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Before using this information, please read:
To read the specific laws in the WA State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, click on the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) links throughout the Tenant Services website.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.
Evictions in Washington State generally take around three weeks from start to finish, but this can vary. There are many variables that impact the length of time the eviction process will take. Below is a sample timeline for eviction due to non-payment of rent. This timeline assumes that the landlord is moving through the eviction process as fast as the law allows. This timeline is just a sample. Do not assume that your process will move at the same speed. Talk to an attorney for more information on the specifics of your case.
Day 1 — Rent is due.
Day 2 — Rent is still unpaid, and the landlord serves the tenant a 3-day notice to pay or vacate.
Days 3, 4, 5 — The tenant has three days to come up with entire amount due on the 3-day notice. The landlord does not have to accept any partial payments, but does have to accept the rent if it is presented in entirety within these 3 days. Often 3-day notices contain additional late fees. The tenant should consult their lease to see if these fees are stated in the rental agreement.
Day 6 — Rent still unpaid. The landlord now has the option of serving tenant a lawsuit for unlawful detainer (eviction summons and complaint). This initiates the legal eviction action.
- The tenant has seven days to answer the summons and complaint, or they lose the lawsuit by default. The date the answer is due will appear on the summons.
- The summons may already be filed with the court. If it has been filed, it will have a case number stamped in the upper right-hand corner.
- It may also be served with an order to show cause, the notice of the court date.
- It may also contain a payment or sworn statement requirement that obligates the tenant to pay the amount stated on the notice directly into the court registry or file a sworn certification asserting they have a legal defense in the case. This must happen within seven days of the date the summons was filed with the court, or the tenant will lose by default
- The summons may also give the tenant the option to request that the suit be filed with the court. As soon as the lawsuit is filed, eviction will be on the tenant’s record, no matter how the judge rules. This can seriously affect the tenant’s ability to rent in the future.
Day 12 — The tenant’s answer is due. The tenant may opt to instead file a notice of appearance.
- The answer must contain any and all defenses the tenant has against the eviction, as well as list any money of the tenant’s that the landlord is holding.
- The answer must be delivered to the landlord’s attorney and to the court if the suit has already been filed. The attorney’s contact information will be listed on the summons. The answer can be filed in person, by mail or by fax but it must be received by the deadline.
- If the tenant does not answer, a default judgment will be issued against them.
- After the tenant files an answer, the show cause hearing date will be scheduled if it has not been set already. If it has not already been scheduled, it will generally occur around day 20. If can occur as soon as the day following the day the answer is due.
Day 13 — The show cause hearing occurs, and judgment is issued. The default judgment is issued if no answer has been filed.
- If the tenant responded to the lawsuit, both parties go to court. The judge will hear both sides of the case and then make a ruling. The vast majority of evictions go in the landlord’s favor.
- If the landlord wins, the court will issue a writ of restitution and a judgment in the amount of rent money and fees the tenant owes, plus court costs and attorney’s fees.
- If the tenant wins, the case is dismissed. However, the eviction filing will still appear on the tenant’s record.
- If the tenant is on a lease, and they are able to pay the entire amount due the landlord into the court registry, their tenancy must be reinstated.
- The judge may send the case to trial.
- The tenant may be able to secure legal representation for the show cause hearing. For more information, see Legal Assistance Guide.
- The landlord’s attorney may offer the tenant a stipulation, or settlement agreement instead of going to court. Be sure and have an attorney look at any stipulation before you sign it. They can often have hidden or difficult consequences. Do not sign it if you cannot comply with it.
Day 14 — The sheriff serves tenant the writ of restitution, usually by posting it on their door. The sheriff’s name and phone number will be stamped on the top of the writ. The tenant can contact the sheriff and let them know when they plan to be out of the unit.
Day 18 — The first day the sheriff can enforce the writ, 72 hours after it has been served. Day 21 is also the deadline for the tenant to serve a request to have their property stored by the landlord.
Day 19 or 20 — The writ usually enforced a day or two after the first day it can be enforced. The sheriff comes to the property and oversees the landlord removing the tenant and their belongings if they are not already out.
Day 23 — The deadline for the sheriff to complete the eviction.