Just Cause Eviction Ordinance

See also: Evictions

What Is It?

The Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, passed in 1980, prevents landlords from arbitrarily ending a rental agreement. The Just Cause Eviction Ordinance applies to month-to-month renters, renters with verbal agreements, and renters with expiring term leases. To end or not offer to renew one of these agreements, a landlord or property manager must state one of the 18 approved reasons listed in the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance and be in compliance with the Rental Registration & Inspection Ordinance. Most Just Cause reasons do not require the owner to pay any type of relocation assistance to a tenant.

Common Just Cause reasons to end a rental agreement are:

  • Failure to pay rent after receiving a pay or vacate notice (must use the notice form in RCW59.18.057 and contain a reference on how to access information about tenant rights through Renting in Seattle SMC 22.206.180.K)
  • Failure to comply with a comply or vacate notice 
  • Owner wishes to sell a single-family home (must give 90-days advance written notice prior to the sale)
  • Owner wishes to move into the property or have an immediate family member move into the property for use as their principal residence (must give 90-days advance written notice)
  • Owner seeks to substantially rehabilitate, demolish, remove use restrictions, or change the use of the property, AFTER completing the Tenant Relocation Assistance licensing process
  • Owner wishes to quit sharing the owner's own rental unit or permitted accessory dwelling unit with the renter

Any lease provision that waives a renter’s rights under the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance is void and unenforceable.

Just Cause and Term Leases

Effective July 2021, landlords must offer tenants in expiring term leases a renewal unless they have a just cause reason not to renew the tenancy. Notice must be issued 60 to 90 days prior to the expiration of the tenancy. Please see SMC 7.24.030.J for additional information.

Just Cause and Limitations on Tenant Displacement

Tenant displacement is limited in several circumstances. Please refer to the specific sections of the code for specific details and exceptions. They include:

  • A tenant having to vacate the housing unit six months during or after the termination of the moratorium due to financial hardship resulting in non-payment of rent (SMC 22.205.090)
  • A tenant having to vacate the housing unit during the school year and is a student or school employee. (SMC 22.205.110)
  • A low to moderate income tenant who would need to leave between December 1st and March 1st if the owner owns 4 or more housing units (SMC 22.205.080)

In winter months, the just cause reasons to terminate a tenancy are limited in some circumstances. The code provides low to moderate income tenants with a defense to eviction when ending the tenancy would require the tenant to leave between December 1 and March 1. Please see SMC 22.206.160.C.8 for specific details and exceptions.

What It Isn't

The Just Cause Eviction Ordinance is not a substitute for the Washington Landlord-Tenant Act (RCW 59.12 and 59.18). Landlords are required to comply with both state and local laws.

Read the Code

Regulations relating to the City's Just Cause Eviction Ordinance are in the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC).

Proposed Changes

None