The Eviction Process from Start to Finish - Part 1

If the tenant properly has been served notice and the period allotted for cure (if any) set forth by statute or the lease has expired without compliance, then the tenant is in unlawful detainer. At this point, the landlord may invoke the court’s jurisdiction by commencing an unlawful detainer action; the eviction process. The action is commenced by filing or serving a summons and a complaint. Many landlords also choose to move the court for an order to show cause at the same time as well, though it need not be sought or served with the summons and complaint.

a. Summons and Complaint

The summons and complaint in an unlawful detainer action must meet the special statutory requirements set forth in RCW 59.12.070 and .080; if the unlawful detainer action is based on a residential tenancy, the form of summons in RCW 59.18.365 or RCW 59.18.375 must be used. See also, Canterwood Place L.P. v. Thande, 106 Wn. App. 844, 847, 25 P.3d 495 (2001) (“To obtain unlawful detainer jurisdiction, a plaintiff-landlord must prove that the defendant-tenant was properly served with a statutory unlawful detainer summons.”); Honan, 66 Wn. App. at 269 (complaint, including claim for breach of contract damages along with improper notice on summons, did not confer jurisdiction on the court to adjudicate unlawful detainer action). Failure to meet the statutory requirements is a jurisdictional defect and will result in the dismissal of the unlawful detainer action. Markland v. Wheeldon, 29 Wn. App. 517, 522, 629 P.2d 921 (1981); Kelly v. Schorzman, 3 Wn. App. 908, 911, 478 P.2d 769 (1970) (general form of summons inadequate).

The summons must state the names of the parties, identify the court, briefly describe the nature of the action and relief sought, identify the date by which the defendant must answer, and must inform the defendant that the relief sought will be taken against the defendant if defendant does not answer by that date. RCW 59.12.080. The UDA states the response period for an unlawful detainer summons is from seven to thirty days from the date of service if the defendant is served personally. RCW 59.12.070; RCW 59.18.370

b. Show Cause Hearing

To assist in the speedy determination of the legal right of possession, the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act allows a plaintiff to seek out a court order for the defendant to come before the court and “show cause, if any there be, why a writ of restitution should not issue restoring to the plaintiff possession of the property.…” RCW 59.18.370. Although there is no such succinct provision for a show cause hearing in the commercial context, courts routinely use this process in the commercial unlawful detainer action. See, e.g., Marsh-McLennan Bldg., Inc. v. Clapp, 96 Wn. App. 636, 639, 980 P.2d 311 (1999) (show cause hearing in commercial unlawful detainer action); MH2 Company, 104 Wn. App at 683 (show cause hearing in commercial unlawful detainer action).

The authority for a show cause hearing in a commercial unlawful detainer action is found in a combination of RCW 59.12.090 (landlord may apply for a writ of restitution anytime after commencing the lawsuit) and RCW 2.28.150. The courts have broad implied powers under Chapter 2.28 of the Revised Code. RCW 2.28.150 provides that “if the course of proceeding is not specifically pointed out by statute, any suitable process or mode of proceeding may be adopted which may appear most conformable to the spirit of the laws.”

A show cause hearing may, but will not necessarily, result in the final judgment of a case. Meadow Park Garden Assocs. v. Canley, 54 Wn. App. 371, 375, 773 P.2d 875 (1989). Different counties have different show cause hearing procedures. In King County, the show cause hearing must be scheduled before a court commissioner, the calendar currently beginning at 9:00 a.m. daily in the ex parte department. LR 40(a)(2)(P). In Snohomish County, show cause hearings are scheduled on the superior court civil calendar at 10:00 a.m., Tuesday-Friday in Room C-203 before a court commissioner and must be confirmed with the court before noon at least two court days before the scheduled hearing. SCLCR 7(2)(B), (H)(1). Show cause hearings in Skagit County are scheduled on the civil motions calendar at 9:30 a.m. on Fridays before a superior court judge, and need not be confirmed. SCLCR 1(c).

At a show cause hearing, the court generally permits limited testimony from both parties and witnesses (This is the general practice in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties, but in Skagit County, for example, the judge will not usually allow witness testimony at the show cause hearing because the hearing is scheduled on the court’s civil motions calendar). If the court finds there are no disputed facts as to the right of possession, the court will enter an order directing the court clerk to issue a writ of restitution. The court may also enter a money judgment, if appropriate to do so.

c. Trial

If the defendant successfully demonstrates there are disputed material facts, the unlawful detainer action will be set for trial. In King County, the commissioner will refer the matter to the clerk, who will issue a trial date and assign the trial to a superior court judge. LR 40 (a)(2)(P).

One Comment

  1. Can you also explain the writ of restitution process . I have been through this , But I feel you article is incomplete