Evictions: Serving Residential Tenants

As a landlord, before you can evict a tenant, you must follow processes and procedures with exactness. That includes serving tenants with notices and court paperwork.

Serving Notices

RCW 59.18.030 outlines the reasons a tenant can be evicted. In virtually all situations, that statute requires that you serve a notice in advance before you can begin the court process, such as a notice to pay rent or vacate. To serve one of these notices, you must serve a copy of the notice to each tenant by either personally handing the notice to the tenant, or by posting it in a conspicuous place on the property and mailing the notice by certified mail, return receipt requested.

Serving the Eviction Summons and Complaint

If the tenant does not comply with the notice or vacate the property, then the next step in the eviction process requires you have someone serve the tenant with an eviction summons and a complaint. The general rule is that you serve the summons and complaint just like any other legal action, which means that it must be personally served to the tenant or an occupant that is “of suitable age and discretion” (which usually means an adult or older child).

But what if the tenant is evading service—hiding and refusing to answer the door? Assuming you’ve attempted service with diligence, RCW 59.18.055 allows you to get a court order allowing you to serve the summons and complaint by posting at the property and mailing by both certified and regular mail. The catch is that you have to make sure that the deadline for the tenant to answer is at least nine (9) days after the date of posting.

It cannot be emphasized enough that the eviction process requires you to follow procedures with precision, where even a slight misstep may require you to start all or party of the process over again. There are various strategies to the eviction process, and seeking the advice of an attorney can be very helpful in approaching these situations.

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