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New Eviction Law: Senate Bill 5160 and House Bill 1236

Dear Clients,

The Governor signed a new law as it relates to evictions in the State of Washington. The law amends RCW 59.12 et. seq., the Unlawful Detainer and it also amends RCW 59.18 et. seq., the Residential Landlord Tenant Act. It also amends a couple of other acts. The changes, some of which are retroactively effective as of April 22nd, 2021, will add additional time as expected to the eviction process. The law also prohibits Governor Inslee from extending his eviction moratorium after June 30th, 2021. I still don't know if the CDC and President Biden will extend their moratorium. The high points of the law are as follows.

First and foremost, no matter what county you are in but especially King, Pierce, and Thurston, you will be required to go through a mediation process before you can file an eviction action. To me, the best course of action would be to serve the new mediation paperwork at the same time that either the 14-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Vacate is served or when any other notice is served. There are particular forms that must be used and of course, each county involved has a separate mediation process.

You do not have to settle at the mediation, but you are required to go through and get a certificate which we will ultimately need to file with the court. The mediation process is free in the sense that neither the landlord nor the tenant has to pay for it.

Another highlight of the law is that the new payment plan schedule basically appears to be a factor of three. In other words, you take the number of months that the tenant is behind in rent and times it by three, and in theory that's how long the payment plan will go for. I anticipate that most of the evictions that we complete will be a situation in which we serve the 14-Day Notice, we serve the Summons and Complaint, we serve the Order to Show Cause, we enter a payment plan at the Order to Show Cause and they subsequently fail it, then we will get out Writ of Restitution.

Please also note that the notices which must be given in order to terminate tenancy have changed. As of April 22nd, 2021, if you want to move into your unit or sell your unit you will need to give a 90-Day Notice sworn to under the penalty of perjury. Said 90 days calculated so that you have to give a minimum of 90 days prior to the end of the month. In addition, only certain tenancies can be terminated without cause. Those tenancies will still require a minimum of a 60-Day Notice to Terminate Tenancy. The applications of notices terminating tenancies have too many expectations to explain in a blog like this. Each individual case will be different.

Another major change is that essentially the legislature is attempting to get rid of no-cause evictions. They did include a way to at least terminate a tenancy based upon four 10-Day Notices to Comply or Vacate in any 12-month period. You are still of course going to have to prove that at a show-cause hearing that each of the four 10-Day Notices was legit.

The other thing I will tell you is that all of the notices and their forms have changed including the eviction Summons. I will be getting new forms if we go through the eviction process. Finally, it is now mandated that qualified tenants will get free attorneys. We have already been dealing with free attorneys at every show cause hearing in every county that I do evictions in. I look forward to working with you now and through the end of the year as we implement new policies and procedures to protect your property and to continue to allow you to earn a living. Please note that eventually the law will be codified under the above-referenced eviction statutes and Residential Landlord Tenant Act but at the present time if you want to review the law you need to look at the Senate Bill 5160 and House Bill 1236. They can be found on the Washington State Legislative website. I look forward to working with you.