The Washington Landlord-Tenant act defines “abandonment” as when a tenant stops paying rent and reasonably indicates to their landlord, either through words or actions, that they no longer intend to continue renting or occupying the rental unit. RCW 59.18.310. As a landlord, you can claim abandonment, if you reasonably believe your tenant has left for a period of time and has not paid rent.
RCW 59.18.310 lays out a landlords specific obligations if a tenant has abandoned the premises and has left behind personal belongings. These obligations can be very confusing and its best to consult with a Landlord-Tenant attorney before disposing of a tenant’s belongings. For example, a landlord can enter the unit after abandonment has occurred and remove the tenant’s belongings. However, they must hold the belongings in storage and make attempts to notify the tenant in writing. Furthermore, if the property is valued over or below $250, RCW 59.18.310 lays out very specific instructions as to how to handle your tenants abandoned property. These instructions must be followed very carefully, otherwise the landlord can be held liable for the tenants belongings.
Abandonment is a tricky claim and landlords must be careful when making such a claim. It is best to consult with an experienced Landlord tenant attorney to decide if a particular situation is really abandonment. Landlords cannot choose to simply use this method instead of evicting a tenant properly in court, as self-help evictions are not allowed in Washington.
This post will conclude our Landlord-Tenant Q & A series. We hope you’ve found this series valuable. If you are a landlord and have any additional questions regarding Washington Landlord-Tenant law, please feel free to contact our office for a free 10-minute phone consultation.