Washington Eviction Process


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

The information on this page regards landlord-tenant law only in the state of Washington. Even for Washington, while we strive to keep the content of this website current, the law changes. Also, the information is general in nature and is not a substitute for legal advice about your circumstances.

The Eviction Process – an Overview
Step 1. The Eviction Notice

The eviction process, with few exceptions, begins with a notice. The most common include: for non-payment of rent, a three-day-notice-to-pay-or-vacate; for failure to comply with a term of the lease, a ten-day-notice-to-comply-or-vacate; for waste or nuisance a three-day-quit-notice; or for month-to-month tenancies a “20-day” notice to terminate a tenancy. Eviction notice forms may be downloaded for free.

While the landlord may serve more than one type of notice, this will cause problems if the notices are inconsistent. For example, a landlord would be unwise to serve a nuisance notice in combination with other notices. Consult an attorney if unsure which notices to serve.

Step 2. Initiating the Eviction Litigation – The Summons and Complaint

If the tenant fails to comply with the notice, the next step in the eviction is to initiate litigation. This is done by serving the tenant with a summons and complaint. The tenant must answer the summons by the deadline specified, generally about 7-10 days from the date of service. Because the landlord is a party to the action, the landlord may not serve the summons and complaint.

Step 3. Default or a Show Cause Hearing

A. Default

If there is no response to the summons and complaint relief may be obtained from the court by default without notice to the tenant. In Washington a defendant, including a tenant, does not have to do a lot to appear. Even a phone call could be treated as an appearance.


B. The Show Cause Hearing

If the tenant makes an appearance, even an informal one, a hearing is required. The tenant must be given notice of the hearing. The tenant must show cause at this hearing as to why the landlord is not entitled to possession and a judgment for rent immediately, i.e. without the need for a trial. (Unless service was by alternative means with the court’s permission, in which case the landlord is only entitled to possession but not a judgment.)

The landlord or property manager must attend the hearing.

The show cause order may be served at the time the summons and complaint are served or any time afterwards. If the tenant responds to an unfiled summons, a show cause hearing must be set to continue the eviction process. Because of this tenant right to “automatically” delay the eviction process consider serving the show cause order with the summons and complaint.

Step 4. The Sheriff Steps In

After the writ of restitution is obtained, whether by default or at the show cause hearing, the sheriff will serve it. The tenant will have three business days to vacate, not including the day of service.

If the tenant does not vacate the premises in this time-frame you must contact the sheriff’s civil department and arrange a physical eviction.