Washington

HUD Housing Evictions

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
Contents
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Information

 

Should I use this publication?

As a tenant living in an apartment complex where the landlord has a contract with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), you have more protection against evictions than most other tenants.  This publication briefly explains your rights and the steps you can take to avoid an eviction. This information is important. If the landlord evicts you, you will lose your federal housing assistance.

When can my landlord evict me?

Your landlord can only evict you by following federal, state, and local laws. The federal requirements for terminating your tenancy are in your lease. Ask your landlord for a copy of your lease. Read it carefully.
Under your lease and HUD regulations, your landlord may only end your tenancy for:

  •  "Material noncompliance" with the rental agreement.  This includes:

  • A serious violation of your lease

  • Repeated minor violations of your lease that disrupt the project, affect anyone's health or safety, interfere with the management, or have an adverse financial impact on the apartment complex

  • Failure to report changes in your family size or income

  • Nonpayment of rent

  • Material failure to carry out your obligations under the Washington Residential Landlord - Tenant Act.

  • Criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents or persons living in your immediate vicinity or the health or safety of any on-site property management staff, and any drug-related activity on or near the premises.

  • Other good cause.

Your lease may have a provision holding you responsible for any drug-related criminal activity of any member of your household, any guests, or other persons acting under your control. The U.S. Supreme Court says that under Federal law, landlords can evict tenants in HUD-subsidized housing when other household members or guests commit certain crimes. The Court said it does not matter that you did not know of or could not have prevented the criminal activity. 

Does my landlord have to give me notice that s/he is evicting me?

Yes. The notice must be in writing. It must state:

  • when your tenancy will end

  • the reasons for the eviction in enough detail so that you can prepare a defense

  • what you did

  • when you did it

  • who was involved

  • how this violated your lease

  • that, if you do not move, your landlord can only remove you from your apartment by bringing a lawsuit and you will have a chance to defend yourself

  • that you may meet with your landlord to discuss the matter

*If your landlord brings an unlawful detainer action (eviction lawsuit) against you, s/he can only rely on the reasons in the eviction notice.

Your landlord must mail the notice to you by first-class mail. S/he must also give a copy to any adult answering your door. If no adult is home, the landlord must leave a copy of the notice under your door, if possible, or else post it on the door. Service is not complete until the landlord has both mailed and delivered the notice to your apartment.

I got an eviction notice. What should I do?

You should immediately set up a meeting with the landlord to discuss the notice and any steps you can take to correct any lease violations. Make your meeting request in writing. Keep a copy for proof that you gave it to the landlord within the deadline in the eviction notice.

*If the landlord refuses to meet with you, you can raise this as a defense in court. 

You should ask to see your file and copy any documents related to the dispute. These might include:

  • your lease

  • written complaints

  • termination notices

  • rent payment history

  • inspection reports

  • notes of conversations

  • witness statements

  • police reports

Lawsuits are risky. You should try to settle your dispute with your landlord without a lawsuit. It is better to avoid an eviction lawsuit before it starts than to defend the lawsuit after it has started. To avoid losing your federal housing assistance, it is often better to settle your case rather than leave the decision to a court.

I could not settle my eviction at the meeting. Can the landlord evict me now?

No. Your landlord must file a lawsuit and get a court order before evicting you from your apartment. Your landlord has no right to lock you out of your apartment, shut off your utilities, or otherwise remove you or your things from your apartment without a court order. Immediately call the cops or sheriff, and then a lawyer, if your landlord:

  • tries to illegally evict you OR

  • takes your belongings

The landlord may delay filing an eviction lawsuit due to the expense. They may also reject your rent in the hope you will move on your own. Do not move without first talking with a lawyer.  If you move, you will lose your federal housing assistance! Keep paying your rent, unless you move. If your landlord rejects your rent, set the funds aside to pay your rent later. Do not spend your rent money, except to move.

You will find out a lawsuit has started when the landlord has served you with a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer. Once the landlord has served you with these papers, you must act immediately to avoid an eviction. Our publication called Eviction and Your Defense explains how to avoid eviction and defend the lawsuit.

Always serve a copy of a Notice of Appearance or Answer on the lawyer representing your landlord by the deadline stated in the Summons. You may also have to file other papers, pay rent to the Court Clerk and appear for a hearing. If you fail to respond in writing or follow the other instructions in the Summons and any accompanying orders, you may lose without a court hearing ("by default").

The landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit. Is it too late for us to settle?

Maybe not. Your landlord may yet settle the lawsuit if you will sign a written settlement agreement. It should say what you must do to keep your tenancy. It will usually authorize your landlord to evict you if you violate the settlement agreement.

As a condition of settlement, your landlord may ask you to pay some of his/her court costs and attorney's fees. It may be better to pay some court costs and attorney's fees than to risk losing your housing assistance.

Do not enter into a settlement agreement you do not understand or cannot obey. A settlement agreement is a binding contract. The court will usually enforce the agreement despite any hardship to you.

*Contact your local Dispute Resolution Center. Find out if it can help mediate your dispute with your landlord.

If the landlord will not negotiate a reasonable settlement, your only choices will be:

  • defend the lawsuit

  • move and give up your federal housing assistance

If possible, discuss your options with a lawyer before moving. If you have to represent yourself, make sure the court understands you live in a HUD-subsidized apartment. You should always show the judge or court commissioner a copy of your lease. The lease describes when the landlord can evict you.  Our Eviction and Your Defense publication has forms and instructions to help you defend yourself in court.

I lost the court case. Now what?

The court will issue a Writ of Restitution requiring you to move. The court will also enter a judgment against you for unpaid rent, court costs and attorney's fees. The landlord has at least ten years to try to collect the judgment. Our publication called Debtor's Rights in a Lawsuit explains more.

The Sheriff's office will deliver the Writ of Restitution to you personally or post it on your door one or two days after the court enters the judgment. The Sheriff has to enforce the Writ within ten days after the court issues it, but no sooner than three to five days after it the Sheriff delivers or posts it. The Sheriff will let you know when you must move and the date the sheriff will return if you do not move.

If you are still on the premises when the sheriff returns, the sheriff will supervise the removal of you and your belongings from the apartment. They may threaten you with arrest or arrest you if you try to interfere.

What if I need legal help?

CLEAR is Washington's toll-free, centralized intake, advice and referral service for low-income people seeking free legal assistance 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 callers 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 an appropriate legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. You may also call (206) 461-3200, or the toll-free number, 1-877-211-WASH (9274). 211 works with a language line to provide callers free interpreters. Deaf and hearing-impaired callers can call 1-800-833-6384 or 711 to get a free relay operator. They will then connect you with 211. You can also get information on legal service providers in King County through 211's website: www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.

  • Persons 60 and Over: Persons 60 or over may call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of income.


 
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