Eviction Process

This guide focuses specifically on evictions and all resources mentioned refer to Washington State law.  If you are interested in learning more about Washington landlord/tenant law in general, see our Landlord Tenant Guide.   Visit either of the following web sites for definitions of the terms used here:

What is an Eviction?

Eviction is the process the landlord uses to remove a tenant from physical possession of the rented property. The legal action brought to obtain an eviction is called an unlawful detainer.

What Laws Govern Eviction?

Title 59 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) deals with specific aspects of the Landlord Tenant relationship. For most situations see chapter 59.12 “Forcible Entry and Forcible and Unlawful Detainer” and chapter 59.18 “Residential Landlord-Tenant Act”. Title 59 also contains chapters dealing with Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act, Rental Security Deposit Guarantee Program and Federally Assisted Housing.

The Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) must be consulted if the property is in Seattle. SMC 22.206.160 covers Duties of Owners. See also SMC 7.24 et seq. and SMC 22.206 et seq. Federal statutes that may apply include the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§3601 et seq; United States Bankruptcy Code; American with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12101; Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §701; and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1692-1692p.

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development has created Tips (formerly known as Client Assistance Memos) regarding code compliance and rental housing regulations – look in the 600s section. These must be consulted in addition to the RCW and the SMC.

Below is a listing of sections of the RCW that you may want to examine before proceeding with your action.  These links all point to the online version of the RCW provided by the State Legislature.  Use the navigation links at the top of the RCW section page to move between sections or to jump to a page that displays links for all of RCW 59.18.

How to Proceed:

The Washington Lawyers Practice Manual, vol. 5, chapter 14, §14.4 et seq. and §14.5 et seq. contains a step-by-step outline of the eviction process. Sample forms can be found at the end of the chapter. We sell a packet of forms and instructions for residential evictions in King County called Washington Eviction Kit: King County Forms and Instructions.  The eviction kit is available for purchase in person at both of our library locations.

The state statutes set forth the process for proceeding with an unlawful detainer action. The statutes also include the language to be used in the court documents. See:

  • Forcible Entry and Forcible and Unlawful Detainer: RCW 59.12
  • Unlawful Detainer Action: RCW 59.18.36559.18.410

Solid Ground has information for tenants about eviction. There is a timeline of what to expect during the eviction process as well as other helpful tips.

Going to Your Eviction (Unlawful Detainer) Hearing

This gives tenants an idea of what to expect when they attend a show cause hearing for their eviction case.

What to do if you lose your eviction hearing

This gives tenants an idea of what might happen next after their show cause hearing.

Helpful Web Sites:

Nolo Press’ How Evictions Work — This portion of the Nolo Press web site discusses the eviction process.  It is not specific to Washingoton State.

Helpful Books:

  • Real Estate: Property Law, 2d ed., §6.70 et seq., by William B. Stoebuck. (Washington Practice, vol. 17). West, 2004. Shelved at KFW 80 .W3.
  • Washington Lawyers Practice Manual, vol. 5, chapter 14, §14.4 et seq. and §14.5 et seq. King County Bar Association. Shelved at KF 300 .W27 REF
  • Washington Real Property Deskbook, vol. 2, chapter 17, Landlord and Tenant. Washington State Bar Association. Shelved at KF 570 .W37.

If You Need More Help:

Guide to Housing Law Clinics & Resources in King County

News & Updates:

Links Updated: October 2020