Once a landlord files an unlawful detainer eviction case with the court, the paperwork must be properly served on the tenant. Failure to properly serve the tenant will cause the landlord to lose the case, so proper service is essential to successfully removing the tenant from the property.
The following methods are the most common ways for serving the unlawful detainer. Preferably, the unlawful detainer should be served using a licensed process server or the sheriff.
- Personal delivery. This is the preferred method and cuts down on the time that the tenant has to “fight” the case. So long as the tenant is within speaking distance of the server, and a reasonable person could assume that service of a legal document is being attempted, the tenant cannot avoid service by moving away and refusing to touch the papers.
- Substituted service. If the tenant cannot be served after reasonably attempting to do so, then the server may legally serve the papers by leaving a copy at the tenant’s residence or place of business, in the presence of a competent member of the household or a person apparently in charge of the business. At the same time, the process server must also mail copies to the tenant. When papers are served this way, the landlord must allow the tenant 10 extra days to respond. A word of caution: Several steps need to be taken to ensure compliance with the “reasonable diligence” standard.
- Posting and mailing. A landlord can “post and mail” the eviction paperwork to the tenant after receiving court approval to do so. Before the court will grant this request, the server must reasonably attempt personal service and substituted service.
The Law Office of David Piotrowski represents landlords throughout southern California and can assist with a tenant eviction.
Read Attorney Piotrowski’s “Landlord Best Practices and Eviction Overview” book.