Unlawful Detainer (Eviction)
While commercial tenants generally have a strong financial interest in paying their rent on time and staying in the good graces of their landlords, many businesses encounter serious problems that compromise their ability to pay bills. When a commercial tenant is unable to pay rent, the landlord can be forced to pursue legal action to evict the tenant.
Most evictions can be handled under Washington’s Unlawful Detainer statute, which provides relatively fast action by the court as compared to the time involved in litigation other civil actions. However, the rules of Unlawful Detainer are interpreted strictly in favor of tenants and are filled with technicalities. The precise language of notices, methods of service of notices, time frames, and types of claims raised in an Unlawful Detainer lawsuit can all become pitfalls for the inexperienced landlord or attorney.
Lawyer for Commercial Eviction in Seattle, WA
If you are a landlord who needs to evict a commercial tenant, do not try to handle this complicated process on your own. Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen helps clients all over King County achieve the most favorable outcomes to complex commercial rental agreements.
Joyce Schwensen is an experienced real estate attorney in Seattle who represents clients in Tacoma, Federal Way, Renton, Kent, Bellevue, and several other communities in Washington. She can review your case and answer all of your legal questions as soon as you call (206) 367-1065 to schedule a consultation.
Washington Commercial Eviction Information Center
- What is a writ of restitution?
- How do show cause hearings work?
- What if the tenant files for bankruptcy?
- Where can I learn more about Seattle commercial evictions?
When a landlord seeks to evict a commercial tenant, the landlord will have to request a Writ of Restitution from the Superior Court in the county in which the property is located. A Writ of Restitution is an Order from a Judge that directs the Sheriff to go out to the property and require the tenant to leave. The landlord can then legally change the locks and be restored to possession of the property.
WWhile state law in Washington provides that the County Sheriff should complete the eviction within ten days of the court issuing the Writ of Restitution, the Sheriff’s offices in both King and Snohomish Counties are far too busy to meet this timeline. The Sheriffs in both counties will only accept Writs of Restitution that extends the 10-day deadline by up to 20 additional days.
A Washington commercial landlord can ask the court in an Unlawful Detainer case to order the tenant to come to court within as little as 7 days to defend against the eviction. This is called an Order to Show Cause, and the hearing that the tenant is ordered to attend is called a “Show Cause Hearing”. The use of the show cause procedure can move an Unlawful Detainer case forward rapidly, but it should be approached with caution. If the Show Cause Hearing is scheduled to occur before the due date for a formal answer by the tenant, that is included in the Summons, then the Show Cause Hearing cannot take place. And the 7-day minimum notice to the tenant must be measured from the date the tenant is served with the papers, not from the date the court issues the Order to Show Cause.
The show cause hearing requires the tenant the explain why they should not be evicted. Often the tenant has no legal defenses, and can only plead financial hardship. This opens up the opportunity for the landlord to negotiate with the tenant for a certain move-out date in return for the tenant waiving all defenses and formalities. It is much more effective to negotiate with a defaulting tenant when they are facing a very real and fast-approaching deadline than before the landlord even begins a legal case against them. But if an agreement cannot be reached, the landlord will ask for the Writ of Restitution at the Show Cause Hearing, and that puts the actual physical eviction will be in the hands of the Sheriff’s office.
In addition to physically evicting the tenant, most landlords are owed money by the defaulting tenants. In an Unlawful Detainer action, a landlord can request a money judgment as well as seek a physical eviction. But if the tenant is out of the property before the monetary case is concluded, then the case must be converted from an Unlawful Detainer action to a standard civil action.
Damages that a landlord can claim in commercial eviction cases may be substantial, and can include double rent in some situations, as well as attorney’s fees. If the tenant does not appear for the Show Cause hearing, the court will issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord. However, if the Summons and Complaint were not personally served on the tenant, but was posted on the property or mailed instead, then the default judgment can allow only eviction and not a monetary judgment against the tenant.
Because commercial tenants are often entities such as limited liability companies or small corporations with limited assets, filing bankruptcy can often be an effective strategy to buy time and try to renegotiate the lease.
When a tenant files for bankruptcy, an automatic stay takes effect which halts actions by the tenant’s creditors, including landlords. An automatic stay can force a landlord to cease all eviction proceedings and cause significant delays.
Joyce Schwensen has experience representing commercial landlords in bankruptcy cases. In the cases, the tenant faces a choice to either assume or reject the lease. If the bankrupt tenant assumes the lease they must bring the rent currently, but if they reject the lease the landlord is entitled to reclaim possession of the property. Joyce Schwensen understands the bankruptcy requirements of tenants and will work hard to require a bankrupt tenant to make a timely decision about whether to assume or reject a lease, so the landlord’s property can once again become profitable.
Forcible Entry and Forcible and Unlawful Detainer — View the full text of Washington state laws relating to unlawful detainer in Chapter 59.12 RCW. You can view the definitions of forcible entry, forcible detainer, and unlawful detainer. You can also learn more about modification of bond, judgment by default, and proof in forcible entry and detainer.
Munden v. Hazelrig — Read the 1985 landmark case which discusses the purpose of an unlawful detainer action and a party's right to sue for damages resulting from wrongful eviction.
Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen | Seattle Commercial Eviction Lawyer
Do you have a commercial tenant that you need to evict because of failure to pay rent or other violations of the rental agreement? You will want to immediately contact Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen.
Seattle real estate attorney Joyce Schwensen helps landlords all over King County, including Spokane, Olympia, Everett, Vancouver, Kennewick, Bellingham, and many other surrounding communities. Call (206) 367-1065 or fill out an online contact form to have her provide a complete evaluation of your case during an initial consultation.