Serving The Eviction Papers

Author: Todd Christiansen | Category: Eviction

The eviction process can be pretty confusing and frankly a little intimidating.  Going to court, confronting your tenant, possibly negotiating a settlement or getting a writ has lots of places to make mistakes.  Another huge opportunity to have your case thrown out on a technicality and make your refile your evictions is in how the eviction complaint is served to the tenant.  Serving the defendant is the legal term for making sure that you have notified (or done everything in your power to notify) the other party in the court case.  This is not the same process as giving the tenant an eviction letter, which in most cases is not binding.

In Minnesota, here is the process:

  1. File the eviction with the county court.  At that time, you will be given your court date and then a copy for your records and then one copy for each tenant/defendant.
  2. Remember to include Jane Doe and John Doe on the eviction docs so that you can include by default anyone living at the property.
  3. You now need to “serve” the tenant with the court papers, but you CAN NOT do it.  Only a neutral 3rd party can serve the documents so that there is no chance that anything funny was going on.  You typically will have 3-7 days to do this.
  4. Many landlords will let a process server take care of the process.  It can cost $50-100.  In most counties, the sheriff will also serve it for $50-$100.  In remote locations like Washington or Dakota county, the $60 that the sheriff charges is cheap.  It is easier and better than trying to have my friend or handyman do it.  Plus, if there is a chance that either the tenant will argue about the eviction or they will be combative when you arrive, the sheriff is your best bet.
  5. If you have an eviction attorney file your eviction paperwork, they will most likely have a legal service take care of this and then charge you.

If you choose to have someone you know serve the eviction paperwork, here is rough outline.  I recommend that you read the actual process that the court gives you, but here it is in a nut shell.

  1. Process server knocks on door, someone is home.  He hands the documents to that person and get’s their name.  He files an affidavit of service and if there were more than one tenant on the eviction, you also file an affidavit of substitute service.  This means that both Suzie and John are on the eviction, but you handed the court papers to Suzie.  You need to fill out the substitute service saying that you gave John’s papers to Suzie.
  2. If the tenant is not there the first time, the process server must come back a second time on another day.  Either the first or second try must be between the hours of 6:00 pm and 10:00pm to insure the person is home.  If someone is home, follow step 1.
  3. If no one is home, you now can tape a copy of the tenant eviction complaint to the front door.  The process server must now fill out an affidavit of posting and an affidavit of not found.  The landlord must also then fill out an affidavit of not found and the mail a copy of the eviction documents to the tenant’s last address and then fill out an affidavit of mailing.
  4. All the documents must be brought back to the court house at least 4 days prior to court (or by the deadline spelled out on the paperwork).

You can see that the process is not complicated, but it has a bunch of steps and several chances to get it wrong.  It may be worth simply paying the sheriff to serve the docs.

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