Serve your COVID-19 rental debt small claims forms

Once you file the forms to start your small claims case, you must tell your tenant about the case by having someone deliver a copy of the filed forms. This is called service

Before you start

Service can be done in a few different ways. No matter which way, you can't serve the forms yourself. You must have someone who is 18 or older serve the forms for you (this is your server).

  • Hand the forms to the tenant (personal service)

    This is how forms are usually served.

  • Hand the forms to someone at the tenant's home or work (substituted service)

    The server can hand the forms to an adult at the tenant's home, work, or where they usually get their mail. The server must also mail a copy of the forms to them.

  • Court clerk sends forms by certified mail (only offered in some courts) 

    Only the court can serve this way. The court charges a $15 fee. This type of service often doesn't work, for example if the tenant won’t pick up the certified mail, the judge can’t read their signature on the certified mail receipt, or someone else signs for them.

How to serve papers in person

  • Choose a server

    You can't serve the papers yourself. Ask another adult to serve them. This is your server.

    Your server must be:

    • 18 or older
    • Not part of your case

    Your server can be: 

    • Someone you know, like a friend or family member

    • The county sheriff (in some counties). The sheriff charges to serve papers unless you have a fee waiver.

    • A professional process server you pay 

  • Figure out the deadline to serve

    Your server must deliver the forms at least 15 days before your court date, or 20 days before your court date if the tenant is in a different county from where you filed your case. 

    Look at a calendar.

    • Find the court date the court clerk put on Page 1 of your Claim form. Start counting from that day back.
    • The day before the court date is day 1. The next day before it is day 2, etc.
    • Keep counting back until you get to 15 (or 20) days.
    • Check what day this is:  

      • If it’s Monday through Friday and not a holiday, court holiday or closure, you must have the forms delivered by the end of that day. 

      • If it’s a Saturday or Sunday, court holiday, or closure, count back to a day that court will be open. You must have the forms delivered by the end of that day.

    It's best to serve as early as you can. If you can't find the person you need to serve and have to try substitute service you have to do it 10 days before this deadline. You don't want to lose that option by waiting too long to serve.

    Talk to the court clerk or the Small Claims Advisor. Each local court has its own rules.


    You may have to ask the court to move your court date out by filing a Request to Postpone Trial (Small Claims) (form SC-150) 10 or more days before the court date. Then make a copy for everyone in your case and have a copy of this form served in person or by mail on all of them. More information on changing your court date.

  • Have your server deliver the forms

    Your server must find the tenant(s) and hand the filed forms to them before your deadline. As they hand the forms to the tenant(s) they need to:

    • Tell them what the forms are about (something like “this is a small claims lawsuit”)  
    • Write down the address where they handed the tenant the forms
    • Write down the date and time they gave the tenant the forms

    The server needs to keep track of this information to fill it in on the Proof of Service form in the next step.

    If the tenant isn’t at home or work when your server comes to serve them, but there's someone 18 or older who is, your server may be able to serve the tenant by giving the forms to this other person and mailing a copy to the tenant (substituted service). The deadline to serve is earlier. Get instructions for substituted service.

  • Have the server fill out the Proof of Service form

    A person filling out a form.

    Use Proof of Service (form SC-104).

    It helps if you fill in the top part of the form with the case and court information.

    Your server can then fill in the information about how, when, and where they served the forms. Your server must sign the Proof of Service form.

    The server should then give you the Proof of Service form back to you.

  • Copy and file the Proof of Service

    a member of the public showing documents to a court clerk

    Make one copy of your filled out Proof of Service form.

    • File the original and copy at least 5 days before your court hearing
    • The court will keep the original
    • The court will stamp and return the copy to you
    • Keep the copy for your records

Once you've served your Claim, you've completed the second step in the small claims process: start a small claims case.

Start a small claims case

What's next

After you serve your forms, you need to start to get ready for your court date (trial).

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