The following article is meant to be read in conjunction with our comprehensive guide to evicting a tenant in Washington State. If you have not read it, we highly recommend you read the sections of that guide that are relevant to your question first so that you can see where the following information fits in.

How do Tacoma’s Eviction Laws differ from the Statewide Eviction Laws?

Until this year, Tacoma didn’t have any eviction laws that varied from the statewide baseline procedure laid out in our comprehensive guide to evicting a tenant in Washington State.

However, as of April 2018, the Tacoma City Council adopted a temporary ordinance requiring that landlords provide tenants with 90 days of notice if the tenants are being evicted due to building demolition, renovation, or change of use. This temporary ordinance will expire by the end of September 2018, but the City Council is considering making it permanent, and perhaps adding a whole bunch of other tenant protections, including:

  • 60-day notice requirement for rent increases
  • 60-day notice requirements for termination of tenancy
  • Relocation assistance ordinance which requires owners to host in-person meetings with tenants
  • Move-In Fee Installment Payments
  • Requirement that owners inform tenants of any code violations at the property within the past 12 months – even if caused by the tenant
  • Requirement that owners provide an “information for tenants” packet to renters

Obviously, if the Tacoma City Council implements these protections, owning and operating rental properties within Tacoma city limits is going to become more expensive and complicated overnight. We will try to keep this webpage updated when the City Council renders a decision.

Legally speaking, how is it possible that Tacoma’s eviction laws differ from those in the rest of the state?

Understanding the answer to this question requires come background information about how laws work in the United States. Here’s a quick diagram (explained below):

The federal constitution and certain other federal statutes offer a baseline set of laws that operate as a common legal foundation for every state in the country. Each state is free to build on this federal foundation by enacting its own set of laws—as long as the state’s laws don’t conflict with the foundational federal laws. Likewise, county laws build on state laws, and city laws build on county laws. Each level of government is (generally) free to add more laws on top of the foundational laws below it, but it cannot contradict or undermine those foundational laws. This is the general structure of the American legal system in every jurisdiction.

Thus, in the above diagram, Tacomans have to abide by Tacoma’s laws, Pierce County’s laws, Washington State’s laws, and Federal laws. Likewise, Seattleites must abide by Seattle’s laws, King County’s laws, Washington’s laws, and Federal laws. However, Seattleites don’t have to abide by Tacoma or Pierce County laws, and Tacomans don’t have to abide by Seattle or King County laws.

Washington state law prescribes a certain eviction procedure (which we’ve covered in our comprehensive guide to evicting a tenant in Washington State). However, the counties and cities within Washington can build on top of this baseline eviction procedure at their discretion. Most jurisdictions within Washington have not decided to add to the statewide baseline eviction procedure. However, the City of Tacoma has chosen to add a number of tenant protections. That is why Tacoma’s eviction laws differ slightly from statewide eviction laws that control throughout most of the rest of the state.

Final Note

Please note that this article is only intended to cover the difference between Tacoma eviction laws and Washington state eviction laws; this article does not cover all of the differences between Tacoma landlord-tenant law and Washington landlord-tenant law.

Contact a Tacoma Landlord-Tenant Attorney Today

If you have questions about your landlord-tenant issue, or any other matter related to Washington real estate law, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you can. To schedule a consultation, call the Brink Law Firm today at 253.620.6666 or send us an email through our online contact form.