Month: June 2022

Webinar – Research the Law, Estate Planning (05/25/2022)

Local attorney Evelyn Emanuel introduces us to some of the more common options for estate planning – including wills, trusts and small estate affidavits.  And Librarian Ross Zimmerman goes through some helpful estate planning resources that you can access right from KCLL.org.

Helpful Links:

Downloads:

Ross’ Ref Q’s – Can I evict a subtenant?

We get a lot of reference questions at the King County Law Library.
The refrain goes that because we aren’t practicing attorneys, we can’t offer legal advice—as librarians, we can only offer resources.
That said, some questions are very interesting & inspire me to do some research of my own, collected here in this column. Don’t construe this as legal advice!

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This is Ross’ Ref Q’s, a monthly column that looks at real law library reference questions with some kind of deeper payoff: Perhaps you’ll learn a novel research strategy or the answer to an unorthodox procedural question. This installment’s lesson can be largely distilled down to the dictum: don’t take anything for granted.

Someone came to the reference desk. They said that they wanted to evict someone and that [an agency] sent them our way, saying that we have a kit. We do have a kit. The short spiel on that goes: the bulk of “forms” for residential evictions aren’t necessarily state-provided, fill-in-the-blank forms, but are instead drafted one-off (usually by attorneys). Many small time landlords can’t afford attorney hourly rates, so KCLL worked with a local attorney to offer a kit that includes the typically necessary forms as well as instructions for the process. It can be bought in-library and on our website too.

There is a distinction in librarianship, and I suppose in customer service overall, where you want to follow the customer’s lead-to a degree. If someone comes in looking for a form packet for divorce, for example, I will clarify if they have kids or if the divorce is contested, as there are additional form sets in either case. But I won’t ask if they want to look at the Legal Separation packet, because while legal separation is similar to divorce and achieves many of the same outcomes, it is discrete enough that I have to assume they would request it specifically.

I will print the eviction kit on demand given the conversation flows as it usually does: Someone will come in and say they’re at wits end, a tenant has been causing trouble, they haven’t been paying rent, and they need them gone. That’s clear enough, that’s an eviction. Or they may even say, in a questioning voice, “I need an…unlawful detainer?” If that part is unclear I’ll ask if they want to evict someone or they are being evicted-of course, the methods vary greatly there. But I don’t ask if they’ve considered a protection order. It can have the same result, but I have to assume the person knows what they’re talking about, to a certain degree.

With COVID-19 changes to eviction law/procedure, we started prefacing eviction kit sales with some questions. “Are you aware of the moratoria?” Then, “Is the property located in Seattle or Burien?” These two had the longest lasting moratoria ie for the longest time, the kit wouldn’t work in these municipalities. But otherwise, I’ve assumed this person was a landlord and wanting to follow standard unlawful detainer actions under Washington Landlord-Tenant Law.

So, anyway… Someone came to the reference desk. They said that they wanted to evict someone and that [an agency] sent them our way, saying that we have a kit. We do have a kit.

With the moratoria finished, I ask the one qualifying question I have left: “Just to be sure, is the person you’re trying to evict on a lease?” They affirmed, I started swerving my cursor around to print the packet.

As I’m doing so, the patron continued railing against the renter, and casually lamented that it would have been great to have a roommate that actually helped with rent, but this person wasn’t paying. That’s a wrinkle.

I pull my cursor away from the “Print” button, and asked for clarification, “I might have misunderstood, are you the owner of the property?”

“No, I rent the place. I’m trying to evict my roommate.”

Ah. I’ve seen this before, and while I am not a lawyer, I feel comfortable saying, “Unfortunately landlord-tenant law, and eviction in general, is meant for … landlords and tenants. You can’t evict a roommate. There are resources out there, such as the Tenants’ Union and…”

So the conversation again diverged but again settled into an existing track. I have given this spiel before, and hope I didn’t speak mechanically. I asked if they have a relationship with their landlord, perhaps the landlord would want to evict him for not paying rent.

Then, interrupting, “But I am kinda his landlord. I’m subletting a room to him.”

Ah. This is a wrinkle I hadn’t seen before. At last, we’ve arrived at our titular ref q:

Can I evict a subtenant?

I brought up the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act on the Legislature’s website, clicked “Complete Chapter” and used Ctrl+F to look for “subl” which is broad enough to capture sublease and sublessor or sublessee, The Act includes “subl” five times, but makes only oblique references to sublessees and sublessors, mostly about drug-related prohibitions. These inclusions tell me that subtenancy seemingly isn’t regulated or prohibited in a unique way—there would probably be a section devoted to it, or at least some mention.

But in so searching, I see the word subtenant, so I search “subt” next. I see some more drug-related talk, the word “subtract,” but then…

RCW 59.18.410 — Forcible entry or detainer or unlawful detainer actions—Notice of default—Writ of restitution—Judgment—Execution.

RCW 59.18.650 — Eviction of tenant, refusal to continue tenancy, end of periodic tenancy—Cause—Notice—Penalties.

These are run-of-the-mill unlawful detainer statutes. “Subtenant” isn’t used in a majorly qualifying way, but in-line with other forms of tenancy.

If someone was asking our question in an academic way, I might give them the annotated code and let them continue research, but since our ref q has the embedded subquestion, “Can we use this eviction packet?” statutes weren’t an end point.

Instead, I grabbed the WSBA Real Property Deskbook. Knowing that some primary law existed in the RCWs gave me confidence that a secondary source like a deskbook would discuss subtenancy, and I wasn’t let down. §17.11(1)(a) discusses the differences between assignments and subleases—It’s a distinction worth noting because evidently a sublease without a reversion (the expectation that full possession of the property will revert to the original leaseholder for at least one day before the end of the balance term) is actually an assignment (which is the transfer of an entire balance of a lease). That subsection goes on to say “Between themselves, the head tenant and the subtenant stand in a true landlord-tenant relationship. The head tenant may bring an unlawful detainer action against its subtenant” and quotes relevant case law. Bingo. But, the subsection also offers this practice tip, “Many intended subleases are actually assignments or partial assignments because the head tenant fails to reserve a reversion. A party who makes an assignment instead of a sublease will not be able to recover possession through unlawful detainer.” Huh.

The patron made it out that they had a verbal sublease and not for the remaining balance, they were only supposed to be there until they got back on their feet. Is this periodic tenancy? Landlord-tenant RCWs swam before my eyes. I did my usual qualifiers (I’m not an attorney, you should probably talk to one, I can’t interpret the law or tell you what your rights are, but) and explained what I read. I said I can’t say for sure, but it appears you have a subtenancy, not an assignment, and it appears subtenant eviction falls under the purview of the Landlord-Tenant Act, which is what our packet is designed to do, and that while our packet costs $60 and could potentially fail for some reason, an attorney would certainly cost more. He ended up buying the packet.

 

FROM THE DIRECTOR: June 2022

Fantastic Beasts of Administrative Law and Where to Find Them

Barbara Engstrom, Executive Director, King County Law Library

Unless the focus of one’s practice is a heavily regulated area of law, most attorneys don’t engage with Washington administrative law very often. If the occasion arises where one must enter this murky realm, fear and trepidation can ensue. Not to worry, the following tips will guide you to resources to find and tame the fantastic beasts of Washington administrative law.

Is it Lurking in the Shadows?

Whether or not regulatory law impacts a legal issue can sometimes be difficult to determine. A good rule of thumb at the outset of any research project is to check whether there is a statute that applies. If there is, you’ll want to make sure you are aware of any related regulations. The fastest way to do this is to use an annotated code. Annotated codes are like the Room of Requirements [1] to aid a seeker in need. If your research question involves a controlling statute, an annotated code can quickly give you a bird’s eye view of the statute in context . While most people use annotated codes to find case law discussing a statute, the annotations also include other information like relevant law review articles, Washington treatise sections, legislative history and commentary, and … applicable regulations.

You may be tempted to skip this step, but remember, when passing laws, legislators often draft the language in broad brushstrokes and task administrative agencies with effectuating the details. In essence, legislators create the broad statutory mandate and rely on agency expertise to fill in the gaps.

Do You Have a Map?

The reason that legislatures delegate rulemaking authority to administrative agencies is because the issues are complicated and require professional, subject matter expertise. Similarly, for researchers, delving directly into primary regulatory sources can be a fool’s errand. A better bet is to use the Marauder’s Map [2] of secondary research resources to help you uncover what may otherwise appear hidden to the naked eye. For example, while some Washington administrative regulations stand on their own, others work in tandem with federal regulations. Think securities or environmental regulations. A good secondary source will not only help you analyze the applicable Washington regulations but will also help you understand how federal regulations may fit into the context.

I generally start with the agency website. While the first few layers are usually intended for lay persons, more technical information can be found by delving deeper or using advanced searching. Next, I search the WSBA deskbooks, Washington Practice, and other Washington specific treatises before moving on to general jurisdiction treatises. If you need contemporaneous discussion of regulations from when they  were created, law review articles from UW, SU, and Gonazga law schools and bar bulletin articles from that time period can often prove helpful, as can CLEs.

Do You Understand the Wizarding World?

Just like the Ministry of Magic [3], agencies wield quite a bit of power. They create regulations (a primary source of law), hold judicial proceedings, and can mete out fines and punishments. In order to effectively research administrative law, it’s good to have a baseline understanding of the administrative process. There are many mechanisms to keep agency powers in check, the most important of which is that agencies must have authority handed down to them before they can create rules. Rulemaking can be triggered by 1) a mandate from the state legislature, 2) a federal law or rule, 3) a court decision, or 4) a petition for rulemaking. Washington’s state Administrative Procedure Act ensures that the agencies are acting within the scope of their delegated authority for rulemaking and are fair and impartial in their adjudications.

The Washington Administrative Law Practice Manual is the go-to resource for understanding the intricacies of the rulemaking process and agency adjudications. For example: Can the agency’s proposed rule differ substantially from the final rule? See Chapter 7.06 [L]. Is hearsay allowed in administrative adjudications? See Chapter 9.05[E][1].

From What Swamp Did It Hatch?

Sometimes you’ll want to research the history of a regulation. While a Time Turner [4] would be nice, with a little bit of effort you’ll do just as well on your own. Much of your Washington regulatory history research will be done in the Washington State Register (WSR). Fortunately, most research from the mid-1990s forward can be done on-line. The Washington State Legislature’s website https://leg.wa.gov/ integrates regulatory history into Washington Administrative Code (WAC) entries. Just look for the bright yellow link that says, “Agency filings affecting this section” and you’ll be directed to the WSR entries for the proposed and permanent rules for the WAC you are researching.

A special point to consider. When doing a regulatory history, be sure to look for the Concise Explanatory Statement (CES). The concise explanatory statement is the method by which an agency ensures that it considered all the public comments/arguments as required by the Washington APA. It has been said that the CES is probably the most important document an agency must prepare in the rule-making process. [5] The CES is critical for determining whether agencies acted arbitrarily or capriciously when adopting the rule. Many agencies post their Concise Explanatory Statements on their websites. If you can’t find the CES you are looking for, just contact the agency and request it. If you commented on a rule during the rule-making process, the agency should automatically send you a copy.

Accio Law Library!

If you need more help researching Washington regulations or any other topic, use your summoning spell to contact the law library. Don’t worry, we don’t have a Restricted Section [6] of the dark arts and Madame Pince [7] will not be breathing down your neck when you use our resources. Email us at services@kcll.org and let us help you find and tame the fantastic beasts of Washington administrative law. In the words of Albus Dumbledore: “Help will always be offered to those who ask for it.”

 

1 See Harry Potter Glossary, available at https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/discover/harry-potter/harry-potter-fun-stuff/harry-potter-glossary/ (Come and Go Room. Also known as the Room of Requirement, it is on the seventh floor of Hogwarts, opposite the Barnabus the Barmy tapestry. The room is sometimes there, sometimes not. It can only be entered by people with a real need, who must walk past the part of wall three times while concentrating on what they need. The room will then appear fully equipped with all their immediate requirements.)

2 Id (Marauder’s Map. A map that shows all the secret passageways and the current whereabouts of everyone in Hogwarts).

3 Id (Ministry of Magic. Government agency that tries to keep witches and wizards secret from non-magical people.)

4 Id (Time Turner. Hourglass that allows the wearer to travel back in time.)

5 See Washington Administrative Law Practice Manual [7.06][M] citing Aviation West Corp. v. Dep’t of Labor and Indus., 138 Wn.2d 413, 980 P.2d 701 (1999)