Proof of Service
Once you have successfully filed the Unlawful Detainer with the court you will need to notify the tenant that you are bringing an Unlawful Detainer suit against them. Unfortunately it is not as easy as calling them or knocking on the door and saying I’m suing you because you did not pay me. The correct procedure is to have the tenant served with the stamped copies of the Summons and Complaint that you received from the court clerk when you filed your Unlawful Detainer. Once served, the tenant will have five days to respond to the court. If they do not respond then the landlord can request to enter a default judgment.
Serving the tenant is an important step and must be carried out carefully. It is suggested to hire a professional to serve the papers on the tenant. The charge varies depending on the process server, but range from $60-$100. The reason why you should hire a professional is because they have to serve the papers in person on the tenant you wish to evict. If your tenant is avoiding you, which they most likely will be because they owe you rent, then it will be difficult for you to serve them in person. You also do not want to risk a confrontation with your tenant due to the fact that you are evicting them. Lastly, this step is important and if not carried out correctly it could cause further delay in the eviction process. If the court finds anything wrong with your procedure they may not issue the writ of possession and require that you serve the tenants again, giving the tenants 5 more days to live in your property and also another chance to respond.
Pre-judgment Claim of Right of Possession
Another very important step that some people overlook is to serve what is called a Pre-judgment Claim of Right of Possession along with the Summons and Complaint. This form notified any person living in the property who was not specifically named on the Complaint that they are being evicted. This will prevent someone who is living in the property without the knowledge of the landlord from stalling the eviction because they were not named on the Complaint. Once the Writ of Possession has been issued to the landlord and the sheriff goes to the property to remove the tenant, if someone not named on the Complaint comes forward and says they are living in the property and are unaware of the eviction then the sheriff will not be able to remove that person from the property because they were not properly notified. The landlord will then have to go back to the court and file more paperwork to have this newly identified occupant evicted. This is another area where the law favors the tenant and not the landlord. This situation could occur intentionally, for example a crafty tenant who knows the law (there are many of them who know how to work the system). The crafty tenant may have one of their friends move in and then tell the sheriff who comes to evict the tenant that they live there and had no idea of the eviction. This would then stall the eviction and buy the tenant some more time and allow them to live in your property for free just because of the loophole in the legal system. The situation could also occur legitimately, for example the tenant may rent out a room and pocket the sublease money and never inform the subtenant about the eviction. In either case the landlord will need to protect himself from this situation by having the process server also serve a Pre-judgment Claim of Right of Possession on Unknown Occupants. There is one catch to this, which is that the unknown occupant is given 10 days to respond to the court. This often works to the tenant advantage because they get another 5 days of free rent, but it is worth it for the landlord to go through this extra precaution because it can save time in the long run.