Eviction and Your Defense
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
- Who is this packet for?
- Important Information
- Does my landlord have to have a reason for asking me to move out?
- Illegal Actions of the Landlord
- What are the reasons a landlord can force me to move out?
- Does the landlord have to deliver these notices in a particular way?
- Can my landlord still take me to court if I move out before the time on the eviction notice is up?
- What happens if I continue to live in the unit after the time on the notice is up?
- What should I do if I get an "Eviction Summons" and "Complaint for Unlawful Detainer?"
- What happens if I move out after I get the "Eviction Summons" and "Complaint for Unlawful Detainer?"
- What is a "Notice of Appearance" and how do I fill it out?
- What is an "Answer" and how do I fill it out?
- How do I submit my "Notice of Appearance" or "Answer?"
- What if the Eviction Summons says I have to go to a court hearing to give my Answer instead of just delivering it to the Clerk?
- What if I also get a separate notice titled "RCW 59.18.375 Payment or Sworn Statement Requirement?"
- How do I know if I have to argue my case in court?
- What is an "Order to Show Cause" and what should I do if I get one?
- What is a "Show Cause Hearing?"
- How do I get ready for the hearing?
- What do I do when I get to court for my hearing?
- What happens at the hearing?
- Who are the "plaintiffs" and "defendants?"
- What if I do not speak English?
- What happens when my case is called?
- What should I say when it is my turn to talk?
- When will the judge announce his/her decision?
- What if I want to have a jury hear my case?
- What happens if I miss my "Show Cause Hearing?"
- Can my landlord physically force me to leave the property?
- If the judge decides the case should go to full trial, how do I get a trial date?
- Is there a way I can settle the case with my landlord without going to court?
- What happens if I do not answer the Eviction Summons and Complaint, or if I lose at the show cause hearing?
- What is a "writ of restitution?"
- My landlord got a writ of restitution and served me. I cannot move right now. What will happen to my belongings?
- I did not move out by the deadline in the writ of restitution. I asked the landlord to store my things. Now what?
- Is there any way I can stop my eviction after I get a "writ of restitution?"
- How can I get more information on my rights?
- What if I need Legal Help?
MS Word Forms and Sample Forms
Landlords have to follow certain rules when they want a tenant to move out. This packet explains the reasons why landlords can evict tenants and how the eviction process works. It tells you what you should do if your landlord tries to evict you. It will also help you defend yourself in court against an eviction if you cannot get a lawyer to represent you.
It is illegal for your landlord to lock you out, turn off your utilities, or take your property, no matter what. If your landlord does any of these things, you can take him/her to court. You must keep all notices and documents you get from your landlord. You should also keep a copy of any letters or documents you send to your landlord. Get something to keep your records in. Keep in your file:
- your lease or rental agreement
- your security deposit receipt
- your list of damages in the unit that were there when you moved in ("Condition Check-In List")
- rent receipts and cancelled checks
- your landlord's address and phone number
- any notices or documents you get from your landlord
- copies of all letters or documents you send to your landlord
In Washington, an eviction lawsuit is called an "Unlawful Detainer Action."
If you cannot get a lawyer, you can defend yourself in your eviction case. This packet will help you with this process.
It depends on the kind of rental agreement you have. There are two main types:
The first is a "month-to-month" rental agreement.
The second is a rental agreement for a specific term, for example, six months or one year, usually called a "lease."
Month-to-month rental agreements
Month-to-month rental agreements do not have a fixed time limit. A month-to-month rental agreement continues until either you or the landlord give proper notice that you or s/he wishes to end it.
A month-to-month rental agreement can be in writing. Or it can simply be an oral agreement without anything in writing. If you pay any kind of deposit, your landlord must give you a written rental agreement.
If you have a month-to-month agreement, you are usually expected to pay rent on a monthly basis.
If you have a month-to-month agreement:
Your landlord does not have to have a reason for asking you to move out (except in Seattle). But s/he has to tell you in writing that s/he wants you to move out at least twenty days before the end of the rental period. Example: If the rental period ends June 30th (that means rent for the next month would be due July 1st), the landlord has to give you written notice to move out on or before June 10th. If the landlord does not have a reason for asking you to move, s/he cannot force you to move out in the middle of a rental period. Leases
A lease must be in writing.
A lease requires you to stay in a unit for a specific amount of time. It also restricts the landlord's ability to change the terms of the agreement.
If you have a lease:
Usually a landlord cannot ask you to move without a reason if you have a lease. Check your lease for any exceptions. If you live in federally-subsidized housing:
You have additional rights. Your landlord may not be able to evict you. These other publications have more information: Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent in Public or Subsidized Housing; HUD Housing Evictions. You can also call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014 or visit www.washingtonlawhelp.org for more help. If you live in a mobile home park and you own your mobile home:
You may also have additional rights. See the publication: Tenants' Rights Under the Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act for more information. In some cities, the landlord cannot ask you to move out for no reason:
In Seattle, for example, a landlord is ordinarily may not ask you to move out for no reason. For more information, call The Tenants' Union at 206-723-0500, or the Seattle Department of Planning & Development Violation Complaint Line at 206-615-0808.
The law prohibits a landlord from taking certain actions against a tenant. These illegal actions include:
- Your landlord is not allowed to lock you out of the unit, no matter what. S/he is not allowed to change locks, add new locks, or prevent you from entering the unit in any other way. S/he is not allowed to lock you out even if you are behind in rent.
The only reason a landlord can shut off utilities is to make repairs. S/he is not allowed to shut off your utilities because you are behind in rent. A landlord cannot shut off utilities to try to force you to move out.
It is also illegal for the landlord to intentionally fail to pay his/her utility bills in order to have the service turned off.
You can take your landlord to court if he shuts off your utilities. If you win, the judge can award you up to $100 a day as damages for each day that utilities were turned off.
Taking Your Property
The landlord cannot take your property unless you are behind in rent and you abandon the unit.
It is illegal to include a clause in the rental agreement that lets the landlord take your property.
If your landlord takes your property, first contact the landlord in writing and demand the return of your property. If you do not get your property back, call the police. You can take the landlord to court to force him/her to give you back your property. The judge can award you damages for the taking of your property, plus up to $100 a day for each day the property was kept, up to $1000.
Retaliatory Actions Against You
The landlord is not allowed to take "retaliatory actions" against you for taking legal action against him/her.
Examples of legal actions you might have taken against him include reporting a housing code violation to a government agency or deducting costs for repairs from your rent.
Examples of illegal retaliatory actions include raising your rent, reducing your services, or evicting you. If your landlord does one of these things within 90 days of a legal action you took against him/her, that action is presumed to be "retaliation," and is illegal. Of course, if your landlord takes one of these actions because you are violating a different rule, that may be allowed.
You can take your landlord to court if s/he retaliates against you.
Physically forcing you to leave the property
- Your landlord is never allowed to physically force you to leave the property. Only the sheriff can physically move you off the property. The landlord must win an eviction case in court in order to get the sheriff involved.
1. For not paying rent. If you are even one day behind in your rent, your landlord can start the process to make you move out. If you are behind in your rent, your landlord can give you a three-day notice to pay rent or vacate. If you pay all the rent you owe within three days after you get the notice, the landlord must accept it. S/he cannot evict you. S/he does not have to accept a partial payment. 2. For not following the rental agreement. If you break one of the terms of the rental agreement, the landlord can give you a 10-day notice to comply or vacate. Example: your landlord could tell you to move out if you have a cat when the rental agreement has a "no pets" rule. If you fix the problem, or "comply," within 10 days after you get the notice the landlord must stop the eviction process. If you do not fix the problem or move out within 10 days, the landlord can start an eviction lawsuit. 3. For creating "waste or nuisance."
You are not allowed to:
permanently damage or destroy the landlord's property
use the property for certain illegal activity including illegal drug-related activity
engage in gang-related activity
interfere with other tenants' use of the property
If you do any of these things, the landlord can give you a 3-day notice to vacate. You must move out within three days after you get this notice. There is no option to correct the problem and stay.
Yes. First, the landlord must try to deliver these eviction notices to you in person. S/he can also have any manager, employee, or other adult deliver them to you. If you are not home, the landlord or his/her agent can leave the notice with someone else at your house. If s/he leaves the notice with someone instead of you, s/he must also mail you a copy. If nobody is home, the landlord or agent can post the notice at your house. If s/he posts the notice, s/he also has to mail you a copy.
Yes. Your landlord cannot file an eviction lawsuit against you if you move out before the time on the notice is up. But s/he can still take you to court to sue you for any rent or other damages he says you owe him. Your landlord has six years after you move out to file a lawsuit against you for rent you owe him/her.
The landlord can go to court and start an eviction lawsuit. The eviction lawsuit is called an "Unlawful Detainer Action" in Washington. To start the eviction lawsuit, the landlord must deliver you an "Eviction Summons" and a "Complaint for Unlawful Detainer."
If you get an "Eviction Summons" and "Complaint for Unlawful Detainer", this means your landlord is trying to evict you. You must respond in writing or you will have to move out without getting a court hearing first.
The first thing you should do if you get an Eviction Summons and Complaint is try to get help from a lawyer. If you are low income, you can call the CLEAR line at 1-888-201-1014. A lawyer at CLEAR may be able to help you over the phone. Or he or she may be able to refer you to a free or low-cost lawyer who can help you in person. If you are not low-income, you should try to see a private lawyer. Ask your friends if they have any recommendations for lawyers they've worked with. Or look in the yellow pages under Attorneys.
Next, you need to write and deliver a "Notice of Appearance" or an "Answer." You do not have much time to do this. It is very important that you submit these documents on time even if you do not have legal help.
The Eviction Summons and Complaint will tell you the deadline for submitting your "Notice of Appearance" or "Answer." Your landlord is supposed to deliver the Eviction Summons and Complaint at least 7 days before the deadline to submit your Answer.
Your landlord must follow certain rules for delivering the Eviction Summons and Complaint. These papers must be delivered in person to you or someone who lives with you. Your landlord cannot just mail the papers to you or post them on the property unless he gets a court order. If the papers are delivered to you incorrectly, you should write this down in your "Answer" (explained below.)
What happens if I move out after I get the "Eviction Summons" and "Complaint for Unlawful Detainer"?
After you get the Eviction Summons and Complaint, you cannot stop the eviction lawsuit by moving out. If you do not answer the Complaint, you will lose the case automatically. If you disagree with anything in the Complaint, you must still write a "Notice of Appearance" or "Answer." You also have to go to the show cause hearing if you get an "Order to Show Cause." If you do not do these things, you will probably be ordered to pay everything the Complaint says you owe.
When you get an Eviction Summons and Complaint, you must submit an "Answer" by the deadline in the Eviction Summons. If you aren't sure what to put in your Answer or you need more time to get legal help, you can submit a "Notice of Appearance" instead. You still must submit an Answer to the Complaint, but you cannot be evicted without further written notice if you have submitted a "Notice of Appearance." The "Notice of Appearance" simply lets the landlord and the court know that you want to be notified if anything else happens in your case.
If you do not submit either a "Notice of Appearance" or "Answer," your landlord will probably win the case automatically. You will be ordered by the court to move out. You will also have to pay everything your landlord asked for in the Complaint.
Use the blank "Notice of Appearance" form at the end of this packet. At the top of the form, you should fill out the county where the lawsuit was filed. Fill in the same county listed on the Eviction Summons and Complaint. Fill in your name as the "defendant" and your landlord's name as the "plaintiff." If there is a case number on the Eviction Summons and Complaint form, fill that in in the space next to the word "No." (for Number.) If there is not a case number on the Eviction Summons and Complaint, leave the space for the case number blank. Even if there is no case number, you must still submit your "Notice of Appearance" or "Answer" by the deadline in the Eviction Summons.
Fill in the name of your landlord's lawyer in the space for "Attorney for Plaintiff." Fill in the date. Then sign the form and fill in your name, address, and phone number.
If you get an Eviction Summons and Complaint, you must submit a written "Answer." In the "Answer", you get a chance to explain your side of the story. Use the blank "Answer, Affirmative Defenses, Set-Offs" form at the end of this packet. You can fill in the form by hand. Make sure you write neatly.
At the top of the form, you should fill out the county where the lawsuit was filed. Fill in the same county listed on the Eviction Summons and Complaint. Fill in your name as the "defendant" and your landlord's name as the "plaintiff." If there is a case number on the Eviction Summons and Complaint form, fill that in too. If there is not a case number on the Eviction Summons and Complaint, leave the space for the case number blank.
Next, there are spaces that ask you to either "admit" or "deny" the statements that the landlord makes in the Complaint. Read each paragraph in the Complaint carefully. The paragraphs will be numbered. For all of the paragraphs you agree with, fill in the number of the paragraph in the "admit" category. For all of the paragraphs you disagree with, fill in the number of the paragraph in the "deny" category.
You might want to only admit part of a paragraph. In this case, write the number of the paragraph in the "admit" section. Then copy down the parts you disagree with where it says "except for the following statements:."
In the section titled "Affirmative Defenses," you have a chance to explain your side of the story. You should write in this section any reasons you have for why your landlord should not be able to evict you. For example, if your landlord did not make necessary repairs and you followed all the correct rules to deduct repair costs from your rent for that reason, you should write that. If your landlord did not deliver the Eviction Summons and Complaint at least 7 days before the response deadline, you should write that.
If you think your landlord actually owes you money, you should write that in the section titled "Set-offs." List the amount and the reasons why you think your landlord owes you money. Lastly, write in your address and phone number. Sign and date the form.
STEP 1: Make at least two copies of the form after you fill it out.
STEP 2: Take one copy to your landlord's lawyer. The lawyer's address should be printed on the lower right hand side of your Eviction Summons and Complaint. It is best to deliver the form in person. If your landlord doesn't have a lawyer, take the form to the landlord himself.
When you deliver the form, ask the landlord's lawyer or secretary to stamp the original and one copy of the form with a "copy received" stamp and the date. If the Eviction Summons says you have to deliver the form by a certain time, ask the lawyer or secretary to write in the time as well. Keep the stamped copy for your file. This will give you proof that you delivered the form before the deadline listed on the Eviction Summons.
it is best to deliver the form in person, but you can also mail it. If there's a fax number in the Eviction Summons, you can also fax it. Remember that the form has to be received by the landlord's lawyer by the deadline on the Eviction Summons. It is not enough to simply mail it and have it postmarked by the deadline. If you mail the form, you should include a Certificate of Service. This form gives you proof that you mailed the form on time. There is a blank "Certificate of Service" form at the end of the forms in this packet. Use this form. If you fax the form, print out a fax transmission confirmation and keep it.
STEP 3: Next, if there is already a case number on the Eviction Summons and Complaint, you need to file the original form at the Superior Court. Take the original to the Superior Court in the county listed on the Eviction Summons.
If there is not a case number on the Eviction Summons and Complaint, keep the original for the time being. Wait until you receive the case number, either in the mail or by personal delivery. Then take the original "Notice of Appearance" or "Answer" form you filled out to the court. Take it to the County Courthouse in the county listed on the Eviction Summons.
When you file the original at the court, ask the Clerk to stamp your copy with a stamp showing the date. This will prove you filed the form on time.
In King County, take the forms to the 6th floor of the King County Courthouse at 3rd and James in Seattle.
What if the Eviction Summons says I have to go to a court hearing to give my Answer instead of just delivering it to the Clerk?
You should not have to go to a court hearing until you get an "Order to Show Cause." (This is explained below.) But if the Eviction Summons says you have to go to a court hearing to give your answer, it is a good idea to talk to your landlord's lawyer. Tell the lawyer you should not have to go to a court hearing until you get an "Order to Show Cause." Ask the lawyer to confirm that he or she will give you written notice later if you have to go to a court hearing.
In addition to the Eviction Summons and Complaint, you may also get a separate notice that you have to pay your rent to the court in order to prevent eviction. This notice should be titled "RCW 59.18.375 Payment or Sworn Statement Requirement." This notice can be delivered to you if the eviction lawsuit is based on nonpayment of rent. It can be delivered either with the Eviction Summons and Complaint or later. If you receive this notice, you must either pay the rent claimed due to the Superior Court Clerk or file a sworn statement that you do not owe the amount of rent claimed due by the deadline in the notice. There is a sworn statement form called Certification in the sample forms at the end of this packet. The deadline for responding to this notice should be at least 7 days from the date it is delivered to you.
You must either pay the rent to the Superior Court Clerk or deliver a sworn statement saying you do not think you owe the rent claimed due. If you do not do either of these things by the deadline in the notice, your landlord can get a court order to evict you automatically. You must also deliver written notice of payment or the sworn statement that you do not owe the amount of rent claimed due to the landlord's lawyer. The notice of payment or sworn statement can be delivered in person, by mail, or by fax if there's a fax number in the notice.
In King County, you should take your rent to the court cashier's office. This office is located at 3rd and James in Downtown Seattle. The office is on the 6th floor. You can also deliver the rent check to the Regional Justice Center in Kent. In other counties, take your rent to the Superior Court Clerk in your county. You generally must pay by cash, cashier's check, or money order. The Clerk usually won't accept personal checks.
You must respond to this notice by the deadline in addition to delivering your Notice of Appearance or Answer by the deadline in the Eviction Summons and appearing at any show cause hearing that has been scheduled.
If you have to go to a hearing on the eviction, you will get a notice called an "Order to Show Cause."
If you get an "Order to Show Cause," it means your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you and he wants to have a hearing in court. If you get an "Order to Show Cause" and you want to defend yourself against the eviction, you have to go to court. It is not enough to deliver your "Notice of Appearance" or your "Answer." It is also not enough for you to deliver your rent to the Superior Court Clerk or file a sworn statement that you do not owe all of the rent. You must go to the hearing!
The date and time of the "Show Cause Hearing" will be on the "Order to Show Cause." You must be on time.
At a Show Cause Hearing, a judge or commissioner will decide whether you have a good defense to the eviction. If she thinks you do have good arguments for why you should not be evicted, you may win the case right there. She may also grant you a full trial to defend yourself. If she thinks you do not have strong enough arguments against the eviction, she can decide that you should be evicted immediately. She can also decide how much money you owe the landlord or postpone that decision until later.
Your landlord's lawyer will have a chance to argue why you should be evicted. Then you will be able to give your arguments for why you should not be evicted.
You should first gather all the important papers and documents you need to argue your case. You should bring everything that has to do with your rental. These things may include:
your lease or rental agreement
your security deposit receipt
your move-in condition checklist
your list of things wrong with the apartment
rent receipts and cancelled checks
your eviction notices
the Eviction Summons and Complaint
your copies of the "Notice of Appearance" or "Answer" that your filled out. (They should be stamped with the date you delivered them to your landlord's lawyer and to the court.)
any written estimates for repairs to damages in the rental unit
receipts for repairs you had done in the apartment
photographs of any problems with the apartment
Bring originals whenever possible, and bring an extra copy in case the court wants to keep anything you have. If you are not sure whether you will need something, bring it with you anyway!! It can never hurt to have too much evidence.
Next, you should contact any witnesses who would be able to support your case and ask them to come to the hearing. Witnesses must have personal information about the reasons why you should not be evicted. They must have seen the damage or disputes between you and your landlord in person. The more witnesses you have with personal knowledge about your case, the better.
If you want to see how the system works before your hearing, ask the court clerk when other "show cause hearings" will be held. You can ask to sit in on a hearing to get an idea of what yours will be like.
Before the hearing, you should practice what you want to say. Your presentation should be organized and short. You may want to write down a list of important points you do not want to forget.
Let your witnesses know in advance what questions you are going to ask them.
Check in with the court clerk when you arrive at the courthouse for your hearing. The clerk will tell you which courtroom to go to. The list of cases to be heard that day may be posted outside the courtroom or read aloud at the start of the session. If your case is not listed or read, see the court clerk.
The judge will usually begin by describing the court's procedure. Then the first case will be called. Wait for the judge to announce your case and then go forward with your evidence and witnesses. Usually, all plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses will be required to swear to tell the truth before they testify.
In an eviction case, your landlord is the "plaintiff." You are the "defendant." (Because you are defending yourself against him.)
If you do not speak English or have a speech or hearing impairment, you have the right to an interpreter in court. Just make sure to let the court know as far in advance as possible that you want an interpreter. People who are not U.S. citizens also have a right to a hearing in court.
When your case is called, your landlord's lawyer will have the chance to speak first. The judge will then ask any questions she has for the lawyer and the lawyer's witnesses if there are any. The judge may give you the chance to ask the lawyer and the witnesses questions as well.
Then it will be your turn to talk.
When it is your turn to talk, you should:
First explain the reasons why you think you should not be evicted. There are many arguments you may have. If your landlord did not make repairs he should have, you should say that. If your landlord says you did not pay rent but you did, you should say that. If you deducted costs from your rent for repairs, you should say that. If your landlord did not give you the proper notice for changing a rule, you should say that. If your landlord gave you any notices late, you should say that.
Then show the judge any evidence you brought with you. (See above for a list of evidence you might want to bring.)
If you have witnesses, tell the judge you would like to have your witnesses testify. When the judge tells you to question your witnesses, ask them the questions you prepared about why you should not be evicted.
After hearing both sides, the judge will announce a decision. The judge may decide that:
You lose the case. This happens if the judge decides that you do not have a good defense to the eviction lawsuit (Unlawful Detainer Action). In this case, the judge will direct the sheriff to evict you. The judge may also decide that you owe your landlord money. He or she may tell you how much money you have to pay your landlord or postpone that decision until later.
You win the case. This happens if the judge decides that you have presented a good defense against the eviction. In this case, the judge will dismiss the case. This means you do not have to move out, at least for the time being. Sometimes the judge will make this decision simply because the landlord did not follow the right procedures for the eviction. The landlord may still be able to evict you later, but he will have to fix any mistakes he made in the eviction process first.
A full trial is necessary to decide the case. If the judge makes this decision, you and your landlord have to get a trial date. If you are still living on the property, your landlord has the right to a trial within 30 days.
What if I want to have a jury hear my case?
You do not have the right to a jury at a "show cause hearing." But you do have the right to a jury if the judge orders a full trial. If you want your case heard by a jury at trial:
You must file a written request for a jury before you get a trial date
Go to the Superior Court Clerk to file this request
There is a fee for having a jury. A six-person jury costs $125. A twelve-person jury costs $250. If you cannot afford this fee, you can ask the court to waive the jury fee. Whether the jury fee will be waived or not is up to the court. You should ask the court to order waiver of the fee before you file the request for a jury.
If you do not go to the court for your Show Cause Hearing or if you are even a few minutes late, you will probably lose automatically. The judge will allow your landlord to evict you. The sheriff will be able to force you to leave the property. And you may have to pay everything the landlord asked for in the Complaint. This may include rent, damages, court costs, and lawyer fees.
No. Only the sheriff can physically move you off the property. The landlord has to go to court to get the sheriff involved.
This may vary from county to county. Usually, the judge or commissioner will sign an order instructing the Superior Court Clerk to set the case for trial on a specific date. Ask the judge or commissioner or contact the Superior Court Clerk if you have a question about the procedure for getting a trial date in your county.
Yes. If you and your landlord can make an agreement on the case, you do not have to go to court. Make sure you get this agreement in writing. It should say:
Whether you are allowed to stay in the unit or whether you have to move
If you are agreeing to move, it should say the date you will move out by
Whether you are responsible for paying any rent, damages, late charges, fees, court costs, or lawyer fees
What will happen if you do not move out by the agreed date or if you do not pay the agreed amount of money
If you and your landlord make a written agreement, you should have a lawyer look at it before you sign it.
This agreement between you and your landlord is called a "Stipulation." There is a sample "Stipulation" at the end of this packet.
What happens if I do not answer the Eviction Summons and Complaint, or if I lose at the show cause hearing?
If you do not respond to the Eviction Summons and Complaint, or if you lose at the Show Cause Hearing, you will generally have to:
Pay the money the judge says you owe your landlord
Pay your landlord back for his court fees and lawyer fees in the eviction process as well. Court fees can cost over $200. Lawyer fees can cost $1,000 or more. Because it is so expensive, it is a good idea to try to avoid going to court if you do not have a good defense against the eviction.
Usually, if you do not answer the Eviction Summons and Complaint, you will have to pay everything your landlord asked for in the Complaint.
In order to make you move out, the court issues an order for a "writ of restitution."
The sheriff can deliver a "writ of restitution" to you personally or post it on your property. If the sheriff delivers or posts a "writ of restitution," it means you must move out. You will not have a chance to argue your case unless the court orders another hearing. The writ will usually say the date by which you have to move out. If you do not move out on your own before this date, the sheriff will come to order you off the property. The sheriff may physically remove you and your belongings from the property if you do not move out voluntarily. If you have questions about the right of the sheriff to force you to leave the property, call the sheriff's office. The number is usually listed on the "writ of restitution."
My landlord got a writ of restitution and served me. I cannot move right now. What will happen to my belongings?
If at all possible, you should move your belongings out of the unit before the sheriff comes. When you get a "writ of restitution" and do not move out by the deadline, the landlord under the sheriff's supervision is allowed to move your belongings out of the unit if you are not there. If you deliver a written request to the landlord for storage of your property within three days after delivery of the writ of restitution, your landlord must store the property. The landlord may also have to store your property if s/he knows that you are disabled and your disability interferes with your ability to ask for storage. You will generally have to pay moving and storage costs to get your property back. If you object to storage, your landlord cannot store your property. If your landlord does not store your property, s/he will usually put the property on the sidewalk or parking strip. If your property is not stored, your landlord and the sheriff do not have to protect your property from theft, weather, or other damage.
I did not move out by the deadline in the writ of restitution. I asked the landlord to store my things. Now what?
The landlord must store the property until s/he sells it or disposes of it following appropriate notice to you of the proposed sale. See RCW 59.18.312. If your belongings are worth more than $250: the landlord may sell the property after giving you thirty days' notice of the sale. The landlord may sell all your belongings, including personal papers and family keepsakes. The landlord may dispose of any items that did not sell. If your belongings are worth $250 or less: the landlord has to give you only seven days' notice before selling OR disposing of all your things. The landlord may keep a portion of the sales proceeds necessary to pay the actual or reasonable costs of storage of your belongings. The landlord must give you the rest. (If you do not claim the money within one year, the landlord has to submit the money to the Dept of Revenue.)
State law has no guidelines for how a landlord must value items for a sale, such as requiring a minimum starting bid.
It is very difficult to stop an eviction after you get a "writ of restitution." But you may be able to stop it if the landlord did something incorrectly in the eviction process. If you want to try, you should contact a lawyer immediately.
You can get more information on your rights as a tenant in the packet called Your Rights as a Tenant in Washington. You can find this packet on the internet at www.washingtonlawhelp.org. Or you can get it by calling the Northwest Justice Project at 1-888-201-1014.
Apply online with CLEAR*Online - http://nwjustice.org/clear-online
- Call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014
CLEAR is Washington's toll-free, statewide intake, advice and referral service for low-income people looking for free legal help with civil legal problems.
Outside King County: Call 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:10 a.m. until 12:25 p.m. CLEAR works with a language line to provide free interpreters as needed. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-888-201-1014 using your preferred TTY or Video relay service.
King County: Call 211 for information and referral to a legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. Or call (206) 461-3200, or the toll-free number1-877-211-WASH (9274). 211 works with a language line to provide free interpreters as needed. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-800-833-6384 or 711. You will be connected to a relay operator at no cost, who will then connect you with 211. You may also find information on King County legal service providers on 211's website: www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.
If you are age 60 or Over: Call CLEAR*Sr. at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of your income.
Sample forms referred to earlier in these materials are included for those forms that you may need to fill out in responding to an Unlawful Detainer Action. We have also included a sample Summons and Complaint. These forms are provided to illustrate how a particular form may be filled out. These are only examples. To view the sample forms, you must download this publication as a PDF file. The PDF version of this publication also has blank forms for you to fill out by hand. If you have Microsoft Word software, you can use the forms below.
- Notice of Appearance and Certificate of Service
- Answer, Affirmative Defenses and Set-Offs
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of the date of its printing, March 2012.
© 2012 Northwest Justice Project. 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and individuals for non-commercial use only.)