Eviction Notices: Common Mistakes Seattle Landlords Should Avoid

Any landlord delivering an eviction notice to a tenant must follow the procedures to the letter of the law. The delivery of eviction documentation must be clear, traceable and extensive. Any slip, or lack of clarity in the proper delivery of eviction notices, could see the landlord’s eviction request kicked out of court. Such failures occur at a surprising rate. 

The attorneys at Holmquist + Gardiner have extensive experience supporting landlord-tenant legal issues. We routinely provide guidance to landlords of multi-family and commercial properties who seek the eviction of a tenant in breach of a leasing agreement. 

An eviction is a lawful act that provides protections for the landlord’s business interests. Even in clear, legitimate instances when an eviction is necessary – when eviction notices are sent and adequately served –the affected tenant will likely make the argument in court that the notice was never received. It is the most common argument by tenants and happens all too often.

This is a popular and effective argument because the burden to properly service the eviction notice falls on the landlord. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the landlord to provide extensive proof that the eviction notices were clearly communicated to, and served on, the tenant in question in a deliberate and effective manner. 

Basic Principles to Landlords Must Understand Before Serving Residential Eviction Notices

In July 2019, the notices and statutes for eviction proceedings were amended. These changes will impact communications between landlords and tenants, and affect potential decision-making timelines involving eviction pursuits. Published in a previous blog post, we identify two of the high-profile Washington state legislative changes that are now law. HB 1440 increases the number of days’ notice for all rent increasesto 60 days. SB 5600 increases the notice to pay or vacate from three (3) days warning to fourteen (14) days. Every residential landlord operating within the State of Washington is responsible for updating these legislative policy changes into their standard business practices.  

There are different types of eviction notices that Seattle landlords must follow. Each provides a different lead period:

  • 14-Day Notices: Tenants who fail to pay rent and utilities charges must be given fourteen days to pay and comply or vacate. Any additional fees cannot be collected. 

  • 10-Day Notices: Tenants who violate a specific lease provision, other than rental payments, are provided ten days to vacate the property.

  • Month-to-Month Leases: If you are a Seattle tenant or landlord in a rare month-to-month lease structure, you must follow the Seattle Just-Cause Eviction Ordinance. If you are a landlord or tenant with additional questions about month-to-month leases, reach out to us for additional information.

Common Mistakes Landlords Make When Implementing Eviction Proceedings

There are several common mistakes that landlords make when servicing an eviction notice. Should any of the below issues occur, a judge may throw the case out of court, forcing the landlord to begin the process over again. 

Email alone is never a sufficient form of communications. When delivering an eviction notice to a tenant who has violated the terms of the mutual leasing agreement, email alone is not an adequate form of warning. Email is a relatively weak form of proof in the courtroom setting – even if the tenant in question directed responded to the electronic notice. Email should be deployed as one method of follow-up communication.

Rely on traditional communications methods. An easily identifiable Notice to Evict should be posted on the front door of the tenants’ residence. An additional copy of the notice should be mailed to the personal address. Maintain copies of each method of delivery and take photos to provide evidence. Keep written time and date records of all photos and mailings. After posting an eviction notice on the tenants’ front door and mailing eviction materials through the mail, a follow-up email is warranted. If no immediate response is received from the tenant, follow up through traditional mail and email once more. 

Eviction notices must be mailed within the same county they are posted. Eviction notices must be mailed within the same county where they are posted. It’s a small detail, but easy to identify by the tenants’ counsel. 

Don’t arrive too soon. When identifying the proper day to serve an eviction, do not include the day you served the notice in your countdown. Otherwise, you could arrive prematurely, and the eviction will be nullified by the court. 

When servicing eviction notices, landlords must be deliberate in their actions and pay very close attention to the process. The attorneys at Holmquist + Gardiner routinely advise our landlord clients on which notices are required, and how to properly serve each notice to help landlords service individual evictions in a timely, cost-effective and efficient manner. 

If you’re a Seattle-area landlord in need of additional guidance for the proper servicing of eviction notices, contact an attorney today.