What can a landlord do with personal property left over from a tenant?

Under RCW 59.18.310(b) the landlord may immediately enter and take possession of any property of the tenant found on the premises and may store it in a reasonably secure place if the tenant defaults in rent and reasonably indicates the intention not to resume tenancy.   The landlord must make reasonable efforts to provide the tenant with 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 RCW 59.18.310, and the date of the sale or disposal, and the tenants right to have the property returned prior to the sale under RCW 59.18.230.  The landlord may satisfy the notice obligations by mailing it first class, postage pre-paid to the tenant’s last known address and to any other address provided by the tenant.

The landlord must return the property to the tenant after the tenant has paid the actual or reasonable drayage and storage costs, whichever is less, if the tenant makes a written request for the return of the property before the landlord has sold or disposed of the property.

dsasadassaAfter 45 days from the date of the notice the landlord may sell or dispose of the personal property and apply any income from the sale against moneys due, including actual or reasonable costs of drayage and storage, whichever is less.

If the property is less valued at less than $250 the landlord may sell or dispose of the property after 7 days from the date of the notice of sale or disposal is mailed or personally delivered, provided the landlord makes reasonable efforts to notify the tenant.

If a writ of restitution has been executed by the sheriff, RCW 59.18.312 applies and the landlord’s rights differ slightly.  The landlord “shall” enter and take possession of tenant property found on the premises, and may store the property in a reasonably secure place, with the option of selling or disposing of the property.  The landlord must store the property if the tenant serves him with a written request to do so within 3 days after service of the writ.  Without such service the landlord may elect to store the property.  If the tenant objects to the storage the property must be deposited upon the nearest public property and may not be stored by the landlord.

Before the landlord is entitled to a sale of the property valued at over $250 he must give notice to the tenant via first-class mail or personal delivery.  For property valued at $250 or less the landlord may sell or dispose of the property after seven days from the date the notice is mailed or delivered to the tenant.  Any income generated by the sale may be applied against any moneys due the landlord for drayage and storage of the property.


Photo Credit: Bill Longshaw, at

The non-owner’s impact to adverse possession’s timing requirement

For someone to adversely possess someone else’s property, the law requires the possession to have lasted continuously for a minimum of 10 years (or 7 years under color of title — usually meaning that the individual was paying taxes on the adversely possessed property).  That is logical when the property is readily identifiable between two neighboring property owners.  But does that apply when the property owner is not actually occupying the property?  Can a non-owner, like a relative, renter, or friend occupy the property and preserve the 10-year requirement?

Apartment_Building_with_4_Entrances_USAWendy Koch, a fellow associate at Dickson Steinacker, provided the following authority regarding just that issue:

“Defendants cite no authority in support of their contention that Plaintiff must personally testify in an adverse possession case, especially where he adversely possesses through his wife and children which inures to his benefit.    Instead, it is well settled law that an adverse possessor may possess through his tenant (O’Brien v. Schultz, 45 Wn.2d 769, 278 P.2d 322 (1954);Foote v. Kearney, 157 Wash. 681, 290 P. 226 (1930); Flint v. Long, 12 Wash. 342, 41 P. 49 (1895)), and may possess through his contract purchaser (McAuliff v. Parker, 10 Wash. 141, 38 P. 744 (1894)).  By analogy then, he may possess through his family members