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Common Mistakes Made by Commercial Landlords When Evicting Tenants

April 17th, 2019 - Esther E. Hyun

When a commercial tenant breaches their lease one too many times, the landlord may decide to terminate the lease and evict the tenant.

Commercial evictions are very similar to residential evictions. The landlord must comply with the terms of the lease and the applicable law to evict the tenant. Before a landlord can evict a tenant, the landlord must terminate the lease and certain notices must be provided to the tenant. In Washington, the required notice could be a 3-day notice, 10-day notice, or 20-day notice, depending on the reason for the eviction.

After the appropriate notice has been provided and the tenant continues to remain in possession of the property, then the landlord will need to pursue a legal action to evict the tenant. If the landlord wins their eviction lawsuit, the court will issue a Writ of Restitution and a judgment for what the tenant owes. The Writ of Restitution must be served by the Sheriff and the tenant will have three days to vacate. If the tenant doesn’t vacate within the three days, then the landlord will arrange a date and time with the Sheriff for the landlord to evict the tenant.

At the time of the eviction, the landlord will be able to remove the tenant’s personal property and change the locks. Unlike a residential eviction, a commercial landlord is not required to store the property left by the tenant. The landlord may remove the tenant’s property to the nearest public property. The landlord should consult legal counsel to determine if they may sell and dispose of the property.

There are clear requirements that a landlord must meet, before a commercial tenant can be evicted. This list summarizes some of the common mistakes made by commercial landlords when they are evicting a tenant.

1. NOT FOLLOWING THE LEASE WHEN A TENANT IS IN DEFAULT

Before starting the eviction process, the first step is to terminate the lease, which may require the landlord to provide notice and time to cure the default. The landlord should review the lease carefully for any language that requires notice to be provided or other steps that must be taken when a tenant has defaulted on their lease. A lease could provide additional rights to the tenant, which are not required under Washington unlawful detainer statutes. If the landlord does not follow the steps that are required to be taken under the lease, it could needlessly delay the eviction process.

2. TURNING OFF UTILITIES

Certain commercial leases require tenants to pay for certain utility bills that are charged to the landlord. The commercial landlord could be liable for constructive eviction if they cut off utility services to the premises. If a tenant has been constructively evicted, the tenant has no obligation to pay rent if the tenant abandons the property.

3. FAILING TO PROVIDE PROPER NOTICE

Depending on the reason for eviction, the landlord must provide either a 3-day, 10-day, or 20-day notice to the tenant, before the landlord can pursue an eviction action. If the appropriate notice was not provided, then the landlord will have to start the eviction process over and properly serve the notice.

4. VIOLATING THE AUTOMATIC STAY WHEN A TENANT FILES BANKRUPTCY

When a tenant files bankruptcy, an automatic stay is imposed on creditors, including landlords. The landlord may have to take appropriate steps to obtain a relief from the automatic stay in order to pursue an eviction action against the tenant. Failing to obtain relief from an automatic stay, before pursuing an eviction, could lead to penalties and additional costs.

An experienced attorney can help avoid these common mistakes and any other problems that may arise throughout the eviction process.

Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.

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