What Does It Mean to "Serve" an Eviction Notice?

As part of the overall eviction process, a landlord must "serve" the Eviction Notice to the affected tenants, which means that the tenants were correctly notified about the potential eviction. State laws define the exact method and time in which a tenant must be served a notice for it to qualify as sufficient notice before an eviction. This is important to do correctly because doing it incorrectly can get an eviction case thrown out, resulting in the landlord starting over again.

How Can an Eviction Notice Be Served?

Generally, an eviction notice an be served to a tenant in the following ways:

  1. Physically hand it to the tenant. The person who does this should write down what was served, when, and to whom and sign it
  2. Hand it to an adult who lives with the tenant, and mail to the tenant. Same as above, it's important to write down who was served.
    1. The rules vary state to state, but this method also requires the server to mail a copy to the tenant by mail (or certified mail depending on the state). The tracking number and date of mailing should be recorded.
  3. Post it to the door, and mail to the tenant. It usually acceptable to tape or nail a copy of the notice to the entrance of the property and also mail a copy to the tenant.

Who Can Serve an Eviction Notice?

Most landlords, particularly landlords with only one or two units under management, serve their own notices. More sophisticated landlords hire a professional process server (or hire an attorney who hires a professional process server).

  • (Sometimes) The landlord can serve the notice - this varies state-by-state and depending on the circumstance. To learn whether you can serve a notice in your specific case, you should contact an attorney.
  • An agent of the landlord can serve the notice
  • A 3rd-party (friend, family, or other person) can serve the notice
  • A licensed process server can serve the notice

Regardless of who it is serving the notice, the server should write down the details of how, when, and where the notice was served and sign that document. This proof of service is often required to even file the case, and will certainly be required by a judge in any state where service of the notice is required prior to an unlawful detainer judgement.

How Can a Proof of Service Be Created and Recorded?

While state courts have official forms for a proof of service of a court issued summons (this happens after a case has been file din court), there aren't many official templates for a proof of service of a notice. In general, a proof of service is simply a sworn affadavit (definition) from the server, with details about how the notice was served. Eviction notice templates here have example proof of service templates attached in the PDF for reference when making your proof of service.

This is exactly why many landlords prefer to hire a licensed professional to serve their notice. A process server both knows the law about how a valid service may be conducted, and is a neutral person who will provide a sworn statement of service, reducing the odds a tenant can quash (or declare invalid) a service attempt in court.