I Just Lost at an Eviction Hearing
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
Find out what your options are at this point. #6331EN
- Who is this for?
- What will you learn by reading it?
- An Eviction Hearing is called a “Show Cause Hearing.”
- Is there any way to stop the sheriff from coming back?
- If you went to the eviction hearing and lost:
- If you were evicted because you owed rent:
- If you can pay off the judgment in one lump sum, you may ask the judge to "reinstate your tenancy":
- If you need more time to pay the landlord, you may ask the judge for a payment plan
- If you were evicted over lease violations or for staying too long:
- If you went to the hearing, but you want another hearing:
- If you did not go to the eviction hearing:
- If you cannot go back to court, but just need more time to move:
- Get Legal Help
Who is this for?
A tenant who went to an eviction hearing and lost.
What will you learn by reading it?
What might happen next (and when) after losing at an eviction hearing
How you may able to pay the landlord and stay or ask the judge for a payment plan so you can stay in your home
How to get legal help if you lost an eviction hearing
An Eviction Hearing is called a “Show Cause Hearing.”
In eviction lawsuits, the hearing is called a Show Cause Hearing. The tenant (or "defendant") in an eviction hearing is supposed to prove (or "show") that there's a good reason (or "cause") why the landlord shouldn't be able to evict you. If the tenant cannot show a good "cause" or defense, the landlord will win.
If the landlord wins, the judge will sign a judgment (showing how much money you owe) and an eviction order for the sheriff.
Usually the judge will sign 2 documents. The first is called a Judgment. It will state how much you owe the landlord. It may include back rent, late fees, legal costs, and lawyers' fees. Late fees must be included in your rental agreement for your landlord to be able to charge them.
The second is called an Order for a Writ of Restitution. The landlord gives this to the sheriff. Then the sheriff attaches a final eviction order on your door, called a Writ of Restitution. The sheriff may tape it to your door that evening, or a few days later.
After the sheriff attaches the Writ of Restitution on your door, the law says you have at least 3 days to move out before the sheriff comes back and makes sure you actually move out.
Sometimes, you may have a few more days or a week. This is not always the case. Sometimes the Writ will have an exact date and time on it. Other times you will have to call the sheriff's department to ask when they will come out.
The Writ of Restitution should have information about asking your landlord to store your personal belongings if you can't move them in time. You have to fill out the form that comes with the Writ of Restitution and give it to your landlord within 3 days after the Writ is posted. The landlord may get to charge you storage fees, like a storage unit business.
"Rent" can mean rent payments, and any other recurring and monthly charges, such as utilities.
Starting June 11, 2020, the term "rent" can also include a missed payment on a deposit installment plan.
Is there any way to stop the sheriff from coming back?
Your legal options depend on what happened in the eviction lawsuit. Some of them are very hard without a lawyer. Try to get legal help as soon as you can.
If you went to the eviction hearing and lost:
You may now wonder if you can "appeal" the eviction lawsuit. Your legal options depend on what happened at the hearing and if you were evicted because you owed rent or not.
If you were evicted because you owed rent:
If you were evicted only because you owed back rent, you may be able to "reinstate your lease" and stay in your home if you can pay back the landlord what you owe and then file a Motion to Reinstate with the court.
You may also be able to file a Motion to Stay the Writ of Restitution and for a Payment Plan and ask the judge for a payment plan, so you can pay back the money over time.
These motions may be hard to do on your own. Try to get legal help. (See below.)
*Starting June 11, 2020, the term "rent" can also include a missed payment on a deposit installment plan.
If you can pay off the judgment in one lump sum, you may ask the judge to "reinstate your tenancy":
If you were evicted only because you owed back rent, you may be able to "reinstate your lease" and stay in your home if you can pay the landlord what you owe and then file a Motion to Reinstate with the court. See RCW 59.18.410(2).
First, you must quickly get all the money together to pay the landlord. This will probably include back rent, a late fee, court costs, and some attorneys' fees.
Second, you must file a formal request to the court, called a Motion to Reinstate. (See the sample motion form #1).
Call 2-1-1 (or 206-461-3610 for TTY) to ask about agencies in your area that give emergency help to cover rent.
If you have all the money listed in the eviction judgment (rent + fees + court costs + attorneys' fees), contact the landlord (or landlord's lawyer) to let them know you want to pay to reinstate the lease and you plan to file a Motion to Reinstate.
After you pay the landlord (or if you offer all the money and the landlord refuses to accept it), you can file your Motion to Reinstate at the courthouse. Ask the court clerk how to schedule a hearing in front of a judge about your Motion. At that hearing, you should ask the judge to sign the sample Order #1.
If the judge approves your motion and signs that order, the sheriff's notice should be stopped and you should get to stay. You may have to give the sheriff a copy of the judge's order. You will then have to keep paying all your rent on time every month. Otherwise the landlord may evict you again.
Filing a Motion to Reinstate may be hard. Try to get legal help as soon as possible. See contact information below.
*Starting June 11, 2020, the term "rent" can include a missed payment on a deposit installment plan.
If you need more time to pay the landlord, you may ask the judge for a payment plan:
If you were evicted only because you owed back rent, and you can get caught up in rent within 90 days, you can ask for a payment plan, through a formal request to the judge, called a Motion to Stay the Writ of Restitution and for a Payment Plan. See RCW 59.18.410(3) and the sample Motion #2 and Order #2.
You will only have a few days to file your motion. Try to get legal help immediately!
RCW 59.18.410(3) explains what kinds of factors the judge can consider when deciding if you should get a payment plan.
Be ready to explain to the judge:
Why you fell behind in rent
Why you fell behind in your deposit installment plan
How soon you could pay the back rent
What kind of payment plan might work
If you have fallen behind before
What kind of tenant you are
How much hardship you and your household will suffer if you are evicted
The judge may ask about your income, bank accounts, and other facts about your life. The judge may order that you pay over 3 months, and may set a very strict schedule on when to make payments to the landlord.
If you can't get caught up and need help paying the rent, you can use Motion #2 to ask the judge to let you get financial help from a charity or a government agency that can give or lend you money to pay your landlord. If you use this Motion, the state may be able to provide some funding to pay off your judgment so you cannot be evicted. If you ask the judge for this help, use sample Order #3.
Call 2-1-1 (or 206-461-3610 for TTY) to ask about agencies in your area that give emergency help to cover rent. You may have to bring a written offer of assistance from the agency to the court when you file your Motion asking for a payment plan.
If you were evicted over lease violations or for staying too long:
If the landlord brought an eviction lawsuit because they claimed you were breaking the rules or because you stayed too long, you won't have the option to "reinstate the lease" or ask for a payment plan as described above. The Motions and Orders below are only for tenants evicted over rent.
If you went to the hearing, but you want another hearing:
Many times after an eviction hearing, tenants feel like they didn't get time to explain their side of things or that they didn't get a good chance to show all the evidence they brought with them. Often, these tenants would like to "appeal" the case and get another hearing in front of a new judge.
First, it's possible to file a Motion for Reconsideration under Washington Court Civil Rule 59. This kind of motion is best in those very rare circumstances where new evidence comes up after the first hearing. You must read Washington Court Rule 59 to see if you have any grounds to ask for "reconsideration."
The second is called a Motion for Revision. You can only ask for "Revision" if your first hearing was decided by a "commissioner" (not a judge). See RCW 2.24.050 and your county court's local rules.
The deadline to file these motions is 10 days after the judgment in the first hearing.
If a judge decides that you brought these kinds of motions just to delay the eviction and you lose, you may end up owing more money to the landlord and the sheriff will come back to evict you. Try to get legal help if you want to try to "appeal" and get a new eviction hearing.
If you did not go to the eviction hearing:
Sometimes, the "Writ of Restitution" is the first notice that a tenant gets about an eviction lawsuit. If you didn't know about the lawsuit and didn't even get to go to an eviction hearing, you may be able to file a formal request to the court (called a Motion to Stay and Vacate).
The Motion to Stay and Vacate is best for people who have a very good reason why they did not go to the eviction hearing and also have a good defense to the eviction lawsuit. If you don't have a good defense, it can be risky. You may end up owing more money to the landlord if you try to file a Motion to Stay and Vacate and lose again.
If you cannot go back to court, but just need more time to move:
You can still negotiate with your landlord for more time to move, even after the sheriff has posted the Writ of Restitution. But usually, by the time the eviction suit has ended in this way, the landlord won't want to negotiate anymore.
The Writ of Restitution will include a form you can fill out to formally ask your landlord to store your possessions if you do not have time to move them before the sheriff comes back. You must give the landlord this form within 3 days after the Writ is posted. The landlord can charge you money for storing your stuff. See RCW 59.18.312.
If you want to know when the sheriff will come back to enforce the Writ of Restitution, call the sheriff's department. They might let you know if they've been scheduled to come out.
*Washington's state laws are called the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). The most important laws affecting tenants are found in the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RCW 59.18) and in the Unlawful Detainer statutes (RCW 59.12).
Get Legal Help
Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.