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Making Sense of Good Causes for Ending Tenancy Statewide

Posted By: Denise Myers Education , Law , Seattle Laws ,

Way back in 1981, the City of Seattle started the trend of only allowing housing providers to end month-to-month tenancies by citing one or more “just cause” permitted under city ordinance. In the rest of the state, housing providers could end a month-to-month tenancy without having to disclose a reason by giving at least 20 days’ notice prior to the end of a rental period. In the last two years, Auburn, Burien, Federal Way, Unincorporated King County, and the State of Washington have all passed different versions of this ordinance. This chart summarizes the unique causes across all currently known state, county and city codes, showing where each applies. Here are some guidelines to follow when giving notice to end a tenancy based on the options in this chart.

  • Serve all notices according to requirements per RCW 59.12.040. Detailed and clear instructions are provided in the downloadable notice form along with a declaration of service form you should use to document how you served the notice.
  • You can select more than one cause on your end of tenancy notice. Just make sure to allow for the longest notice period.
  • In general, if a state law conflicts with a city or county law, the law providing the most benefit to the tenant will have precedence. Therefore, other than a case where tenant’s safety is at risk with continued residency, the longer notice period should be used.
  • In the last four decades, Seattle housing providers knew they could retain flexibility over the use of their property by maintaining fixed-term tenancies that were not covered by the ordinance. This exemption is now only clearly allowed for narrowly defined tenancies under Washington State HB 1236. Ordinances in Auburn, Burien, Federal Way, Seattle, and Unincorporated King County all effectively eliminate this exemption.
  • There are still COVID emergency orders that limit ending tenancies in several cities and the WA State eviction moratorium bridge order restricts use of 14-Day Pay or Vacate through out the state. Check for the latest information at rhawa.org/covid-19.

Most importantly, seek legal advice whenever the situation is complicated or contentious. A short consultation with your attorney before serving notice could save you thousands down the road. While RHAWA’s resource desk can answer basic questions about using notice forms, there will be no “industry best practice” resources related to these new laws for many months or even years.

Notices for Ending a Tenancy per WA State Law and Local Government Ordinances

WA
State

King County*

Seattle 

Burien 

Auburn 

Federal Way 

3 Day Notice to Quit: Tenant causing waste, nuisance, or unlawful activity and unreasonable interference with enjoyment of the premises. 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

10 Day Comply or Vacate Notice: Tenant fails to comply with a material term of the rental agreement within 10 days of receiving a notice to comply or vacate. 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

14 Day Pay or Vacate Notice: Tenant fails to pay rent within 14 days of receiving a notice to pay rent or vacate. 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

60 Day End of Term Notice with Non-Renewal: No cause required for ending a fixed term tenancy at the end of the term, if the tenancy meets exemption criteria under HB 1236 Section 2(1)(c).

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

*Applies only in unincorporated King County, meaning areas that are not within any city limits.

End of Tenancy Notice: Cite one or more of the following causes:

WA
State

King County*

Seattle 

Burien 

Auburn 

Federal Way 

20 Day:  The owner seeks to discontinue use of an accessory dwelling unit for which a permit has been obtained.

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

20 Day: Tenant's occupancy is conditioned upon employment on the property and the employment relationship is terminated.

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

20 Day: The owner seeks to discontinue use of a housing unit unauthorized by the city after receipt of a notice of violation.

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

20 Days: An emergency order requiring that the housing unit be vacated and closed has been issued.

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

120 days notice

20 Days: Owner or lessor shares the dwelling unit with the tenant (no cause needed). 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

20 Days: Tenant commits acts of sexual harassment directed at housing providers or another tenant based on the person’s race, gender, or other protected status in violation of any covenant or term in the lease. 

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

30 Days: Premises condemned, and continued habitation would subject the housing provider to civil or criminal penalties. 

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

30 Days: Tenant fails to sign a new rental agreement with reasonable terms offered at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the current term rental agreement. 

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

30 Days: The owner seeks to reduce the number of individuals residing in a dwelling unit to comply with the maximum limit of individuals allowed to occupy one dwelling unit.

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

30 Days: The tenant has an animal declared vicious by the regional animal services.

No

Yes

No

No

No

No

30 Days:  The property is a transitional housing program and the tenant is no longer eligible.

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

30 Days: Intentional, knowing, and material misrepresentations or omissions made on the tenant's application that would have led to an adverse action. 

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

60 Days: Tenant habitually fails to pay rent when due which causes the owner to notify the tenant in writing of late rent four or more times in a 12 month period.

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

60 Days: Other good cause constituting a legitimate economic or business reason. Court may stay writ of restitution for up to 60 additional days based on tenant circumstances. 

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

60 Days: Tenant committed four or more substantial violations in a twelve-month period, each leading to the housing provider properly serving a 10-day comply or vacate notice. 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

60 Days: Tenant is required to register as a sex offender during tenancy or failed to disclose if required at the beginning of tenancy. 

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

90 Days: Owner elects to sell a single-family residence. Owner must make reasonable attempts to sell within 30 days of the tenant vacating. 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

90 Days: Owner or immediate family needs to occupy the unit and no substantially equivalent unit is available in the same building. Owner/family must occupy the unit at least 60 consecutive days during the 90 days immediately after the tenant vacated. 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

120 days notice

120 Days: Owner elects to demolish or substantially rehabilitate the property, change its use or convert apartments to condominiums. 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

120 Days: Takes property off rental markets at least 24 months.

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

 *Applies only in unincorporated King County, meaning areas that are not within any city limits.