Did my landlord illegally end my tenancy or evict me and what can I do about it?
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
New Washington state law expands on what a wrongful eviction is and makes clear that a court can hold a landlord liable to a tenant in such cases. #6906EN
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Should I read this? +
Yes, if you rent the place where you live in Washington state. In some situations where you left your home without a court order telling you to move out, you can get damages because your landlord's actions were unlawful. A new state law says a landlord can be responsible (liable) for harm they caused you if they evict or lock or force you out illegally. A court could order the landlord to pay you for any losses or expenses caused by the wrongful eviction, or for up to three months' rent plus court costs.
*The harm from wrongful eviction could be serious. People who are evicted can face homelessness, loss of property, emotional distress, anxiety, and poor health outcomes.
This new law recognizes that people who are wrongfully told to leave their homes have emotional distress, or pain and suffering, and should be compensated when their landlord illegally evicts them. If you paid rent for a house, apartment, or room, you are probably covered by the Residential Landlord Tenant Act and can take advantage of this law.
What will I learn from reading this? +
You will learn about some situations the new law counts as wrongful eviction, and the basics about suing your landlord.
I was asked to move. Was it legal for the landlord to do this? +
It depends. Here are some examples of situations that are now "wrongful evictions" under the new state law:
The landlord gave you a 90-Day Notice to Terminate. It said the landlord wanted to move into the unit. You moved out because of this notice. But the landlord never actually moved into the unit and continued to rent it out.
The landlord gave you a 90-Day Notice to Terminate. It said the landlord wanted to sell the unit. You moved out because of this notice. But the landlord never sold the unit and continued to rent it out.
The landlord gave you a 30-Day Notice to Terminate. It said the property was uninhabitable (condemned). You moved out because of this notice. You found out later that no local agency ever said the place was condemned or was going to fine the landlord.
The landlord gave you a 120-Day Notice to Terminate. It said the landlord wanted renovate, remodel or demolish the rental unit or building. You moved out because of the notice. But the landlord never did what the notice said the landlord was going to do with the unit or building.
The landlord gave you a 120-Day Notice to Terminate. It said the landlord was going to convert the rental into a condo. But that never happened.
*There are other ways your landlord might illegally evict you not listed here. Ask a lawyer for advice about your particular situation.
Some cases may be harder to prove or win than others. Every case is different. Try to talk to a lawyer about your situation right away. See Get Legal Help below.
One of the situations listed above as wrongful describes what happened to me. What can I do about it? +
You can take your landlord to court (sue your landlord). A court that agrees that you lost your home because of the landlord's unlawful action could order the landlord to pay the damages from the emotional distress this caused you, or up to three times the monthly rent, plus the costs of filing the case (court costs and any attorney's fees).
Where would I sue the landlord? +
It depends on how much you will ask court to order the landlord to pay you. If under $10,000, you should sue in the Small Claims Court in the county where the eviction happened. The advantage of using small claims court is that it is informal, cheap to file your case, and neither you or your landlord will have a lawyer. Read What is Small Claims Court? and How do I Sue in Small Claims Court?
Do I need a lawyer? +
It is always a good idea to talk to a lawyer before you file anything with a court. But you do not need a lawyer to file a case or go to a hearing in Small Claims Court, and you are not allowed to have one there anyway.
If you are suing for more than $10,000, you will need to file a lawsuit in your county's District Court or Superior Court. This is hard but not impossible to do on your own without a lawyer.
What if my landlord locked me out without getting a court order first allowing the landlord to evict me? +
Read My Landlord Locked Me Out: What Can I Do and talk to a lawyer right away.
Get Legal Help +
Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.