Landlord-Tenant Disputes: How Process Servers Can Help
- March 03, 2015
- by Stephanie Irvine
As a landlord, you can be faced with dealing with a variety of situations regarding your tenants. Whether the tenant has not paid their rent, engaged in illegal activity, or violated other terms and conditions of their lease, these types of disputes typically result in the tenant being evicted. While evicting a tenant is never a pleasant process, enlisting the help of a process server can make things a bit easier on your end.
How a Process Server Can Help
There are a multitude of ways in which you can use a process server. When you decide to evict a tenant, you need to provide them with a written notice that essentially serves as a warning to the tenant that can also be used in court proceedings down the line if things escalate. There are typically three types of evictions: failure to pay, breach of lease, or an unconditional eviction for other reasons (perhaps you no longer wish to maintain the property or you want to lease it to a family member, etc.), and each one requires a notice of varying lengths (ranging from three to 90 days on average). Check with your local courts to find the exact regulations for your county.
Most states require that landlords provide tenants with a written notice prior to eviction proceedings, and if you fail to provide them with this notice, it could damage your case against the tenant or cause them to file a lawsuit against you for wrongful eviction. Both repercussions can be costly, so it is best to avoid this possibility and make sure the tenant receives the notice.
Having a process server hand deliver this notice will show that you are serious, but more than that, it will ensure that the tenant actually receives the notice. While the US Mail service is reliable, the tenant could claim that it was stolen from their mailbox, that it was never delivered to them, or that someone else received it. Making sure the tenant receives the notice is important because sometimes just a warning is enough to make tenants get their act together. In other cases, you may need to pursue the eviction. No matter which way the relationship ends up, using a process server to deliver this important document eliminates the potential for tenants to claim that they did not receive the notice.
Further down the line, you may need to contact a lawyer and pursue a legal claim against your tenant. Again, there will be notifications and documents that the tenants will need to receive regarding the formal eviction proceedings, such as the writ of possession.
You may also need to serve an eviction notice on unnamed occupants. In the event that the tenant had a significant other, family member, friend, or someone else move in who is not on the lease, you will need to cover your bases and have these people or person notified as well. By notifying unnamed occupants, you are making sure that you have done everything you can to notify anyone and everyone living on the premises.
Why Use a Process Server
Although local and state laws vary regarding the use of a process server, choosing to use a process server when you are able is certainly going to make the eviction process go more smoothly for you. Process servers can provide a variety of benefits to landlords that may not be overtly apparent.
Process servers are professional and impartial. It’s their job to provide due process and to make sure that important court documents are handled and delivered legally. Jonathan Levy of Nationwide Process Servers and Private Investigation Services explained that process servers act as “A disinterested third party i.e. process server is in the best interest of all parties involved. The tenant and landlord are joined by the actions of a process server. Not using a process server or a disinterested party could lead to false or misleading statements which could not allow the tenant proper due process or the landlord lawful litigation.”
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Process servers can also help in situations where the landlord does not live near the property. In situations where there is a dispute between the tenant and landlord, the tenant may be expecting an eviction notice and try to avoid receiving it. It would be incredibly inconvenient to drive out of state to deliver an eviction notice, only to have the tenant avoid you. Process servers are a great choice in these cases because they can handle notifying the tenant locally.
Another benefit to hiring a process server is that your tenant will likely not recognize the process server. This is especially helpful if your tenant is expecting notification and avoiding service. Since they won’t know the process server, they won’t know to avoid him or her. Process servers are skilled in making sure that individuals receive important documents — they have the experience that you as the landlord don’t have.
Other times, where using a process server include situations where the relationship between the tenant and landlord is volatile or hostile. The tenant may also be personally intimidating to the landlord for other reasons. Having a third party serve the documents will eliminate the emotional element of facing your tenant.
At the end of the day, it’s important to treat tenants fairly and with respect, but you also need to take care of your property and legal liabilities. Hiring a process server at the right time can help make sure that you are providing tenants with due diligence in the event that you need to pursue eviction. Be sure to consult with an attorney if you need to pursue an eviction in court. Process servers act as a third party and make sure that tenants receive the right information, but they cannot represent you, give legal advice, or handle your case.