I Just Lost at an Eviction Hearing
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
Use this if you went to an eviction hearing and lost. #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 need more time to pay the landlord, you may ask the judge for a payment 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 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
A tenant who went to an eviction hearing and lost.
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
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 two documents. The first is called a “Judgment.” The Judgment will state how much you owe the landlord. It may include back-rent, late fees, legal costs, and lawyers’ fees.
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 it may be a few days later.
After the sheriff attached 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, but not always. 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.
Your legal options depend on what happened in the eviction lawsuit. Some of them are very difficult without a lawyer. Try to get legal help as soon as possible.
If you went to a hearing and lost, you may wonder if you can “appeal” the eviction lawsuit. Your legal options depend on what happened at the hearing and whether you were evicted because you owed rent or not.
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 difficult to do on your own, so try to get legal help (see below).
If you were evicted only because you owed back-rent, you may be able to 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 see the sample Motion.
You will only have a few days to file your motion, so try to get legal help immediately!
RCW 59.18.410(3) explains what kinds of factors the judge can consider when deciding whether you should get a payment plan.
Be prepared to explain to the judge:
Why you fell behind in rent
How soon you could pay the back-rent
What kind of payment plan might work
Whether 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.
The judge may also allow you to get financial help from a charity or a government agency that can give or lend you money to pay your landlord.
Call 2-1-1 (or 206-461-3610 for TTY) to ask about agencies in your area that give emergency help to cover rent as soon as possible.
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 only because you owed back-rent, you may be able to “reinstate your tenancy” and stay in your home if you can pay back the landlord. See RCW 59.18.410(2).
First, you’ll have to quickly get all the money together to pay back the landlord. This will probably include back-rent, plus a late fee, plus court costs, plus some attorneys’ fees.
Second, you will have to file a formal request to the court, called a “Motion to Reinstate.”
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.
If the judge approves your motion, the sheriff’s eviction order should be stopped and you should get to stay. You will then have to keep paying all your rent on time every month, or the landlord may try to evict you again.
Filing a Motion to Reinstate may be difficult. Try to get legal help as soon as possible (see contact information below).
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.
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.
In Washington, it is possible to file a formal request (called a “motion”) asking for a new hearing. However, filing these kinds of motions risky and can be difficult without a lawyer. Not only that, filing these kinds of motions does not automatically stop the sheriff from coming back!
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.
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.
*On WashingtonLawHelp.org, get free legal forms in our packet called Vacating (Canceling) a Judgment and Staying (Stopping) Enforcement of a Writ after You Defaulted in your Unlawful Detainer (Eviction) Case).
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 have to give this form to your landlord within 3 days after the Writ is posted. However, the landlord is allowed to 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, you can call the sheriff’s department. Sometimes they will 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).
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In King County: Call 211 for referral to an appropriate legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm.
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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 August 2019.
© 2019 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014.
(Permission for copying and distribution granted the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)