Evictions in Snohomish County

This is a plain language summary of the process of eviction. To make this readable we are leaving out a lot of details. Your situation could be different than the one described here.

Residential evictions in Washington state are ruled by the Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA). The RLTA says no landlord can remove a tenant or end a lease unless they follow the steps written into the law. Locking tenants out, preventing a tenant from using the rental, or cutting off utilities has been illegal in Washington for a long time. If you are a victim of these actions read this informational packet.

The only legal way to evict someone is through a court case. All eviction cases are called “Unlawful Detainer Actions.”


All evictions and ending a lease requires written notice. The written notice will say different things, based on the reasons for the eviction. For example, if the eviction is for not paying rent, the notice will be called 14-Day Pay or Vacate. Whatever the notice is for, it must have the right words on it and the correct number of days. It also must be handed to a person who lives in the home, or taped to the front door and mailed to you. The notice should explain what you need to do to stop the eviction. A 14-Day pay or vacate notice will say exactly how much you need to pay, and if you pay they can’t evict you.

The notice will always have a time frame 10 or 14 days is common. It could be as short as 3 days or as long as 120 days, depending on the reason for the eviction. Whatever the time is, that’s how long the landlord must wait before starting the court process of eviction. For example, the landlord can go to court 15 days after giving you a pay or vacate.

Summons and Complaint

When the landlord goes to the court, they have to give you a document called a complaint, and a document called a summons. The landlord’s attorney will send someone to give you both of these documents at one time. These documents must be handed to someone who lives in the residence.

The summons will have in bold letters a date and time when you need to respond in writing. The date should be at least a week after you receive the summons. If the landlord, or their attorney doesn’t have a written notice from you on the day in the summons, you will lose the case. The summons should give you a phone number for you to call to see if you qualify for free legal services.

The “complaint” is a legal document that explains to the court why you should lose your housing. The complaint might have other documents attached to it, like police reports, ledgers or a statement from a witness. This document will give you most of the information you will need to fight the eviction.

When you receive a summons and complaint you need to act quickly. Immediately call the Right To Council screening hotline at 1 (855) 657-8387. You also need to write a “notice of appearance” and send it to the address on the Summons. Your “notice of appearance” is a letter with your name and mailing address saying you want to fight the eviction. You need to sign the notice of appearance.

Your Day in Court

If your landlord still wants to evict you, they will have to schedule a court date. You will receive notice of a Show Cause hearing. The notice is an order from a judge telling you to show up at court at a day and time. This is your eviction hearing. If you don’t have a lawyer, and you have low income, go to the hearing and ask the judge to appoint a lawyer.

If You Lose The Eviction Case

When the landlord proves to the court that you should not keep the rental, the court makes an order. The eviction court order is called a Writ of Restitution. The Writ orders the sheriff to go to your house and leave a notice. This can take a few days or even a couple of weeks. At least three days after the notice is posted, the sheriff must come back and take you from the house. The sheriff cant talk about the eviction case or how bad your landlord is. They must follow the court orders in the Writ of Restitution or they are breaking the law.


SCLS can help you if you are being evicted.