Myths and Misconceptions

With the assistance of our attorneys we are using this page to answer frequently asked questions that fall into the “myths or misconceptions” category:

3 Ten Day Notices to Comply?

Q. Do I have to serve 3 Ten Day Notices to Comply before I can proceed to evict my tenant?

A. The ONLY time you would need to serve 3 notices to comply would be in a situation where your property is INSIDE the Seattle City Limits and is therefore under the “Just Cause Eviction Ordinance” where you have to meet certain criteria to issue a 20 Day Notice to Terminate to a month-to-month tenant, or to a tenant where the 20 Day Notice would coincide with the LAST DAY of their lease, if they are a lease tenant.

Normally, if you issue a 10 Day Notice to Comply and the tenant fails to comply you would proceed to an eviction from the notice. If your tenant is on a lease, or inside the Seattle City Limits, where a 20 Day to Terminate is not available to you, then evicting off the 10 day would be the only way of resolving the matter. If your tenant is outside the Seattle City Limits, and is on a month-to-month rental agreement, then even issuing a 10 Day Notice to Comply is not mandatory, you can go straight into a 20 Day Notice to terminate. However, it might be wise to have issued at least one 10 Day to Comply for your file before going into a 20 Day in this instance as it can often diffuse any questions of discrimination or some such other defense because you can show the court that you have made an attempt to resolve the issue prior to terminating the tenancy.

Leases?

Q. I have just bought a duplex. One tenant is on a lease that does not end until six months from now. As a new owner, can I cancel their lease and make them sign a new lease with me at a higher rent?

A. No. Leases run with the property, not with the owner. The exception would be that if the tenant was willing to rescind the lease and enter into a new one, then you can. Otherwise you will have to abide by the terms and conditions of the lease that was in effect at the time your purchased the property.

3 Day Pay Rent or Vacate – taking money?

Q. I heard that there is a provision in the Residential Landlord/Tenant Act that permits me to take rent and still continue with my eviction. Does that mean I can take a partial payment on my notice and still proceed with an eviction?

A. No – taking any money after issuing a 3 Day Pay Rent or Vacate Notice will CANCEL the notice. The provision you are referring to is RCW 59.18.390, which in the body states . . . After issuance of the Writ of Restitution, acceptance of a payment by the landlord that only partially satisfies the judgment will not invalidate the writ unless pursuant to a written agreement executed by both parties. The key wording here is AFTER THE WRIT OF RESTITUTION has been issued.

Notice to Terminate?

Q. I have a month-to-month tenant, who IS NOT residing inside the Seattle City limits who I want to terminate their tenancy. I know I have to give them a minimum of 20 days notice but can I give them more than 20 days?

A. Yes. The statute (RCW 59.18.200) states …. And shall be terminated by written notice of twenty days, or more, preceding the end of any of said months or periods, given by either party to the other. It is always wise to allow at least 21 days, especially if your tack and mail your notice or you have more than one adult residing in the unit where you have to allow one extra day for the mailing. Sometimes, you can defuse a tense situation by giving as much as 60 or even 90 days notice thereby giving the tenant plenty of time to relocate. You would still use a “20 Day Notice to terminate” it is just that the termination date itself would be further away.

Q. What happens if I give more time than is actually required by the statute and then the tenant does not pay the rent?

A. You would issue them a 3 Day Pay Rent or Vacate Notice. The tenant is still obligated to pay their current rent even if you have given them notice to terminate.

Murder?

Q. I had a tenant murdered in one of my units. Now that I am putting the unit back on the rental market do I have to disclose the murder to any applicants.?

A. Yes.

3 Day Terminate?

Q. I have a tenant who has a small dog. The tenant had permission to have a pet, but I am constantly getting complaints from the neighboring tenants that the dog has a very piercing bark and that it barks constantly. Can I issue a 3 Day Notice to Terminate for “nuisance”?

A. We would not recommend it. A 3 Day Terminate is a drastic notice compared the other notices that are available. In view of this it really should be used for “drastic” situations. We would recommend using a 10 Day Notice to Comply in a situation like this, for disturbing the peace.

Refunding the deposit?

Q. My tenant moved out of the unit at the end of the month. I mailed the accounting to them within the 14 days, but the refund had to come from my Head Office which is in another state and they only write expense checks on the 15th of the month. Will it be alright for me to mail it to them after the 15th?

A. No. RCW 59.18.280 states . . . The landlord complies with this section if the required statement or payment, or both, are deposited in the United States mail properly addressed with first class postage prepaid within 14 days. The notice shall be delivered to the tenant personally or by mail at his last known address. If the landlord fails to give such statement together with any refund due the tenant within the time limits specified above he shall be liable to the tenant for the full amount of the deposit.

Q. My tenant contacted me and demanded double the deposit back. They told me that the law entitled them to double because I missed the deadline?

A. What RCW 59.18.280 actually states is . . . .The court may in its discretion award up to two times the deposit for the intentional refusal of the landlord to give the statement or refund due. It is only the court who can make this decision, it is not something the tenant is entitled to automatically.

Last Month’s Rent?

Q. I have a policy of having my tenants pay me a Last Month’s Rent when they move into one of my rental units. Do I have to hold this money in the same account as I am holding their Security Deposits or can I put this money in my operating account right away?

A. You can put the money into your operating account right away. Just make sure you keep good accounting records so that the tenant is credited this payment when their last month arrives.

Q. During the term of the tenancy my tenant has received three rent increases, so the “Last Month’s Rent” I took initially is no longer equal to the tenants current rent. Can I make them pay me the extra?

A. You can ask for it, but unless you had a specific provision in your lease or rental agreement whereby the tenant was liable for any shortage on the Last Month’s Rent at the end of the tenancy you might have a problem trying to get the additional funds. Look at it this way, you have had the use of the money from the beginning of the tenancy.

** The above questions and answers are based on the State of Washington laws and may not be valid in other states.