Seeking information on how to fight/delay eviction in Washington State, King County
August 14, 2012 7:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm seeking information on how to fight/delay eviction in Washington State, King County.

My "Three day pay or quit" expires tomorrow evening.

My landlord has been very flexible and lenient and has already extended me some time this month.

This is my fourth/fifth "late", which according to my lease means they can legally choose to evict me.

I have money owed to me for work but it's not getting paid in time. It was supposed to be here yesterday or today.

Worse, I just had a real bad bike crash where I laid my bike down at 20+ mph and I pretty seriously wounded my right leg with about half a square foot of motorcycle grade road rash. I can barely walk around or bend my leg, most of the deep damage is on my knee. It's bad enough I'm wondering if I should be in an ER talking about skin grafts.

Point being is that I'm not in any physical shape to pack, clean up and move out on an emergency/contingency basis to accomplish the "quit" part of the "pay or quit."
posted by loquacious to Law & Government (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
IANAL but based on some quick google-fu it appears that at the end of the three day pay or quit period, if you don't pay the landlord will then START the actual legal eviction process. This website might be relevent or this one. The King County Sheriff dept has a page on evictions as well.

Sorry if this is all stuff you have looked at before, I can't imagine having to go through an eviction after an accident. Best of luck.
posted by Drumhellz at 8:10 PM on August 14, 2012

Here is some information about the process and how long it takes (eviction is not an instant process, requires a court order, etc) from Tenants Union. There are many links there which may be helpful. It also has resources at the end for where you might be able to turn for rent assistance.

Here is information from another source which lays out the process a bit more clearly, especially the steps which landlords need to take before they can start the eviction process. (Eviction is a legal process involving papers being served. If you're able to avoid that for a while, you can buy time. I was evicted in NM a lifetime ago, and managed to get an extra month by not being around for papers to be served.)

This is horrible to be going through. I hope you find it resolves without much undo misery.
posted by hippybear at 8:13 PM on August 14, 2012

IAAL (but not your lawyer) who does some landlord/tenant work, although I almost always represent landlords. I do not practice in Washington State, but have reviewed the Washington Landlord Tenant Act, which is rather similar to my state's.

As you can probably imagine, being owed money by others or having road rash is not a legal defense for failing to pay rent. It doesn't matter if you are in no shape to clean or move your stuff. The purpose of the "quit" is to remove you, and I presume you are ambulatory. (if not, the sheriff can carry you out). The landlord would then be entitled to possession of whatever property you leave behind and to sell it to make up for the rent you failed to pay. He would need to give notice to you before such sale.

If you wished to defend the action, you would need to deposit the rent into the registry of the court as it becomes due. That is likely not going to happen, so he will get a writ of restitution very quickly for immediate possession of the premises.

You would only need to be personally served if he were to seek money damages. He can simply post the process in an action for possession. Evading process will not allow you to linger very long. If your landlord is serious, you have a matter of days.

You say that your landlord has been lenient and has let you become delinquent several times. Now he is saying that enough is enough. Why not move along willingly? If you express that you will do so, he may call of the dogs and give you some time to move out on better terms.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:38 PM on August 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

You need to talk to your landlord very openly about your options. There is a chance he/she may have other living arrangements available that are more favorable to you.

If you wait until this goes legal, you at the mercy of law. Talk to your landlord tomorrow. Explain the situation, that's the only advice I have for delaying your inevitable need to move out.

I would also offer that giving your landlord a realistic plan as when you can be completely moved out might also buy you time if you are able to present it well.
posted by roboton666 at 9:37 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your landlord likely isn't going to court first thing on the morning your 3 day notice expires - so relax.

Contact your landlord. Tell them when you are getting paid so that you may pay him. Pay on that. Day. The end.

To keep this from happening in the future - consider a second job, a different job that pays more - or moving out.

Either way, it takes about a month or more to evict someone and it is expensive. Your landlord doesn't want to pay a lawyer, he or she just want you to pay up.

If you can't afford the rent, make plans to move out in the near future. This is a lot of strees you do not need, living someplace you can not afford. Amirite??

PS - don't mention your accident!! Just call your landlord, tell them you've been having trouble getting paid on time, but you'll get paid on X date, and you will pay him/ her immediately once you receive the funds. If you won't be able to pay rent on September first, now would be a good time to discuss moving out.
posted by jbenben at 11:00 PM on August 14, 2012

My experience is that people who own property would much rather work things out without having to pay a lawyer. My experience, as well, is that an eviction will come up in a credit check and it very much is not a thing a landlord ever wants to see. Work things out soonest.
posted by y2karl at 11:38 PM on August 14, 2012

Several people have mentioned that the landlord would rather not pay a lawyer. Two points:

1. there is no reason the landlord cannot evict you pro se, and it happens rather often
2. if he does have a lawyer, he will be entitled to recover his attorney's fees from you, which are also likely not to be that much because of the quick and routine nature of an eviction

That having been said, your landlord sounds like he was a pretty reasonable guy, so he might be willing to give you a reasonable period of time to move out on agreed terms rather than by forcible removal. But, as you have mentioned, this is your fourth or fifth time to be late with the rent, so you cannot really blame him for wanting a new tenant. I do not foresee that you will be able to talk him into staying so you can default on your rent a sixth time.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:41 AM on August 15, 2012

When facing a lease on a condo I couldn't afford after my roommate skipped out on me, my father (a landlord, but not my landlord) said the best thing I could do was to move out and give the owner back his property so he could lease it to someone that could afford it. So I talked with my landlord and ended up moving out of the condo and back in with my father - leaving my deposit with the landlord. It sounds like something similar might be your best course of action.

That being said, read the notice and your ordinances very carefully. In Chicago, if the landlord accepts partial payment, the process stops and he'd have to start all over. Also, the full amount of his attorney's fees for eviction might not be recoverable, some municipalities only allow court filing fees to be passed on to the tenant.

Working in real estate, I have learned that landlords would rather lease to someone that can pay rather than evicting someone. Keep in mind that you may still be on the hook through the rest of your lease unless the landlord rents to a new tenant at the same or a higher rate. If the apartment is leased at a lower rate, you'd probably be liable for the difference between the new rate and your rate.

Begin talking with your landlord right away about moving out on your own, and start recruiting friends to help. I absolutely loathe moving, and often tell my friends no, but I would certainly help someone if they were injured in the way you describe. Hopefully you have friends that feel the same way. Eviction sucks, but you can get through this.
posted by youngergirl44 at 6:49 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I feel like I recommend this weekly, but please check out the United Way's 211 system for emergency rent assistance to see if you can find help getting over this hump.

Here's a starting point. It won't solve all your problems, but maybe you can get through this month or find a longer-term program to help you find healthcare, more work or cheaper housing.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:14 AM on August 15, 2012

Eviction is not an instantaneous process, nor is it as simple a matter as your landlord showing up and saying "Out you go."

It's a legal process. How it works varies from state to state, but it generally involves the landlord filing papers in court, frequently small claims. I don't know how it works in Washington, but I'd be shocked if your landlord could actually evict you in the next three days even if he started eviction proceedings right now. There's a process that needs to be followed.
posted by valkyryn at 7:15 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing to realize is that Seattle has its own landlord-tenant laws which offer more protection to tenants than the state laws do. From looking at the Tenants' Union website, it seems like the minimum length of time for an eviction is about three weeks.
posted by KathrynT at 7:41 AM on August 15, 2012

I'm no lawyer, but I worked as an apartment building manager in Seattle for a few years. We had a couple of evictions in that time, and to the best of my recollection, from the beginning of the process to the day the sheriff showed up to remove the tenant from the premises was about two months. So you're not going to be homeless later this week. Try to work on finding another (more affordable) living situation, and gathering resources (friends, family, coworkers) to help you move.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:35 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you low income? If so, check out the Housing Justice Project for some free and very good legal help.
posted by bearwife at 12:36 PM on August 15, 2012

Eviction prevention services in Seattle, such as Wellspring Family Services.

It sounds like the 211 service, linked above, is the place to start.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:24 PM on August 15, 2012

Update: I've received a loan/gift and managed to get a check deposited about 10 minutes late, and it's been accepted.

It was some "Run Lola Run" type action. I literally just ran/hobbled all the way from Belltown to First Hill and back to make it happen. When these endorphins wear off I'm probably going to regret that, but at least I know I can sleep easier tonight.

Thanks everyone. I really hope I don't need this thread, ever.
posted by loquacious at 5:31 PM on August 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

Glad to hear you've staved things off, and hope you can get it all back on track soon.

As an aside, it doesn't look like anyone really addressed the comment you'd made in your post about being paid late; you mentioned that it was supposed to be here yesterday or today, but the 15th is rather late to be hoping for a check to make rent that month. If the paycheck has been late for a while, Washington state has protections for employees about delayed pay/bounced checks, and I believe depending on the circumstances you may be entitled to something like triple damages. IANAL of course, but that might be worth looking into as well; if you have a case, the extra money might be the little buffer you need to stop falling behind on rent.

I do want to make one correction to something Tanizaki said, which I believe is incorrect (although it sounds like s/he has more experience in this area):
The landlord would then be entitled to possession of whatever property you leave behind and to sell it to make up for the rent you failed to pay. He would need to give notice to you before such sale.
The landlord cannot explicitly claim your property in lieu of rent to pay off the outstanding charges, as the tenants' union notes here:
Taking or keeping tenant property in lieu of rental payments is illegal (RCW 59.18.230). It is not legal for a landlord to take a tenant’s property to cover the cost of rent or other money owed. The tenant can write a letter to the landlord demanding the return of the property. If it is not returned, they can sue for the value of the property retained, actual damages, and if the landlord intentionally refused to return the property, up to $500 a day for every day they are without their property, up to a total of $5000.
There are also rules about abandonment, which seem to set up guidelines of how the landlord handles any items left behind in a unit, and which presumably would cover the case of being forcibly evicted as well (although again, that process is slow enough that you shouldn't really have anything left behind you actually wanted):
The landlord can then enter the unit and remove the tenant’s belongings, but they must hold them in storage and make an attempt to notify the tenant in writing. [...] If the property is valued at above $250, the landlord may throw away or sell all the items after forty five days if the tenant doesn’t write to claim them. The landlord can use the money to cover the costs of hauling and storing the property, and towards any debt the tenant owes them, including back rent money. Any money left over must be held for the tenant for one year, after that time it becomes the landlord’s money. If the tenant claims the items, it must be in writing and they must pay the cost of hauling and storing the property before they can get the property back.
Which I take to mean that the landlord can't sell the items right away, although like a towed beater car, a tenant may find they can't afford to pay the storage/hauling costs incurred.
posted by hincandenza at 6:17 PM on August 15, 2012

IANAL - I am, however, a landlord in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

As a landlord, let me tell you what will work the best for everyone concerned. Schedule some time to talk with your LL and try to hammer out a simple agreement for payment of what is owed and how you will handle what is going on in the future. Try to be as open to suggestions and as pleasant as possible. Be prepared for the inevitable, that you will be evicted. This is likely as the notice to quit is a pretty good sign that your landlord has had enough of this nonsense. No hard feelings, but this is a business and it's not your business, which is frustrating.

Otherwise, you should immediately pro-bono lawyer up.

I will tell you how you can delay eviction in Massachusetts and maybe it will work in Washington, but YOU NEED TO CHECK FIRST. MA laws are extremely tenant friendly, and I had a tenant who did these things. Again, this is all MA-centric. And I need to say that if you do this, you will do nothing but piss of the LL royally and any goodwill you had will be out the window. Wave it goodbye. Want to know why? Because in addition to not getting money from rent, your LL will be spending money and time preparing for and going to court. S/he will be losing money hand-over-fist. This is why when you sit down and talk as above, things will go SO much better for you both.

In MA, the LL or her agent will file a notice which gets served by the sheriff. This says, "pay up in 10 days or get out in 14". You will then wait until the last possible moment to respond. This buys you 10 days plus the time to get on the docket in court. Then make sure you have a doctor's appointment or important physical therapy or whatever on that day because neither you nor your lawyer will show up (alternately, your lawyer can show and express your regrets at not being present and file a continuation). Under these conditions, you will get a summary judgement against you. You will get a certain amount of time to push back on that. Wait until the last minute and file a request for overturning the summary judgement, possibly with counter claims. This will make your LL scramble to make sure s/he has sufficient documentation to counter and will have to at least prepare a response. Then you'll get to court. Bring a note from your doctor.

At this point, you'll discover that the court has a mediation program which allows you to sit down and talk and negotiate without talking to the judge. This is likely to work out better for both parties and trust me, if you think that talking to the judge about your sob story will work, forget it - they've heard it all. So you'll hammer out the agreement with the lawyer. You will say that it will take you 4 months to heal to a point where you can get out and that you'll be unlikely to pay rent during that time and if the LL will forgive the existing debt, allow you this time, provide a neutral reference, you'll be out. In exchange you will be asked to waive your rights. Then you save your money, leave the place clean and get out. Your LL may say, hey, if you can get out in 2 months, I'll pay you a couple grand on top of your security. And then you'll write it up and agree and then you have to abide by it.

And this route will TOTALLY piss off your LL. Like you can't imagine and I will urge you to try and hammer out the circumstances under which you will leave BEFORE it comes to this. This will set your LL's expectations and yours and will likely cost your LL far less money in lawyer fees and time. Seriously less. Like if you were up front and said flat out, "look, if this goes to court, it will cost you around this much, so if you could just forgive this debt and maybe one more month and prepare a neutral reference, I'm out at this date, broom clean at the latest."
posted by plinth at 6:18 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

As a former property manager in Seattle I have a lot of experience in King County evictions. The absolute fastest it could be done was in 4-5 weeks after the missed payment. 6-7 weeks was more likely. These are the time frames for an unopposed eviction. If you respond to the complaint that will follow the 3 day notice expiration you will be scheduled for a court date and that will lengthen the process. At the court date there will be free legal assistance for you. That lawyer has tons of experience in getting the process delayed further or thrown out on a technicality. Judges lean heavily on landlords to work out a compromise, even one where the landlord forgives some rent. Landlords want to avoid paying hefty attorney fees for continued court appearances and may propose a settlement.

If you find yourself in this situation again I recommend talking to the landlord early, but know that if it doesn't work out it could take a couple of months to get rid of you.
posted by Crashback at 8:22 PM on August 15, 2012

You know you're in the wrong here, so why are you trying to fight this? My advice is to do what yo know is right - have someone help you move.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:48 PM on August 15, 2012

He doesn't have anywhere to move to, blaneyphoto; as is clear from his comments, he's broke. If you have resources for people in his situation, that would be helpful.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:45 PM on August 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

I do want to make one correction to something Tanizaki said, which I believe is incorrect (although it sounds like s/he has more experience in this area):
The landlord would then be entitled to possession of whatever property you leave behind and to sell it to make up for the rent you failed to pay. He would need to give notice to you before such sale.
The landlord cannot explicitly claim your property in lieu of rent to pay off the outstanding charges, as the tenants' union notes here:

My statement was based on several sections of the Washington landlord/tenant act, which provides for such sale of a tenant's property, after having given reasonable notice to the ex-tenant to allow a chance to recover the property. (you might have noticed that I said, "He would need to give notice to you before such sale."):

RCW 59.18.310
"In the event of such abandonment of tenancy and an accompanying default in the payment of rent by the tenant, the landlord may immediately enter and take possession of any property of the tenant found on the premises and may store the same in any reasonably secure place. A landlord shall make reasonable efforts to provide the tenant with a notice containing the name and address of the landlord and the place where the property is stored and informing the tenant that a sale or disposition of the property shall take place pursuant to this section, and the date of the sale or disposal, and further informing the tenant of the right under RCW 59.18.230 to have the property returned prior to its sale or disposal."

RCW 59.18.312
"A landlord shall, upon the execution of a writ of restitution by the sheriff, enter and take possession of any property of the tenant found on the premises. The landlord may store the property in any reasonably secure place, including the premises, and sell or dispose of the property as provided under subsection (3) of this section. "

The statute certainly provides that if the tenant does not reclaim the property, it may be sold and applied to past due rent. There is a procedure to be followed, but the mechanism is there as it is in every landlord/tenant act I have heard of.

I guarantee this situation will come up for the OP sooner rather than later, so it is good for him to be informed as to both tenant and landlord rights.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:42 AM on August 16, 2012

Landlords are renting properties to humans. Humans are prone to delays, illnesses, accidents, etc. It behooves everyone, on both sides of the equation, to take these factors into account so that a. people are not thrown into the street when they are willing to pay but are experiencing setbacks and b. that landlords are not burdened with legal expenses on top of not having received the rent on time.

I'm glad you were able to cover it in time, loq. Maintaining a constant line of communication with your landlord is the best thing you can do, along with perhaps paying a percentage of all income received immediately into your rent account.
posted by h00py at 4:47 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

(I understand that most land/lords/ladies/persons are also human, which is why I don't wish gratuitous exposure to the legal system on them either).
posted by h00py at 5:17 AM on August 16, 2012

Which I take to mean that the landlord can't sell the items right away, although like a towed beater car, a tenant may find they can't afford to pay the storage/hauling costs incurred.

What hincandenza said. As I have noted elsewhere, but not here, I have managed a number of large apartment complexes here in Seattle. In one, we had a tenant move out, under a cloud, who left a phenomenal amount of property and left the place trashed to the max, to boot. And the owners let the apartment sit there for a number of months because they had other things with which to deal. I am not sure of the exact interval but it takes a few months before abandoned property becomes officiallly abandoned property. So, we treated all the stuff she left like it was radioactive for quite awhile.

This is opposed to when people leave dressers or crappy couchs, let it be noted. Those get tossed fast and the tenant gets billed.

As for 3 day notices, my experience is that they are more a shot across the bow than the final straw. Same with 10 day notices for not keeping their agreements to observe the rules on noise, smoking and such. Evictions really are a last resort and although I suppose a landlord could try to sock the evicted tenant for court costs, but, I mean, c'mon, you can't get blood out of a stone. And landlords know that.

That lawyer is going to get paid in the short term by someone and that someone is not going to be the tenant. I have never had an owner go after a tenant after getting rid of them -- it has just not been worth the time and money from their point of view. Not even the medical malpractice defense lawyer, and he was as hardass as they come, bothered to do anything beyond getting someone out.
posted by y2karl at 6:16 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

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