Counsel, Advocacy & Representation for California Tenants

Service of an unlawful detainer complaint

In California, the law generally requires that an unlawful detainer complaint must be served in person to the person who is being sued, but there are several caveats to this rule.  Usually the person who serving the complaint (also called the process server) will arrive at the residence of the tenant the landlord is attempting to evict, and will ask for the defendant by name.  If the person, or persons, named as defendants in the lawsuit are not home, then the process server may leave the complaint with an adult who also resides at the property.   This is called substitute service.

* If no adult resident is found at the property, then the process server may attempt to find the defendant at his or her place of work, or some other known address.

* If the process server cannot find the defendants residing at the property after at least three attempts, then the plaintiff’s attorney can make a petition to the court to explain that the complaint has not been personally served.  The plaintiff must submit a declaration from the process server stating how he or she has attempted to serve the summons and complaint. The court will routinely grant these requests. This is called service by post and mail.

* The plaintiff can then request that the court allow the complaint to be served by posting a copy on the property and by also sending it through the mail.  This is called an order to post and mail.

If the court grants the plaintiff’s request to serve by post and mail,  then the time to file an answer to the complaint is extended by 10 days.  If you receive a complaint posted on your door, but not in person, it is a good idea to call the clerk of the court to find out whether the plaintiff has received the court’s permission to post and mail the summons and complaint.

It is not a good idea to avoid service of the summons and complaint.  The amount of time that the case will be delayed by avoiding service is short, and if the plaintiff obtains a default against you, then you will face additional expense trying to convince the court you were not properly served, and  your rights to defend the case may be cut off.

Contact Us

If you have been served with an unlawful detainer summons, it is important that you contact an attorney to get the help you need. Click on the link below to set an appointment.

Get Representation

If you have a situation that is more than a question, and are already having a dispute with your landlord, then information alone is often not enough to settle the matter to your advantage. What most renters need, but seldom have, is an attorney who knows the law, and the landlord’s duties under the law, and is not afraid to advocate for tenants.

Even the most informed tenants can find the court system overwhelming.  Defending against eviction on your own is more than just challenging.  Fort the unprepared and unrepresented it is an ordeal filled with traps.  Tenants who go to court without an attorney frequently enter into bad agreements and suffer humiliation at the hands of the landlord’s lawyers. Having an experienced attorney on your side will make a difference.

Get Informed

If your situation is not a lawsuit in court, but rather a question, or a curiosity about what the law says, there are many places where you can find educational materials, and  every tenant should become familiar with the legal protections for tenants in California law.

Many times the answer to tenants’ legal questions are more complicated than they may first appear.  It’s important to be careful, and not to rely upon every piece of information posted online, or simply accept the advice of friends and neighbors.  Make sure the source of your legal advice is reliable and up to date.

Look around the website and see if we have information to help you.  If you have a question and you can’t find an answer,  click here to send us a comment.  An attorney that specializes in advocating for tenants will reply, and can direct you to the resources you need. 

Don't go to Trial unprepared

Written notices demanding the payment of rent, notices that threaten the termination of your lease, accusations of illegal activity, and notices of changes in terms and conditions of a lease from a landlord or property manager are often the prelude to legal action.  They must be taken seriously.  It is critical for tenants to respond to notice from a landlord intelligently and prudently.

Before you agree to excessive rent increases, or allow the oppressive actions of the owner or management intimidate you, meet with a professional.

Information, early in time, is the key to success.  Often times becoming informed can help you to avoid being on defense.  If you are not able to avoid litigation, then consult with an attorney who stands with tenants and defends their rights.

Don't Waste Time

When a tenant has a legal conflict with the landlord, there is often only a short period of time to act.  Under California law, landlords are usually required to give notice to tenants before they resort to legal action. However, most of these legally required notices give a tenant only three days to act.  When a tenant fails to act within the three days then the landlord can proceed to court.

Once an action to evict (also called unlawful detainer) is filed against a tenant in court, it can move very quickly.   Landlords enjoy a unique legal procedure, which is known as a summary proceeding.   Once a tenant is sued in court, and then served with an unlawful detainer summons, then he or she has only five days to respond.

If your landlord has sued you or is threatening to sue you, then you must act quickly. Hesitation and uncertainty can lead to a loss of money, loss of security and the loss of your home. Don’t wait.  Schedule an appointment for a consultation  immediately to discuss your case.