The Residential Eviction Process

September 7th, 2012 - Bryan L. Page

Many people ask what the process is for evicting a tenant from a rental property when the tenant fails to pay rent and are curious how long the process will take. Landlords are particularly concerned because every day a non-paying tenant remains in the property is another day of lost rent to the landlord. Luckily for the landlord, the eviction process is meant to provide quick relief to re-gain possession of the property. The following is a brief overview of the steps involved in evicting a tenant who is not paying rent.

Step 1:  Give the tenant a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate.

This notice tells the tenant they must pay rent or move out within 3 days. If the tenant does not pay and does not move out within 3 days, the landlord can move on to step 2.

Step 2:  File an unlawful detainer action in superior court.

If the tenant does not pay the rent owed and refuses to move out, the landlord can file what is called an unlawful detainer action to evict the tenant.

Step 3: Schedule a show cause hearing.

At the same time as filing the unlawful detainer lawsuit, the landlord requests that the court schedule a show cause hearing. At the show cause hearing the tenant must “show cause” why they are still entitled to possession of the premises. The tenant must be given at least 7 days notice before the show cause hearing.

Step 4:  Obtain a writ of restitution.

At the show cause hearing, if the court decides the tenant must move out, the court will issue a writ of restitution. The writ is a document that directs the sheriff to remove the tenant from the property.

Step 5:  Sheriff removes the tenant.

Once the sheriff receives the writ, the sheriff will go to the property and physically remove the tenant. In Whatcom County, it usually takes the sheriff 1-2 days after receiving the writ to go out to property. At the first visit, the sheriff usually informs the tenant that they have 24 hours to leave before the sheriff comes back and then physically removes them from the property. If the tenant still does not move out, the sheriff will return and evict them from the property.

This whole process can take 2 or more weeks depending on the timing, scheduling of hearings, the court’s calendar, and how quickly the sheriff goes to the property. While that may seem like a long time to a landlord, it is much shorter than the time it takes to complete a normal civil lawsuit.

This is a brief description of the steps involved in evicting a tenant. While landlords can successfully navigate the eviction process on their own, an attorney should be consulted to go over the specific requirements involved in each step so that no mistakes are made.  If a step is not done correctly it could cause more delay in evicting the tenant, and thus delay re-renting the premises to a new, paying tenant.

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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