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How to Evict a Roommate in Washington
Having a roommate can solve a lot of problems. He or she helps cover the rent, provides company and assists with watching the kids if needed. Yet, having a roommate has downsides, too, and if you've now decided that the cons outweigh the pros, then it's probably time for your roommate to leave. So how do you make that happen? How do you evict a roommate in Washington?
Evicting a Washington Roommate is Tricky
Having a roommate is often not all it's cracked up to be. Some roommates want to party all night. Others try to avoid paying their share of the rent or utilities. Occasionally, they engage in illegal actitivies. But getting rid of your roommate means making sure you follow the rules.
Is Your Roommate on the Lease?
If your roommate is on the lease with you, then you have no authority to kick him or her out. That authority lies directly with the landlord, but even a landlord needs a legally valid reason to throw someone out if that person is on the lease. These reasons usually include not paying rent, using the home for illegal purposes or otherwise breaking the terms of the lease in some way.
It's worth remembering that a roommate on the lease with you is actually a co-tenant and has much right to live in the rental space as you do.
The exception to this is if your roommate is threatening you or is violent toward you. If this is the case, then you can get a restraining order and your roommate must leave immediately.
Unfortunately, if you live in Washington, then your options are limited if your roommate is on the lease. You can try asking him or her to leave, but this doesn't always work and can lead to more conflict.
If you and your roommate signed an agreement outlining rules of the house, everything from noise limits to cleaning duties and he or she breaks the agreement, then you probably cannot evict but you can sue for damages in small claims court.
Examples include your roommate having friends over that keep you from getting your work done if you work at home or your roommate not paying his or her share of the utilities.
While these situations could be grounds for suing, the risk is that if you sue, you may anger your roommate but not enough to make him or her move out.
You can try talking to your landlord to see if he can get your roommate to budge, but most landlords are content to leave things be as long as they are getting their rent and their property is not being destroyed.
An exception would be if you can show the landlord that your roommate is breaking the lease in some way, such as selling drugs from the home (illegal use of the property) or has a cat when pets are specifically forbidden in the lease.
You have to be careful, though, because your roommate could claim that the cat belongs to both of you and your landlord could decide to evict you and your roommate both.
Your landlord might be a reasonable person (or corporation), though, and decide to evict only your roommate. If this is the case, understand that it will take time. Your landlord must follow the law, which involves giving your roommate notice of the eviction and time to remedy the situation.
For example, if the grounds for the eviction are that your roommate has a dog and pets are forbidden according to the lease, then your landlord has to give your roommate adequate time to find the dog a new home. If your roommate does this, then he or she cannot be evicted. He or she can stay in the home and chances are he or she will not be happy with you.
It is possible, too, that your roommate may just ignore the eviction notice and decide to stay in the home. In this case, your landlord will have to go to court to ask a judge to tell your roommate to go. If the judge agrees, then the sheriff will come to escort your roommate out of the property. If, though, your landlord loses in court, then your roommate may stay.
Things You Cannot Do with Regard to an Washington Roommate
No matter how much you want your roommate to leave, there are things that the state of Washington says you cannot legally do to make him or her vacate the home.
For example, you cannot threaten him or her. You cannot change the locks or go on vacation and turn off the utilities. You cannot take your roommate's personal property. If you do, you may be looking at criminal charges. No roommate is worth that.
Is Your Roommate Not on the Lease?
If your roommate is not on the lease then you have more options for getting rid of him or her.
Be careful here, though. If your roommate is not on the lease because he or she came to stay with you without your landlord knowing, then you might be the one breaking the lease terms and end up facing eviction.
If, though, you have a roommate with your landlord's express or implicit permission - many landlords will let a girlfriend or boyfriend stay in the home without signing the lease, or they will turn a blind eye to an extra tenant - then your roommate is considered a sublettor and you can evict him or her.
As stated before, there are rules you must follow. Washington requires you to give your roommate three day's notice to vacate if you are evicting him or her for not paying rent. You must give 10 day's notice if you are evicting for a lease violation. If your roommate has a month-to-month lease, then you must give him or her 20 days' notice to leave the property (Seattle rules may vary).
Have a third party hand the evition notice to your roommate, and send the notice via certified mail, too, so that you have proof that he or she received it. Keep a copy for yourself.
Your roommate may not challenge your request that he or she vacate and simply pack up and leave. Or he or she may ignore the notice to vacate and stay in the home. If so, then you will have to file a summons and complaint with your local county court. The clerk of the court will set a hearing date for you and your roommate to appear.
In court, be prepared to state your case clearly. Present any and all documentation you have. Also be prepared to be stuck with your roommate and have to pay his or her legal costs if you lose the case.
The bottom line is evicting a roommate in Washington is not easy. Evicting anyone anywhere is not easy, even for landlords with solid legal grounds. It is a complicated, contentious and often costly endeavor.
If, though, you have decided that you have no choice but to evict your roommate, then it is a good idea to talk to an experienced Washington eviction lawyer before proceeding. One small misstep could mean that you are the one having to look for a new home.
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