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Dealing with a Problem Tenant

Most landlord-tenant relationships are relatively problem-free in their duration, but landlords will occasionally have a tenant who is causing significant problems. Issues that landlords may have with tenants can include, but are not limited to, failure to pay rent, property damage, or causing problems with other tenants.

In such instances, landlords must be extremely careful not to take the law into their own hands. Landlords often have legal justification for evicting residential tenants who are violating the terms of their leases, but failure to abide by local or state laws in resolving the issue can lead to a landlord possibly becoming financially liable for damages suffered by the tenant.

Lawyer for Dealing with Problem Tenants in Seattle, WA

Are you a landlord who needs to evict a problem tenant in King County? It will be in your best interest to contact Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen as soon as possible for help achieving the most favorable outcome to your situation.

Joyce Schwensen is an experienced real estate attorney in Seattle who represents clients in Bellevue, Everett, Kennewick, Olympia, Spokane, Vancouver, and many surrounding areas in Washington. Call (206) 367-1065 right now to set up an initial consultation that will let our lawyer review your case.

Overview of Tenant Issues for Landlords in Washington


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Eviction Notices in King County

The amount of notice that a landlord needs to provide a tenant prior to evicting a tenant varies depending on the circumstances that prompted the eviction. Generally, the minimum notices required are as follows:

  • Three Days — Under Revised Code of Washington (RCW) § 59.12.030(3), a landlord can serve a tenant a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate for nonpayment of rent the day after rent was due or after any grace period, if such is specified in the rental agreement. RCW § 59.12.030(5) allows landlords to serve 3-Day Notices to tenants who violate the terms of the rental agreement, whether the alleged violation is committing or permitting waste upon the property, setting up or carrying on unlawful business, or committing any nuisance.
  • 10 Days — For any other rental agreement violations that are not subject to the provisions for 3-Day Notices to Pay Rent or Vacate, RCW § 59.12.030(4) establishes that the landlord can provide notice for a tenant to correct the issue or face eviction.
  • 20 Days — With month-to-month leases, a landlord must provide a 20-day eviction notice. While cause does not need to be provided for some leases in Washington, Seattle’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance requires a landlord to state the reason, in writing, for ending a tenancy when giving a termination notice. Good causes can include, but are not limited to, failure to pay rent, four or more notifications about overdue rent in a 12-month period, and three or more 10-Day Notices to comply with a rental agreement in a 12-month period.

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Prohibited Actions by Seattle Landlords in Dealing with Problem Tenants

Even when a tenant has willfully violated the terms of a rental agreement and fails to correct the issue at hand, a landlord is prohibited from any retaliatory measures or harassment against the tenant. Violations of state or local eviction laws can lead to a landlord being ordered to pay civil damages to the tenant.

City law in Seattle specifically prohibits landlords from harassing or retaliating against a tenant by:

  • Changing or tampering with locks on unit doors;
  • Removing doors, windows, fuse box, furniture or other fixtures;
  • Discontinuing utilities supplied by the owner;
  • Removing a tenant from the premises except through the formal court eviction process;
  • Evicting, increasing rent or threatening a tenant for reporting code violations to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) or the Police Department or for exercising any legal rights arising out of the tenant’s occupancy;
  • Entering a tenant’s unit, except in an emergency, or except at reasonable times with the tenant’s consent after giving at least two days notice, or a one-day notice when showing units to prospective purchasers or tenants; or
  • Prohibiting a tenant, or a tenant's authorized agent who is accompanied by that tenant, from distributing information in the building, posting information on bulletin boards in accordance with building rules, contacting other tenants, assisting tenants to organize and holding meetings in community rooms or common areas.

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Washington Resources for Dealing with Problem Tenants

Washington Landlord Association (WLA) — The WLA is a non-profit service corporation that serves landlords all over the state of Washington. On this website, you can learn more about evictions, leases, and other tenant issues. You can also download forms and find additional information under the WLA’s Landlording 101 section.

Washington Landlord Association
920 Franklin St. SE
Olympia, WA 98501
(360) 753-9150

Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws — The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections provides this summary of Washington state and City of Seattle landlord/tenant regulations. It covers the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance as well as landlord actions that can be considered harassment or retaliation. You can also learn about possible penalties for failure to carry out a stated cause and private rights of action for tenants.

Landlord/Tenant Rights | Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) — The WSBA provides this pamphlet containing general information about landlord and tenant rights as a public service. In the pamphlet, you can learn more about eviction actions, prohibited evictions, and settlement of disputes. The pamphlet also addresses termination of tenancy.


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Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen | Seattle Problem Tenant Lawyer

If you are a landlord in King County who is having difficulty dealing with a tenant violating the terms of a rental agreement, you will want to make sure that you have legal representation. Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen helps landlords all over the state of Washington achieve the most favorable resolutions to disputes with tenants in accordance with all state and local laws.

Seattle real estate attorney Joyce Schwensen helps landlords in Bellingham, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, Tacoma, and other nearby communities in King County. She can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case to help you understand your legal options when you call (206) 367-1065 or submit an online contact form today.


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