I need to respond to an eviction lawsuit as soon as possible
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
If you got legal papers from your landlord called a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer, read this and try to talk to a lawyer right away. #6309EN
* Read this only if you live in the state of Washington.
*Eviction law continues to change. Read about the latest changes to eviction laws.
- Summary of steps
- What forms are in this packet?
- Why did my landlord give me an “Eviction Summons” and “Complaint for Unlawful Detainer”?
- What is a Notice of Appearance (NOA)?
- How do I respond in writing?
- What is my deadline for responding?
- How can I fight this?
- Do I have to respond? Can I make the case go away by moving?
- How do I fill out the Notice of Appearance?
- Certificate of Service:
- How do I serve the Notice of Appearance on the landlord?
- Do I need proof that I personally served the Notice of Appearance?
- I cannot serve the Notice of Appearance in person.
- I served the landlord. Do I also have to file the Notice of Appearance with the court?
- What happens if I miss the deadline for submitting a Notice of Appearance?
- The Summons says I have to go to a hearing to give my Answer. Is that right?
- What is an Order to Show Cause?
- What happens at a show cause hearing?
- Get Legal Help
Summary of steps
Use the Eviction Defense Helper (in English and Spanish). This is our online guided interview that asks you questions to help fill out needed forms and refers you to legal help for people with low incomes in your county.
If you do not have a low income, use the Eviction Defense Helper and you may want to call a private lawyer.
If you are not using the Eviction Defense Helper, read this and then print out, sign, and date the Notice of Appearance (NOA) in this packet
If you received a document called a “RCW 59.18.375 Payment or Sworn Statement Requirement” notice (in nonpayment cases), this document is no longer required, as of April 22, 2021. You can ignore it.
Make 2 copies of the NOA
Take 1 copy of the NOA to landlord’s attorney, or to landlord if no attorney
Print out, fill out, sign, and date NOA certificate of service
Take original of NOA with certificates of service to court with set of copies
File originals with court and have court stamp your copies
Try to talk to a lawyer right away if you have not already done so!
What forms are in this packet?
Notice of Appearance (NOA)
Why did my landlord give me an “Eviction Summons” and “Complaint for Unlawful Detainer”?
Your landlord is trying to evict you. The papers you received are court papers for an eviction lawsuit. You must respond in writing by the deadline in the Summons and Complaint papers. If you do not respond in writing, your landlord can evict you without a court hearing.
The simplest way to respond to an eviction lawsuit is by serving and filing a Notice of Appearance.
What is a Notice of Appearance (NOA)?
The NOA simply tells the landlord and court you want to defend yourself in the case and get notice if anything else happens in the case. Use the blank form at the end of this packet.
*First, try to get help from a lawyer. If you have a low income, apply for legal help at Northwest Justice Project OR call the CLEAR line at 1-888-201-1014. They might be able to help you over the phone or refer you to a lawyer who can help you. If you do not have a low income, try to see a private lawyer.
How do I respond in writing?
You must at least fill out and deliver to (serve your landlord or landlord’s attorney) the NOA in this packet.
Keep reading for more information and how to fill out the forms.
*You must submit your NOA on time even if you do not have legal help.
What is my deadline for responding?
The Summons and Complaint papers will state your deadline. Your landlord should serve the papers on you at least 7 days before the deadline to submit your Notice of Appearance.
How can I fight this?
Talk to a lawyer right away. Find out if you have any legal defenses. If you have a very low income, apply for legal help at: Northwest Justice Project OR call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014.
Do I have to respond? Can I make the case go away by moving
Yes, you do have to respond. No, moving does not make the case go away. Even if you move, you must still respond. Otherwise, you will lose the case automatically.
How do I fill out the Notice of Appearance?
Fill out the caption using the information from the court papers you received. Usually it will look like this:
TO: put the name of your landlord’s lawyer, or your landlord’s name if your landlord does not have a lawyer.
Put the date. Sign the form. Put your name, address, and phone number.
*Even if the Summons and Complaint do not have a case number, you must still submit your “Notice of Appearance” by the deadline in the Summons.
Certificate of Service:
You will need to let the court know when you served your landlord or landlord’s lawyer the Notice of Appearance. On the section “Certificate of Service”, put the date you plan to serve the landlord or landlord’s attorney. Check the box showing how you intend to serve them. Fill in blanks where needed.
On page 2, put where you are signing this form. You will sign and print your name and put the date a second time here.
How do I serve the Notice of Appearance on the landlord?
Step 1. Make at least 2 copies of the form after filling it out.
Step 2. Take 1 copy to your landlord or your landlord’s lawyer, if there is one. (This is “serving the landlord personally.”) The lawyer’s address should be in the lower right hand side of the Summons and Complaint.
Do I need proof that I personally served the Notice of Appearance?
Yes. When you deliver it, ask your landlord’s lawyer or the secretary to stamp the original Notice of Appearance and one copy of it with a “copy received” stamp and the date. If the Summons says you must deliver the form by a certain time, ask the lawyer or secretary to put the time.
*Keep the stamped copy. This is proof that you delivered the form by the deadline on the Summons.
I cannot serve the Notice of Appearance in person.
You can mail it, but you will need to mail it 3 days before the deadline so it arrives in time. If the Summons has a fax number, you can fax it. Personal service (hand delivery) is best. If you fax it, print out and keep a fax transmission confirmation.
*No matter how you serve the Notice of Appearance, your landlord or landlord’s lawyer must get it by the deadline on the Summons.
I served the landlord. Do I also have to file the Notice of Appearance with the court?
Look at the first page of the Summons you got from your landlord. Under “How to Respond,” there should be a sentence that tells you if the case is (or is not) filed with the court.
If the case is filed with the court, you must file the original Notice of Appearance form with the court. Take the original to the clerk of the Superior Court in the county listed on the Summons.
If the Summons says the eviction case was “not filed with the court” when you were given this paperwork, hold on to the original Notice of Appearance for now. After the landlord gets a copy of your Notice of Appearance, your landlord may choose to file the case at the court and schedule a hearing date to have a judge or commissioner decide if you can be evicted.
What happens if I miss the deadline for submitting a Notice of Appearance?
Your landlord can probably evict you without a hearing.
You will probably have to pay everything your landlord’s court papers asked for.
*If you miss the deadline, you should still serve your landlord or landlord’s lawyer and submit a Notice of Appearance to the court. If the court has not yet entered a default against you, this might stop your landlord from winning automatically.
If you miss this deadline, try to get legal help right away. See below for contact information.
*The landlord can also choose not to evict you after getting your NOA.
The Summons says I have to go to a hearing to give my Answer. Is that right?
No. You should not have to go to a hearing until you get an “Order to Show Cause.” See next section.
Talk to your landlord’s lawyer. Tell the lawyer that there should be no hearing until you get an Order to Show Cause. Ask the lawyer to confirm that the lawyer will give you written notice later of any court hearing.
What is an Order to Show Cause?
It is a notice a judge signs scheduling a “show cause” hearing in your eviction case. If your landlord serves you with this, you must go to the show cause hearing. If you do not, the court may order you to pay everything the Complaint says you owe.
*Even if you move before the hearing, you must show up at the hearing or you will lose automatically.
What happens at a show cause hearing?
At the show cause hearing, your landlord’s lawyer will have a chance to argue why you should be evicted. You can argue why you should not.
After hearing both sides, a judge or commissioner decides if you have a good defense to the eviction. Then, one of these can happen:
You may win the case right there.
The judge may grant you a full trial to defend yourself.
A judge who thinks your arguments against the eviction are not strong enough can decide that you should be evicted immediately and how much you owe the landlord.
Get Legal Help
Eviction laws and the ways courts are handling the COVID-19 crisis may change quickly and be different depending on where you live. Get the latest information and learn about help for evictions in your area on WashingtonLawHelp.org.
Use the Eviction Defense Helper
You can apply online with CLEAR*Online.
Outside King County, call the CLEAR Hotline at 1-888-201-1014 weekdays between 9:15 am - 12:15 pm.
In King County, call 2-1-1 weekdays between 8:00 am - 6:00 pm. They will refer you to a legal aid provider.
Seniors (age 60 and over) can also call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111, statewide.