III. Requirements Common to All Default Notices
It is not always clear from RCW 59.12.030 what information should be included in a notice. However, RCW 59.12.030 and case law do provide helpful guidance.
A. Written Notice
All notices must be in writing. Although not specifically set forth in the statute, it is implied from RCW 59.12.040 (service of notice), which requires a notice be delivered, posted, and/or mailed2.
B. Pertinent Dates and/or Time Periods
All notices should provide the tenant with pertinent dates and/or time periods, including the date for surrender of the premises and, if applicable, the number of days the tenant has to correct the breach. RCW 59.12.030 provides some minimum periods.
Failure to Pay Rent 3 days
Non-Rent Lease Breach 10 days
Termination of Periodic Tenancy 20 days prior to end of period
Waste, Nuisance, Trespass 3 days
C. Adequately Informs the Tenant of the Basis of the Notice and What the Tenant Must Do Next
The level of specificity required for notices under the unlawful detainer statute varies depending on the particular violation. However, all notices should at least have a sentence that informs the tenant of the basis for the notice, such as, “…you are notified that you have occupied the premises without permission from the landlord…” or “you are notified that there is a balance of delinquent rent for the premises.” See Cornelius J. Peck, Landlord and Tenant Notices, 31 WASH.L.REV. 51, 57 (1956). The notice should also have a statement informing the tenant what the tenant must do upon receiving the notice (e.g., surrender the premises, pay rent, cure a specified lease breach, stop a certain activity).
D. Adequate Description of the Premises
The notice must provide an adequate description of the premises. This is usually a common description of the premises, such as the description provided in the lease agreement or the common street address, including unit number. A legal description is not necessary but may be included. The test by the courts is whether the tenant has been misled by the inadequacy of the description of the premises. Davis v. Jones, 15 Wn.2d 572, 131 P.2d 430 (1942). An inadequate description of the premises can render the notice defective. Metcalfe v. Heslop, 161 Wn. 106, 107, 296 P. 151 (1931). See also Provident Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Thrower, 155 Wn. 613, 617, 285 P. 654, 656 (1930) (court upholding the landlord’s unlawful detainer notice to tenant, who operated a rooming house, even though the legal description and signature were questionable, because the landlord substantially complied with the notice requirements and tenant did not claim she was misled by the minor deficiencies).
E. Proper Identification of the Tenant and Others Entitled to Notice
The notice should state the tenant’s proper legal and trade name and contact information so that it is clear who is the intended recipient of the notice3. See Peck, supra, 31 WASH.L.REV. at 62-3. The notice should also set forth the names and addresses of other parties who have requested or are otherwise entitled to notice. Id.
F. Cite to the Statute Relied Upon
The notice should cite the specific portions of RCW 59.12.030 relied upon. The citation, although not required, can be helpful if addressing a claim by the tenant that the tenant was misled by the notice. Peck, supra, note 3 at 62.
G. Landlord’s Contact Information
The landlord should provide his or her contact information on the notice. This not only provides the tenant with a person to contact with further questions, but also addresses claims that may be raised by the tenant or other parties that they did not know whom to notify regarding compliance of the notice or the termination of the tenancy.