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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Should I read this? +
Yes, if you rent in Washington State and you have received eviction court papers. This will help you respond to those documents.
Summary of steps +
- Use the Eviction Defense Helper (in English or Spanish). This guided interview asks you questions to help you fill out needed forms. It also refers you to legal help for people with low incomes in your county. Call the organizations it refers you to and ask if they can provide a free attorney for your eviction hearing.
- If you do not have a low income, use the Eviction Defense Helper and 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 and Certificate of Service (NOA). The NOA tells the court and the landlord or their attorney that you will show up to court. This way, you do not get a “default” (automatically lose the case).
- 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 the landlord if no attorney. If you have the landlord or their attorney’s fax number, you can also fax this document.
- 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. Call the clerk in the superior court in your county and ask if you can file the document by email or fax.
- File originals with court and have the court clerk stamp your copies if you are delivering the NOA in person.
- Try to talk to a lawyer right away if you have not already done so!
What forms are in this packet? +
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 court case. 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 filing a Notice of Appearance with the court and delivering (serving) a copy of it on the landlord.
What is a Notice of Appearance (NOA)? +
The NOA simply tells the landlord and court you want to defend yourself in the case and also get notice if anything else happens in the case. Use the Notice of Appearance form.
- *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 Eviction Defense Screening Line at 1-855-657-8387. Interpreters available.
- *If you do not have a low income, try to see a private lawyer.
- *How do I know if I have a low income? You must be 200% below the Federal Poverty Level. You can find if you are below the federal poverty level here.
How do I respond in writing? +
- You must at least fill out and serve your landlord or landlord’s attorney with the Notice of Appearance form. We explain more, including how to fill out the forms, below.
*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 low income, apply for legal help at: nwjustice.org/apply-online OR call 1-855-657-8387, the Eviction Defense Screening Line. Interpreters are available.
*Under a new state law, tenants with low income who have an eviction court case have a right to a lawyer. But, it’s taking some time to hire new lawyers. Call the Eviction Defense Screening Line to see if there is a free attorney for you.
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. And an eviction will still be on your tenant record.
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 (delivered to) 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. You must deliver the NOA the way you said you would on the Certificate of Service.
On page 2, put where you are signing this form. You will sign and print your name and put the date a second time
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 they have one. (This is hand delivery, known as “personal service.”) The lawyer’s address should be in the lower right hand side of the Summons and Complaint. You can also ask if the landlord will accept delivery by fax.
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 try to evict you without a hearing.
- You may 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 Summons says I have to go to a hearing to give my Answer. Is that right? +
No. You can give a written Answer (where you respond specifically to what your landlord claims you did to get evicted) before the hearing. If you are making a written Answer, you must file it with the court and deliver a copy to the landlord or their attorney. It is best to have a lawyer send this document in, if you can get help from one for this.
But a written Answer is optional, especially if you are filing a NOA anyway. You can still defend yourself verbally at the court hearing even if you do not file a written Answer before the hearing.
*We do not have an Answer form in this packet.
What is an Order to Show Cause? +
It is a notice a judge signs. It schedules the court hearing in your eviction case. “Show cause” means the landlord must prove they are entitled to have full possession of the property.
At this “show cause” court hearing, you can defend yourself. If you get an Order to Show Cause from your landlord, you must go to the show cause hearing. If you do not, the court may order you to pay everything the Eviction Complaint says you owe.
*Even if you move before the hearing, you must still show up at the hearing. If you do not, 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 or your lawyer 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.
- You may lose the case right there if a judge thinks your arguments against the eviction are not strong enough. The judge can sign a “writ of restitution” (a court order allowing the eviction). They can also decide how much you owe the landlord, including if you need to pay certain fees.
Can I appeal my case if I lose? +
Yes. But you have a very short window to ask the court to reconsider what the judge decided or to ask for a pause to the eviction. And you need to have a legal defense for the appeal. Talk to a lawyer right away.
Get Legal Help +
Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.