The renting or leasing of real estate is a highly regulated area of law, especially for residential properties. As a property owner, you have a great deal at stake in entering into a lease or rental agreement. For example, once you have given possession of your property to a tenant, you cannot simply terminate the lease if a tenant fails to make payment or otherwise violates the terms of the lease, you must go through the mandatory legal procedures for eviction.
It can takes many weeks to evict a tenant, and you may never collect rent from a defaulting tenant. A tenant can damage your property, and may be able to file bankruptcy, which can significantly delay an eviction procedure. It is vitally important that the lease documentation be properly prepared so that your interests as a property owner are protected.
Having sufficient control over your property starts with having a solid, well-crafted lease with terms that meet all laws pertaining to leasing property. If the tenant violates those terms, though, then qualified legal representation could be critical to the situation being resolved as quickly as possible.
Washington Landlord Attorney
Joyce Schwensen is an experienced Washington landlord attorney who advises and represents property owners who rent or are looking to rent residential or commercial spaces. Joyce Schwensen understands that landlords have specific desires for their property, and can help draft a lease that can execute those desires while protecting the landlord's interests. If tenants do not comply with the terms of the lease, Joyce Schwensen can help resolve them as swiftly as possible. Call Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen today at (206) 367-1065 to set up a consultation.
Joyce Schwensen represents landlords in and around Seattle and King County, including in Renton and Bellevue. She may also represent property owners throughout Washington.
Washington Landlord Legal Information Center
- Crafting a Lease That Meets Washington State Law
- When Tenants are a Problem in King County
- Seattle Evictions
A lease is a legal document that forms an agreement between the landlord and the tenant. It allows the tenant use of property, usually for a set term of months or years. The lease will set the rent, and usually dictate how the property will be used, i.e., to live in, to operate a retail store in, etc.
A lease may also lay out certain terms that the landlord and tenant must follow. For example, a lease for a single-family house may say that the tenant may not paint the outside of the house, or a lease for a commercial space may say that the business must remain in operation throughout the term of the lease.
However, tenants, especially residential tenants, have certain rights enforceable under municipal, state and federal law. Many of these can be found in Revised Codes of Washington Chapter 59.18, the "Residential Landlord-Tenant Act." If a term of the lease violates the law, the matter will generally be decided in the tenant's favor, so it's important that the lease meet all requirements of the law.
Joyce Schwensen can assist people seeking to rent property to draft a lease that protects their interests, but follows the law.
Most tenants will not cause a problem. Some tenants, however, may frequently violate the terms of a lease. They may consistently fail to timely pay rent. They may have loud parties that disturb other tenants. They may engage in illegal activity, like drug use or prostitution. A tenant might not keep the property in a sanitary condition which can attract vermin. Commercial tenants may ignore rules about parking, or other restrictions.
In some cases, the landlord will just want the tenant to move out, in which case eviction might be an option you must pursue. However, it may be preferable to allow the tenant to stay, but require them to abide by the lease terms. Most tenants do not want to move, but may resist the requests of a landlord that they see encroaching on their home or place of business. A strongly-worded letter from attorney can work wonders to put problem tenants on notice that they need to change their ways. Other legal action that falls short of eviction may be available and required, depending on your circumstances.
Sometimes, eviction is the only useful recourse for landlords. Evictions must follow specific legal processes. If a tenant is failed to pay rent, it is usually advisable to start eviction proceedings without delay, because the eviction process itself can take several weeks to months. If a landlord gives the tenant time to bring the rent current and the tenant doesn’t comply, then the landlord goes even longer without collecting rent than would have happened if eviction had been started promptly after the default. It can still be an option to accept payment from the tenant after an eviction is started. But waiting to start an eviction based on a promise from the tenant will often just lengthen the time that the tenant remains in the property rent-free.
The City of Seattle has particularly stringent legal requirements for evicting residential tenants, even month-to-month tenants. In Seattle, the landlord must have "just cause," meaning a legally sufficient reason to evict. As long as the tenant pays the rent and abides by the lease terms, the landlord has to continue renting to the tenant on a month to month basis, unless one of the grounds for “just cause” is established. This often requires establishing a pattern of bad behavior, such as late rent payments,and that the tenant received sufficient written warnings.
The first step in an eviction process is to give the tenants a formal written notice of their default, with an accurate explanation of what they have to do to cure the default and an opportunity to cure the default. Any error in the notice can delay the eviction. The next step is to serve the tenant with a summons and complaint, and schedule a hearing in court.. At the hearing, the court will hear decision whether to issue an order to the Sheriff to evict the tenant. However, the Sheriff’s office has its own procedures and requirements which must be met or no eviction will occur. In addition, for residential properties the landlord has to give the tenant a notice regarding storage of personal items.
The entire process of eviction is complicated and filled with pitfalls for the inexperienced landlord. It can be a contentious legal process than may take months. However, Washington real estate lawyer Joyce Schwensen can assist you through the entire process, drafting the necessary notices and pleadings and representing you in court.
Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen | Seattle Landlord's Rights Lawyer
The law is largely focused on ensuring the rights of tenants, so it's important for landlords to act to make sure their rights and interests are protected. Washington landlord attorney Joyce Schwensen advises and represents landlords, helping them draft leases and other legal documents and representing them in dealing with noncompliant tenants. Call today at (206) 367-1065 to set up a consultation.