After a landlord files a complaint for unlawful detainer in order to evict a tenant, the Complaint and Summons must then be served on all named defendants. There is also a special procedure to serve unnamed occupants, but I will address that in another post.
The first and most common method to serve a tenant is by personal service. Because the landlord is a party to the unlawful detainer, a landlord cannot personally serve a tenant the Summons and Complaint. The best method to personally serve a tenant is to hire a process server. A registered process server executed proof of service establishes a presumption that the service was proper and effective.
If a tenant is personally served the Summons and Complaint, a tenant has five days to respond.
If a tenant is an entity (i.e., a partnership, corporation, or LLC), the Summons and Complaint can be served by leaving a copy of both the Summons and Complaint during usual business hours at the entity’s office or usual mailing address (as long as it is not a P.O. Box) and mailing a copy to the defendant where the Summons and Complaint were left.
If a tenant is an individual, a tenant can be served by substitute service after good faith efforts have been made to personally serve the defendant. If an individual cannot be personally served after reasonable diligence, service can be made by leaving a copy of the Summons and Complaint at the tenant’s residence or place of business with a competent member of the household over 18 years of age. Further, a copy of the Summons and Complaint must be mailed.
A tenant has fifteen days to respond to a Summons and Complaint if served by substitute service.
“Nail and Mail”
If a defendant cannot be found with reasonable diligence, a Court can approve a landlord to “nail and mail” the Summons and Complaint. Court approval is required, although a hearing is not required. In Los Angeles County, a landlord must fill out an Application and Order to Serve Summons By Posting for Unlawful Detainer. After the Court approves the Application, the Summons and Complaint can be posted on teh tenant’s premises and sending a copy via certified mail to the tenant’s last known mailing address.
A tenant would have fifteen days after posting and mailing to respond.
Service of process of a Summons and Complaint can be complicated. At Marinaccio Law, service of process is included in all unlawful detainers.