Both parties under the lease agreement – renters and landlords – have certain rights and obligations. A solid lease agreement helps outline important things such as:

  • When, where, and how rent is due 
  • Limits of occupancy 
  • Maintenance obligations
  • Length of the rental period 

A lease is a legally binding contract between you and your tenant. If either party breaks it, a myriad of potential legal and/or financial repercussions can follow. One such scenario is when a tenant fails to move out after the expiry of their lease term. In such a situation, what are you to do as a landlord? The following is everything you need to know in this regard!

What is a Holdover Tenant? 

A holdover tenant is a tenant who refuses to leave their rented premises after their lease has expired. They may continue to occupy their rented premises until you decide to take legal action against them. Some holdover tenants may continue to abide by the terms of the lease agreement, such as paying rent. Whereas, others may choose not to and continue to stay there nonetheless. 

Regardless, a holdover tenant would violate the lease agreement by staying there illegally past their initial lease period. They would need to negotiate new lease terms with you if they are paying rent. But if they are not paying rent, then they would technically be trespassing on the property. 

person holding a house figurine pointing at a contract symbolizing house laws

What Potential Issues Does a Holdover Tenant Create for a Landlord?  

Having a holdover tenant can create several problems for you and your investment. They are as follows: 

  • Laws regarding the eviction of holdover tenants are usually different from those involving other landlord-tenant disputes. In Washington, you must serve your tenant a 20-day notice to quit to end the tenancy. This will give your tenant 20 calendar days to move out before you can file a lawsuit with the appropriate Superior Court. 
  • You won’t have control over when there is a vacancy. The eviction process alone can take anywhere between one and three months. When they do finally move out, it may come at a time when it’d be difficult to find a replacement tenant. 
  • You may have to postpone scheduled maintenance that you’d normally do after a tenant moves out. And the longer the holdover tenant stays there, the more damage and were and tear they may cause to the unit. 
  • You may not be able to raise the rent as long as the holdover tenant stays.

What is the Best way to Handle a Holdover Tenant in Washington? 

You can handle a holdover tenant in a couple of ways. They are as follows:

Allow Them to Stay

Has the tenant been paying rent on time? Have they also been abiding by other terms of the lease agreement? If so, you can choose to let them stay in the unit. 

landlord speaking with a tenant in the doorway of their rental

Please note, however, if you choose to do so, then you’ll lose any right to evict them based on them being a holdover. 

Remove them From the Unit 

As a landlord, you must have had a good reason not to renew the lease. The tenant, for instance, may have been difficult, failed to pay rent on time, or failed to abide by the terms of the agreement. If you choose to evict them, you must follow the proper eviction process as outlined under Washington laws.

The following is a basic overview of the process: 

  • Serve the tenant a 20-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. 
  • If the tenant doesn’t move out within 20 days, move to the appropriate Superior Court and file a lawsuit. The court will issue you with a summons and complaint upon successful filing. 
  • Wait for the tenant to file an answer. If they file an answer, the date for the hearing will be assigned by the court. But if the tenant chooses not to answer, the court will issue a default judgment in your favor. 
  • Attend the hearing and wait for the judgment. If the judgment is in your favor, the court will issue you with a writ of restitution. 
  • After the writ of restitution is served, the tenant will have only 3 calendar days to move out. If they don’t, law enforcement officers will remove them from the unit. 

lawyer in a dark suit sitting at their desk thats covered in contracts with a status of lady justice

Please note that you cannot try to evict the tenant any other than through a court order. If you are a self-managing or long-distance landlord, the best option for you would be to hire either an attorney or a reputable property management company. 

How Can a Landlord Avoid Renting to Potential Holdover Tenants? 

To protect yourself, it’s best to avoid renting to a potential holdover tenant altogether. The following are tips to help you in this regard:

  • Have a solid lease agreement in place. Specify when the tenant’s lease term comes to an end. In addition to this, take it upon yourself to remind them at least 60 days before the expiry of their lease. 
  • Don’t accept rent payments after their lease has expired. Because, if you continue collecting rent, the tenancy could be seen as month-to-month moving forward. And at that point, you won’t be able to evict them based on them being trespassers. 
  • Renew the lease when it comes to an end. If the tenant hasn’t been difficult, you may want to consider renewing their lease. This can help you save time and money in advertising the unit, showing the unit, and screening tenants. 

Bottom Line

You could find yourself having a holdover tenant situation at some point in your career. It’ll be in your best interest to know how best to handle the situation. If you have further questions or need help handling a holdover tenant situation, look to T-Square Properties. 

We at T-Square Properties have over 25 years of property management experience. We can help you maximize your rental income thanks to our proven property management services!

Disclaimer: This blog article is for informational purposes. The information contained in this blog article may not be the official policies of T-Square Properties.

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