The information on the page is based on the laws of the state of Washington. Landlord-tenant law is very different in different jurisdictions. Even in Washington the information on this website is not a substitute for advice about your circumstances.

1. What is the correct way to serve an eviction notice?

The landlord may serve the eviction notice (but not the summons and complaint). The landlord must strictly comply with statutory time and manner requirements. See our instructions for serving eviction notices for more information.

2. How long do evictions take?

This depends in no small part on the actions – or inaction – of the tenant.

See our description of the Washington eviction process for more information.  Also, note that the procedure for commercial evictions differs significantly from that for residential evictions.

3. How much do evictions cost?

Again, this depends on the eviction law in your state and on how the tenant responds. Check our state eviction law directory and/or state landlord attorney directory.

4. The tenant moved out. Can I retake possession?

Abandonment must be clear and unequivocal. In most jurisdictions any ambiguity will be construed against the landlord.

When in doubt consult a landlord attorney.

5. The tenant left belongings behind. What do I do with them?

In some states you are required by law to store the property for a given amount of time.

In other states the landlord is not required to store the tenant’s property.

Again, it is always wise to consult an attorney when in doubt.

6. Can I accept money after I serve the tenant with an eviction notice?

It depends on your jurisdiction. In many states the landlord risks waiving the notice by continuing to accept rent.

7. My tenant is a victim of domestic violence. Are there special rules for this situation?

In some jurisdictions there are special protections afforded to domestic violence victims. Under Washington state landlord-tenant law, for example, a tenant who is a domestic violence victim may break the lease. Also, landlords are prohibited from discrimnating against such tenants.

8. I was selling my house to someone who moved in prior to closing. I no longer want to sell to them but they refuse to vacate the property. Can I evict them?

Yes, but in some states not under the landlord tenant act.

You may have to bring an ejectment action against a purchaser who gained possession pre-closing and will not leave. This may take a lot longer and will cost more money.

9. What are the rules regarding security and damage deposits?

This varies from state to state. Many jurisdictions require, among other things, checklists, that deposits be placed in trust accounts, and that the landlord provide either the return of the deposit or an explantion of the retention of any funds with a given period after end of the tenancy.

10. How much notice am I required to give my tenant for inspection/repairs or to show the property to prospective purchasers or tenants?

The landlord has a right of entry for legitimate purposes.

The amount and type of notice required varies.

The landlord’s right to enter should not be abused. The tenant has a covenant of quiet enjoyment. The landlord may also be held liable for contructive eviction and/or self-help eviction.

11. My tenant is threatening to make repairs and deduct the repair costs from the rent. Can my tenant do this?


In many states the tenant has the right to repair and deduct if the tenant follows certain requirements and acts within certain limitations.

12. What are the landlord’s duties to maintain the premises?

Traditionally the landlord had no duty to maintain the premises.

In most states modern landlord-tenant law grants the tenant an implied warranty of habitablity.

Under the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, adopted in dozens of states, a landlord has a duty to keep the premises habitable at all times during the tenancy.

Even in states that have not adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, usually the courts or other state laws have imposed such a warranty.

Local municipal or county laws may impose greater or additional requirements.

13. Do I have to provide smoke detectors?

Yes, in most states. You may also be required to provide certain notices regarding smoke detectors.

14. I bought a property at foreclosure. The former occupants have not moved out. How do I get possession?

It depends on the laws in your state.

In Washington state for wexample, for eviction after foreclosure no additional notice is required. You may proceed directly into the eviction action in court.

Contact an attorney in your jurisdiction for advice.

15. How can I collect from my tenant after

eviction or abandonment?

There are several ways to go about collecting. Very often, however, the tenant is simply judgment proof.

16. What do discrimination laws require of landlords?

Federal, state, and local laws ban many forms of discrimination. Sometimes landlords violate them largely because of ignorance of the requirements.

17. My tenant is not paying rent. I can change the locks, turn off the utlities, and/or take other simliar steps to force them out, right?

The answers are no, no, and no. Self help evictions are illegal under modern landlord tenant law in most, if not all, jurisdictions.

18. But my lease says I can change the locks, evict without notice, and/or the property is “as-is”, etc. The tenant agreed to this by signing the lease so why do I need to worry about all of this?
This is unenforcable and the landlord ahould rely on it. In the many states that follow the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, the Landlord-Tenant Act provisions cannot be waived.

19. I am leasing property constructed prior to 1978. Do lead based paint disclosure laws apply to me?

Yes. Failure to comply with federal lead based paint disclosure laws can result in fines against a landlord for as much as $11,000.00.

20. Do weekends count in computing time for an eviction notice?

It depends on your state eviction laws.

In Washington, the Supreme Court has ruled that the three day notice period includes weekends.

In other states, such as Ohio, weekends and holidays do not count for the three day Notice to Leave Premises.