with a written notice of termination of tenancy. Valid reasons include non-payment of rent, multiple late payments, or the unit being put up for sale or auction.
As you can see, landlord-tenant laws are complicated—and not just in Washington state and the Emerald City. They are intended to protect the rights of both parties—landlords from unresponsive or abusive tenants, and tenants from capricious landlords. Given this delicate balancing act, legal disputes between landlords and renters are common throughout the country. If you find yourself embroiled in a landlord-tenant disagreement, you should consider doing some online research or consulting an attorney who specializes in this complex area of law.