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EVICTION SERVICES, snohomish county legal services

EVICTION SERVICES FOR SNOHOMISH COUNTY RESIDENTS

Are you facing eviction? We can help.

Eviction means different things to a person who is facing eviction. For some, eviction means someone verbally threatened to change the locks or call law enforcement or remove personal property. For others it means receiving a text or email that they must vacate. While in other cases it means being served with a notice of a threat to evict, or receiving court papers, or having an upcoming court hearing about an eviction, or that a sheriff came or is coming to remove them.

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 are all illegal in Washington. If you are a victim of these actions read this informational packet and contact SCLS today. For additional information, you can visit WashingtonLawHelp.org.

The only legal way to evict someone is through a court case. These cases are usually called UNLAWFUL DETAINER ACTION (UDA), if you get documents that says “Unlawful Detainer”, you are being evicted.

The information below is specifically intended for people who have received a written eviction notice from their landlord. This is a summary of the eviction process, when the landlord is following the legal process. Your specific situation might be different.

If you need more information or have questions, you may also come to one of our free HJP clinics for a brief consultation.

HOUSING JUSTICE PROJECT (HJP) SERVICES

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The Snohomish County Legal Services (SCLS) Housing Justice Project (HJP) attorneys work with people facing eviction to assert their legal rights and defenses. Attorneys may negotiate with landlords to provide adequate time for clients to move out. Those who are in danger of losing their public housing receive assistance to help them preserve this important benefit. 

The SCLS HJP department created an in-depth, 18 page informational packet to help tenants at-risk of eviction or currently facing eviction. If you would like a printed copy of the packet, you can pick one up during our HJP Clinic hours at the Snohomish County Courthouse or contact our offices at 425-258-9283, ext. 5 or email us at information@snocolegal.org and we will mail you a copy.

***Please note, HJP cannot guarantee the provision of services for any individual***

HOUSING JUSTICE PROJECT CLINICS

Snohomish County Legal Services operates the local Housing Justice Project “HJP Walk-Up Clinic” located at the Snohomish County Superior Courthouse – 3000 Rockefeller Avenue, Everett, WA 98201 – to assist qualified clients with legal issues related to their tenancy.  The clinic is offered Tuesday through Friday 9:00 – 11:00 AM located in Room 1-537, down the hallway on the first floor, past Department 1E. The clinic is offered as “First Come, First Served”. Priority goes to those with an Unlawful Detainer Action (UDA) (eviction) hearing that day or other urgent matters. If you are not able to meet with an attorney you may be asked to come back another day.

A virtual Housing Justice Project Clinic is also offered weekly on Fridays from 1:00 – 4:00 PM. Please contact our offices for more information and to register.

CONTACT SCLS HOUSING JUSTICE PROJECT

Please call Snohomish County Legal Services at (425) 258-9283, ext. 5 Monday – Friday 8:00AM – 4:00PM. If you receive a voice mail prompt, please leave your first and last name, phone number, and a brief message regarding your housing issue, and the next available staff member will contact you as soon as they are able. You can also reach us by emailing us at information@snocolegal.org.  

In-person (by appointment) – contact our office if you need assistance at (425) 258-9283 ex 5; Visiting our HJP walk-up clinic – located at the Snohomish County Superior Court. The HJP clinic is open from 9:00AM- 11:00AM, Tuesday-Friday.

Prior to receiving legal services, you will be asked to complete an Intake paperwork to determine if you are eligible for HJP services.
Ways to Apply: Online – You can complete our intake paperwork online at this link SCLS HJP Intake

Print – print and complete the attached intake form HJP Intake (Print) Then, take a picture or scan it, and email it back information@snocolegal.org.

For more information, download this HJP Brochure.

APPOINTED COUNSEL PROGRAM (ACP)

“Appointed Counsel Program” refers to the right of a tenant to have a lawyer to help in their defense, even if they cannot afford to pay for an attorney. SCLS is proud to be one of the first agencies authorized to provide free attorneys to qualifying tenants.

Visit our APPOINTED COUNSEL PROGRAM page to learn more, or fill out our intake form in the link below.

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HOW IT WORKS

NOTICE

All evictions require written notice. The written notice will state the reason why the landlord wants to evict. For example, if the eviction is for not paying rent, the notice will be called a Pay or Vacate notice.  The notice must have the right words on it and tell you how many days you have before the landlord can start the court process, the notice 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. For example, a Pay or Vacate notice will state how much you need to pay, and if you pay the total amount on the notice by the deadline, the landlord cannot evict you.

The notice will have a time frame, 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 14-day pay or vacate notice.

SUMMONS OR 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 (not less than seven (7) nor more than thirty (30) days from the date of service) after you receive the summons. If your name is listed on the court documents and you don’t respond in writing, by the date on the summons, you will lose the case and be evicted. 

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, such as 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, with your name on the documents, you need to act quickly. Immediately call the SCLS Appointed Counsel Program (ACP) team at 425-258-9283 Ext. 5 (Monday through Friday 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM). Alternatively, you canNorthwest Justice Project ACP screening hotline: 1-855-657-8387 Monday through Friday 9:00AM – 1:00PM and 2:00PM – 4:00PM. You can ask for your case to be assigned to Snohomish County Legal Services.

If your name is on the court documents, you need to write your response BEFORE the deadline. 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 that you want to fight the eviction. You need to sign the “notice of appearance”.  If your name is on the documents and you do not respond before the deadline, you will be evicted.

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YOUR DAY IN COURT

After you respond, and 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 are low-income, go to the hearing and ask the judge to appoint a lawyer.

IF YOU LOSE YOUR EVICTION CASE

When the landlord proves to the court that you should be evicted, the court signs 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 can’t 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.

Eviction Record – Order of Limited Dissemination

Once an Unlawful Detainer Action (UDA), i.e., Eviction case, is filed against a person it will appear on the person’s background tenant screening report and will be on their record. Even if the case is dismissed or has no outcome, the eviction will still appear. Generally, landlords use third-party screening companies to run background tenant reports. 

What can a person do about an Eviction on their record?

A person can ask the court for what’s called an Order of Limited Dissemination (O.L.D.), which is governed by RCW 59.18.367. This order from the court stops a third-party landlord tenant screening company from displaying an eviction on a person’s background screening report. 

An Order of Limited Dissemination Does Not:

This does not stop an eviction from appearing entirely, meaning it will always be on their record because it was filed with the courts. A person can search court records and find an eviction on someone’s background. An O.L.D. does not stop a judgment from appearing on a person’s background check. It also does not re-open the case for a person to re-litigate the eviction issue.

When does a court grant an O.L.D.?

There are three ways in which a court would grant an OLD: (1) no factual basis for a UDA, (2) reinstating tenancy, and (3) for “good cause” reason. The majority of the time option (1) no factual basis for a UDA case, is not the best reason to ask the court for granting an O.L.D., because the landlord generally has a basis to file an Unlawful Detainer Action. Reinstating tenancy means the tenant previously owed rent and they have paid the landlord in-full the rent plus court costs and attorney’s fees, and continue to reside on the premises. Good cause is for all other circumstances. It is a broad reason and gives the court discretion to grant O.L.D.’s. 

How to ask the court for an O.L.D.?

Generally, you will need to schedule a motion hearing to ask the court to grant your motion for an Order of Limited Dissemination. SCLS HJP program may be able to help you obtain an Order of Limited Dissemination from the court. There is a lot of paperwork that goes into asking the court for this relief. Contact SCLS to see if you are eligible for its services.

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GET HELP — OTHER EVICTION RESOURCES

Eviction law is changing quickly, and the eviction moratorium ended on June 30, 2021. Read about changes to the law at 2023 Changes to Washington State’s Laws Affecting Renters (washingtonlawhelp.org) and check back for updates.  

If your landlord is threatening to evict you, contact Snohomish County Legal Services HJP (425) 258-9283, ext. 5  or by email at information@snocolegal.org; or you may find additional information at https://nwjustice.org/apply-online – when you get to the end of the online application you can say where you want your case referred and select Snohomish County Legal Services; or many common legal questions and answers can be found at  washingtonlawhelp.org. If you need rental assistance, contact 2-1-1. ¿Habla español? Llamar a LETI para asistencia de alquiler: (731) 798-2238.

For more detailed information regarding landlord-tenant law, consult the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). Sections RCW 59.12, 59.18, 59.20, and the Civil Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, Rule 5 (CRLJ 5). RCWs and court rules can be found at libraries and the following websites: www.leg.wa.gov (for RCWs) and www.courts.wa.gov (for court rules and sample forms). 

Court contact information can also be found at www.courts.wa.gov.

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CONTACT SNOHOMISH COUNTY LEGAL SERVICES

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