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The Three (3) Day Notice to Pay or Quit (Vacate)

Updated on August 10, 2012

General overview

Thank you for taking the time to read my hub. I hope it will give you more insight as to how a 3 day notice works and when to use it. I have been a partner/property manager of a 30 unit apartment and some single residential properties for over 12 years. This information for which I am about to provide is for the smaller landlords that do most everything themselves. Please keep in mind my articles are from my own personal experience being a small landlord in Washington state. I don't intend for this article to take the place of a professional licensed attorney.

The Three Day to Pay Rent or Vacate is a notice used in the case of non-payment or partial payment of rent. Rent has to be due and owing to use this notice. It gives the tenant two choices: 1, either pay the full amount of rent and other charges due or 2, vacate the premises. Talking to your tenant or sending a past due rent notice is advisable prior to serving the strongly worded three day notice.

Serving the Three Day Notice

Remember that the Three Day Notice is a legal document that needs to follow your jurisdiction's service laws. Without properly serving The Three Day Notice you can not properly evict the tenant.

For Washington State taken from Any notice provided for in this chapter shall be served either (1) by delivering a copy personally to the person entitled thereto; or (2) if he or she be absent from the premises unlawfully held, by leaving there a copy, with some person of suitable age and discretion, and sending a copy through the mail addressed to the person entitled thereto at his or her place of residence; or (3) if the person to be notified be a tenant, or an unlawful holder of premises, and his or her place of residence is not known, or if a person of suitable age and discretion there cannot be found then by affixing a copy of the notice in a conspicuous place on the premises unlawfully held, and also delivering a copy to a person there residing, if such a person can be found, and also sending a copy through the mail addressed to the tenant, or unlawful occupant, at the place where the premises unlawfully held are situated.

In my experience, I was either able to personally hand it to the tenant or someone over 18 that resides in the unit or if they try to avoid me, I posted a copy on the front door and mailed a second copy to the unit. Keep in mind this is different than serving a summons and complaint which needs to be served in person preferably by a legal messenger. I will talk about that in a later hub, just click on the "follow David78" on the right to be notified when I write new articles.

Whether you hire a messenger or serve the notice yourself you want to be sure complete an affidavit of service basically documenting that you served the tenant properly. A link of an affidavit is provided on the bottom. Most messenger include an affidavit of service in their fee which is usually around $60-$90.

Make sure that enough duplicate copies of the notice are either handed, posted or mailed to the number of known tenants residing in the unit.

What to do after the notice has been served

During the three day period the landlord may refuse partial rent payment, but must accept full rent payment. If the landlord does accept partial payment it may render the notice void. The landlord may have to serve a new notice and start the clock over again on the three day time period. Once the statutory three day period has expired, the landlord may refuse full payment and proceed with the eviction process which I will talk more about in a following article.

In my experience it is a good rule to play it safe should you accept partial payment then allow the tenant to stay for the remainder of the month and begin the Three Day Notice again if they don't pay on time for the next month's due date.


The timing of when to serve the Three Day Notice varies in each case. If it's a tenant that has a good history at your rental then don't be in such a rush to serve them. Try to work it out, but my absolute grace ends when a second month is owed. It usually takes about 30 days to evict a tenant if all goes well, so that would be three months of rent I am out by the time you get the unit rented again.

If it is an undesirable tenant that you been wanting to get rid of, non payment of rent is one of the best ways to get rid of them. In these cases I almost never accept partial payment. It is very difficult for a tenant to defend why he or she has not paid the rent. The most common defense that tenants try to claim was that the unit was unfit to live in but none of those held up in court for them. Don't get me wrong, I take great pride in keeping my properties up and serving my tenants and this is not a means to wipe away neglect and responsibilities to your customers.

If all else fails and the three days has passed it's time to either find an attorney or draw up a Summons and Complaint. I have gone both ways, but the first one I did by myself was very stressful as no one, especially the court clerks as they are prohibited from giving any advice on the procedure of evictions. Since putting the rentals into a limited liability entity, I can no longer represent the properties in court, I must hire a licensed attorney to do so. But I will post a piece on the Summons and Complaint for those interested in hearing about my experiences before the hiring of attorneys. Just click the "follow David78" on the right to be notified when that comes out. Good luck!!

Link to Washington state RCW Landlord/tenant laws. You'll find the unlawful detainer section under 59.16.

Link to 3 day notice form plus affidavit of service.

This is a very good landlord book. I highly suggest this to anybody that wants to learn more.


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