Washington State’s 20 day notice rule
DISCLAIMER: In 2021, Washington passed statewide landlord tenant just cause eviction laws. Previously, a landlord was allowed to end a month-to-month lease with 20 days notice, without providing a reason. Landlords can no longer serve these types of notices under the new Washington landlord tenant laws. Landlord’s can terminate month-to-month tenancies for non-payment of rent, material breach of the lease agreement, intent to sell or occupy a property or one of the several other reasons listed in RCW 59.18.650. Please call 206-973-3500 to schedule a consultation to learn your options to terminate a month-to-month tenancy.
In Washington State, a 20 day notice to terminate tenancy is used to terminate a month-to-month lease agreement between a landlord and tenant. It is not the same as an eviction, but may serve as a precursor to an eviction proceeding if the tenant does not vacate. A 20 day notice to terminate cannot be used to terminate the remainder of any other kind of lease agreement, such as a term lease (one year lease, etc).
Does the tenant have to leave after 20 days?
A common misperception of a 20 day notice is that the tenant must vacate the rental 20 days after the notice has been properly served. This is incorrect. The notice actually indicates that a landlord must serve notice to terminate tenancy AT LEAST 20 days before the end of the rental period, which is typically the end of the calendar month. This means that even if you serve the notice on the first of the month, the tenant will have until the end of that month to vacate.
What happens if the tenant doesn’t move out?
If a tenant, after having received notice, does not vacate the premises at the end of the rental period, they have become a holdover tenant and the landlord may move forward with an unlawful detainer action. This is the formal legal process through which the landlord may regain possession, also known as an eviction. A landlord may not remove the tenant’s belongings or change the locks if the tenant has not vacated at the end of the rental period. Instead, the landlord must first follow the eviction lawsuit process.
The “Just Cause” Clause
In the state of Washington, the general rule is that termination of a month–to-month tenancy does not require a “just cause”. This means that a landlord is not required to give a specific reason when giving a 20 day notice.
Tenants are, however, protected from having their tenancy terminated based on discrimination of any protected class status (race, gender, or disability) or for any retaliatory purposes.
How to serve a 20 day notice
In order to properly serve the 20 day notice the following steps must be followed.
- The notice must be drafted with proper language to ensure the tenant understands the situation.
- A copy of the notice must be provided to each adult occupant, either by personal delivery, personally delivering a copy to a person of suitable age and discretion and mailing a copy to each adult occupant by first class mail, or by placing the notice in a place on the property where they are likely to see it and mailing by first class mail.
When more than 20 days are required
There are some instances in which 20 days are not sufficient notice, and the landlord is required to provide more than that. Here is a quick list of those cases:
- If there is a policy change (excluding policies relating to children) in the property, the landlord must provide 90 days notice
- If the landlord plans on converting the rental property into condominiums, or otherwise change the structure of the property, they must provide at least 120 days notice
- If the property is set to be demolished or substantially rehabilitated, the landlord must give 120 days notice
To learn more about the eviction process, and to talk with experience eviction attorneys in Washington, contact Dimension Law Group today.
See RCW 59.18.200, RCW 59.12.030, RCW 59.18.140
Disclaimer: Washington Landlord Tenant Laws have changed substantially over the last few years. This information may not be up to date. The information on this site is general information and not a substitute for legal advice. Please contact Dimension Law Group to schedule a consultation on the most up to date information.