NOTE – The information on this page pertains to pre-litigation eviction notices, such as a notice to pay rent or vacate. The instructions on this page are not applicable to serving the summons and complaint or any other pleading.
Free eviction forms. Evictions forms are available for free download on our eviction forms page.
Serving notices. It is vital to a successful eviction that any required pre-litigation notices be properly served. Time and manner of service is strictly construed against the landlord. There are three legally valid methods of service. Actual receipt of the notice is NOT enough, and the landlord need not prove it. Instead, the important point is to follow the statutorily mandated methods.
Note that additional requirements may apply to Section 8 tenants.
1. Personal service.
Hand a copy of the notice to each tenant.
2. Substitute service.
1) Serve copies to a person of suitable age and discretion. Hand one set of notices (one for each tenant) to either a tenant or someone of suitable age and discretion. There is no bright line age limit. Rather the idea is someone old enough to understand the importance of the document.
2) Mail. Mail a copy separately to each tenant.
3.Posting and mailing.
If no one is available to serve in hand the landlord may post and mail notices.
1) Knock. This type if service is only valid if there is no one to serve in hand. Therefore knock on the door beforehand.
2) Post. The notice must be conspicuously posted on the premises. Post on the front door at eye level, preferable with the text out. Do NOT place through the mail slot, in the tenant’s mailbox, under the welcome mat, etc.
3) Mail. Again, Mail a copy separately to each tenant.
Multiple occupants. Put all names on each notice and serve copies of one identical document.
Computation of time. Ideally the date on the notice and the date of all events constituting service will match. The day of service does not count. Add one additional day if service involves mailing.
For a “twenty-day” notice to terminate a tenancy the date of termination of the tenancy is NOT calculated by adding twenty days to the date of service. Instead, the date of termination is the last day of a rental period (typically a month) and must be served at least twenty-days in advance.
Review your lease. If the terms of the lease grant more time than the statutory minimum the lease terms control.
Form and content. The landlord must strictly comply with time and manner requirements. Substantial compliance, rather than strict compliance, is required for form and content of notices. A landlord should take care to avoid common defects in notices.
Rent means rent. A three-day notice to pay rent or vacate is a demand to pay the rent or vacate. Do NOT include non-rent items.
Also, if a landlord accepts current rent the landlord may waive the right to evict for prior breaches of the tenancy. Generally, if the landlord accepts rent after serving a notice the notice is waived.
Notice to comply or vacate. A notice to comply or vacate should cite the paragraph, section, etc. or language in the lease that the landlord alleges the tenant is violating. A dollar figure should be given when any payment is demanded. For any recurring financial obligations, such as utilities, demand a sum certain AND that all such charges be kept current.
As always if uncertain consult with an attorney before acting.