Washington State Right to Counsel

2021 changes to the Landlord-Tenant Act create a right to a FREE attorney for most tenants who cannot afford one to fight an eviction. The Washington state Office of Civil Legal Aid (OCLA) makes the rules about how the project works. The Snohomish County Superior court set up local court rules about the program and how to get a free lawyer.

How to Get Counsel

Any tenant who gets certain public assistance, like social security, or who makes less than 2 times the Federal Poverty Level should qualify.

Citizenship status does not matter.

If you are being evicted, you should call the RTC screening hotline:

1-855-657-8387 MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY 9am-1pm and 2pm-4pm.

The Screening hotline will ask you a bunch of questions, and connect you with the local right to counsel program.

Is it Too Late?

When you get any legal documents it is very important that you read them carefully. If those documents say there is a court date, do not miss the date, even if you have not called the screening line. If you come to an eviction hearing without a lawyer, the court will ask you if you think you should get a free lawyer, and then give you some time to call and meet with a lawyer.

What to Expect From a Free Lawyer?

Your housing justice lawyer will be your advocate. They will give you advice and help you enforce your rights as a tenant.  This work may include drafting documents, court appearances and, representing you at trial. The lawyer’s services may also include legal research, meetings, phone calls, and other legal work. The right to counsel does not include any other legal work against the landlord or claims that are not part of the eviction case. The right to counsel does not cover to appeals. If you lose case and you want to appeal, the RTC will not represent you for that part.   

What If I Dont Qualify For a Lawyer?

If you dont qualify for a lawyer in the RTC program, you should try to find legal representation. Having a lawyer greatly raises your chance of winning in every type of legal case. Try these two programs if you don’t know where else to go:

Washington State Bar Association Moderate Means Program

1-855-741-6930 or apply ONLINE

Snohomish County Bar Association – Lawyer Referral Service


For More Information

Washington Law Help

Washingtonlawhelp.org is a project of the Northwest justice Project supported by the Washington State Courts, the Washington State Office of Civil Legal Aid, the national Legal Services Corporation and the Alliance for Equal Justice. It is a reliable source for legal information.