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Reynolds v. Harmon

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

October 31, 2017

RANDY REYNOLDS & ASSOCIATES, INC. dba REYNOLDS REAL ESTATE, Appellant,
v.
KASEY HARMON aka KASEY HARMAN, Any Subtenants, and All Others Acting By Or Through Them, Respondents.

          JOHANSON, P.J.

         Randy Reynolds & Associates Inc. (Reynolds) appeals from the superior court commissioner's ex parte order staying a writ of restitution in an unlawful detainer action that Reynolds brought against a tenant and waiving bond pending a hearing on the merits. Even though the issues raised are moot, we reach the merits of the case because they raise issues of important public policy that are likely to recur. We hold that the superior court commissioner erred when she heard the ex parte motion to stay execution of the writ of restitution and waived the bond without notice to Reynolds in violation of the notice and hearing requirements provided in RCW 59.18.390(1). Consequently, we reverse.

         FACTS

         In July 2016, Reynolds served Kasey Harmon with a 20-day notice to terminate her tenancy in compliance with the rental agreement and RCW 59.12.030(2). When Harmon failed to timely vacate the property, Reynolds filed and served an unlawful detainer complaint seeking, among other things, restitution of the premises. On September 16, after Harmon failed to appear pursuant to proper notice, the superior court commissioner entered an order of default and judgment granting a writ of restitution in favor of Reynolds.

         The sheriff posted notice of the writ at Harmon's residence on September 19. That same day, Harmon brought an ex parte motion to stay execution of the writ. The superior court commissioner stayed execution of the writ based on Harmon's claim that she answered before the case was filed and default was entered, and the court commissioner ordered a show cause hearing. The order granting the stay was on a preprinted form that stated, "Bond is waived until the hearing on the merits of this motion, " and Harmon did not post a bond. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 24.

         In support of its writ, Reynolds' pleadings asserted that the ex parte hearing to stay the writ was improper and that the stay was invalid because Harmon was required by RCW 59.18.390(1) to post a bond before retaining possession of the premises and obtaining a stay of a writ of restitution. At the show cause hearing, the superior court commissioner held that Harmon had no legally sufficient challenge to the writ of restitution, and it lifted the stay and granted a supplemental judgment including attorney fees and costs to Reynolds. The writ was then executed and Harmon was evicted.

         Reynolds appeals from the superior court commissioner's ex parte order that granted a stay of the writ of restitution, waived the bond, and ordered a show cause hearing.[1]

         ANALYSIS

         I. MOOTNESS

         Reynolds acknowledges that the matters presented are moot but argues that we should consider them because they involve "issues of continuing and substantial public interest." Br. of Appellant at 6. We agree.

         A. Rules of Law

         A case is moot if'"the court can no longer provide effective relief" In re Del of M.W., 185 Wn.2d 633, 648, 374 P.3d 1123 (2016) (quoting State v. Hunley, 175 Wn.2d 901, 907, 287 P.3d 584 (2012)). Generally, we do not consider cases that are moot or present abstract questions. State v. Beaver, 184 Wn.2d 321, 330, 358 P.3d 385 (2015).

         Even when cases are moot, we have discretion to address questions "of continuing and substantial public interest." M. W., 185 Wn.2d at 648. When considering whether a case involves issues of continuing and substantial public interest, we consider (1) '"the public or private nature of the question presented, '" (2) '"the desirability of an authoritative determination for the future guidance of public officers, '" and (3) '"the likelihood of future recurrence of the question.'" M. W., 185 Wn.2d at 648 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Hunley, 175 Wn.2d at 907).

         Matters involving statutory interpretation tend to be more public in nature, more likely to arise again, and more helpful to public officials. Hart v. Dep't of Soc. & Health Serv., 111 Wn.2d 445, 449, 759 P.2d 1206 (1988). And courts may consider '"the likelihood that the issue will escape review because the facts of the controversy are short-lived.'" In re Marriage of Horner, 151 Wn.2d 884, 892, 93 P.3d 124 (2004) (quoting Westerman v. Cary, 125 Wn.2d 277, 286-87, 892P.2d 1067(1994)).

         B. Analysis

         Because the superior court commissioner already lifted the writ's stay and Harmon has been evicted, we can no longer provide effective relief regarding the stay and the waiver of bond pending the show cause hearing. See M. W., 185 Wn.2d at 648. As such, the case is moot. M.W., 185 Wn.2d at 648.

         However, the three factors for determining whether a matter is of continuing and substantial public interest each weigh in favor of a conclusion that we should consider the issues. See M.W., 185 Wn.2d at 648. First, the questions presented are public because they involve statutory interpretation to determine the proper notice and hearing procedures for certain proceedings under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act of 1973, ch. 59.18 RCW. See Hart, 111 Wn.2d at 449.

         Second, it is desirable to have an authoritative determination of proper procedures for obtaining a stay of a writ of restitution and satisfying the bond requirement under RCW 59.18.390(1) to guide future public officers. See M.W., 185 Wn.2d at 648. The superior court commissioner here heard the motion to stay ex parte and waived the bond requirement on a preprinted form that is evidently used routinely in this county in orders to stay writs of restitution. It is desirable to provide guidance to the superior court so that its procedures may be adjusted to conform to statutory requirements.

         Third, it is likely that similar questions will reoccur. See M.W., 185 Wn.2d at 648. Superior courts routinely adjudicate unlawful detainer actions by ...


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