What Is Self-Help Eviction?
When a landlord wants to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent or violations of other terms of the lease agreements, it is understandable that the landlord wants the eviction to happen as quickly as possible so that they can find a new tenant and lose minimal rental income. However, as tempting as it may be to force an eviction on your own, Washington law1 requires landlords to follow strict procedures and rules to legally and effectively evict a tenant. Violating these laws can result in serious penalties for a landlord and actual damages for a wrongfully evicted tenant.
Illegal evictions forced by a landlord without proper court authority are referred to as “self-help” evictions. There are many different possible methods of self-help evictions that are against the law, including the following:
- Turning off heat, electricity, water, or other important utilities2
- Having the locks changed when the tenant is not home
- Removing the tenant’s belonging from the unit without their permission
- Removing the front door so the tenant does not have a way to secure the premises
If you are a landlord
Any landlord seeking eviction of a tenant should consult with an experienced Tacoma eviction lawyer to ensure all proper procedures and laws are followed in order to avoid legal liability for a wrongful eviction. An attorney can assist you in gaining a court order for an eviction as soon as possible and can appear for you in court so that you do not have spend the time and energy seeking the eviction. If an eviction is contested, a lawyer can represent your interests at a necessary trial.
If you are a tenant
If your landlord has wrongfully engaged in any form of self-help eviction, a Tacoma eviction lawyer can protect your rights as a tenant and can seek damages for the illegal behavior. An attorney can also represent you in any subsequent eviction proceedings in court.
At the Dickson Frohlich, our attorneys represent both landlords and tenants in eviction cases. If you are on either side of an eviction action or have questions about self-help evictions and the consequences, please call us for a free consultation at 253-572-1000 today.