The Washington State Legislature made many big changes to how Washington State evictions work. These changes are effective July 28, 2019. You need to make sure that you follow these rules when proceeding with an unlawful detainer (eviction) case. Feel free to call my office, as I do many of these cases each year. I aim to charge landlords an affordable fee in these cases. By hiring a lawyer, you can make sure the process is followed legally and procedurally.
Up until July 27, 2019: if a tenant fell behind on rent (even by one day), the landlord would give them a “3 Day Notice to Pay or Vacate.” If the tenant couldn't pay all the rent within 3 days, the landlord could file an eviction lawsuit against them. The landlord did not have to accept partial payment or payment plans.
As of July 28, 2019: if a tenant is a day late in rent, the landlord must give them a 14 Day Notice to Pay or Vacate. The tenant then has 14 days to pay the rent. After that, the landlord may file an eviction lawsuit.
Previously, once an eviction lawsuit started, most tenants could not stay—even if they could pay the landlord all the back-rent, late fees, and attorney fees that they owed. Now, more tenants will be able to pay back the rent they owe. More tenants will be able to pay to avoid eviction and homelessness.
For one thing, judges now have more flexibility to create payment plans that work for both tenants and landlords. More tenants will be able to catch up on rent through payment plans, and have more time to seek help through charities and other agencies to pay landlords (even month-to-month tenants).
Previously, landlords could take a tenant's rent payments and apply them towards other kinds of “non-rent” charges – late fees, disputed repair bills, other kinds of one-time penalties. Now, landlords must apply a tenant's rent payments towards rent (and some regular, monthly utility payments) first.
Landlords can still try to evict a tenant if they fall behind on rent (after giving a 14 Day Notice) but they can't try to evict a tenant for falling behind on “non-rent” fees and penalties. (Landlords can still sue to try to collect these charges later, for example, in Small Claims Court).
Previously, even if a tenant lost an eviction lawsuit by default (because they weren't able to respond in time or because they were not able to show up), the landlord could still collect attorneys' fees from them through an eviction judgment.
Now, attorneys cannot collect fees in a default judgment (like where a tenant cannot respond in time or just moves out). Attorneys' fees are also limited in cases where tenants owe less than 2 months' rent or less than $1200.
A landlord still must use “due diligence” to personally hand eviction papers to a tenant in person at home. Previously, if that didn't work, the landlord had to get a judge's permission to serve eviction papers by taping on the door and mailing. Now, after 3 diligent attempts (over 2 days) to serve a tenant in person, some landlords may be able to post and mail eviction papers without a judge's permission.