Serve your Plaintiff's Claim for COVID-19 rental debt by substituted service

Substituted service is a way to deliver (serve) forms to your tenant(s) who’s not at their home or job when the server comes to deliver the forms to them. Your server hands the papers to another adult who's there and then mails the papers to the address.

    Before you start

    Your server can only hand the papers to certain people

    The server can give the forms to

    • Someone 18 or older who lives at the tenant's home
    • Someone 18 or older who seems to be in charge where the tenant works
    • Someone 18 or older where the tenant normally gets their mail, but not a United States Postal Service (USPS) post office box

    If your server can't find the right people

    If your server doesn't find one of those adults at the tenant's home or work, they'll need to personally serve the forms. There are different rules and deadlines for personal service. These instructions here are only for substituted service – when your server is handing the forms to someone else in place of your tenant.

    How to serve by substituted service

    • Figure out your deadline to serve

      For substituted service your server must deliver the forms at least 25 days before your court date, or 30 days before your court date if the tenant you're serving is in a different county from where you opened your case.

      Calculate your deadline
      • 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.
      • 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 25 (or 30) days.
      • Check what day this is:  

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

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

    • Have your server deliver the papers

      Illustration of giving papers to a server who then gives them to the other party

      Your server:

      1. Hands a copy of the papers to either:

      • Someone 18 or older who is at the home and lives with the tenant
      • Someone 18 or older who seems in charge where the tenant works
      • Someone 18 or older who seems in charge where the tenant usually gets their mail (but not a United States Postal Service (USPS) post office box).

      2. Tells the person:

      "Please give these court forms to [tenant's name]."

      3. Asks the person their name or writes down what they look like if they won’t give their name.

      4. Writes down:

      • The address where they gave the person the forms 
      • The date and time they gave the person 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. The forms must be served before the deadline you calculated in the last step.

    • The server mails a copy of the forms

      illustration of service by mail

      Next, your server must also mail a copy of the papers to the tenant at the address where they left the forms. This is a back-up copy your server needs to send as a 2nd way to make sure the tenant knows they're being sued.

      Your server writes down:

      • The date they mailed the tenant the forms
      • The city and state where they mailed the tenant the forms 
      • What type place they mailed the forms from (a postal service mailbox or office mail room, for examples), or if they gave them to someone else to mail for them.
      Yes, you can have a different server mail the form. If a different server mails the form, that server needs to fill out Proof of Mailing (Substituted Service) (form SC-104a).
    • Have your server fill out the Proof of Service form

      The referenced media source is missing and needs to be re-embedded.

      Use the Proof of Service (form SC-104).

      You can fill in the top part of the form with the case and court information but the server has to fill out how, when, and where they served the papers from Step 3, above.

      • They must check off the forms that were served (Section 3)
      • They must fill in the parts about substituted service (Section 4b)
      • The server must then fill out information about themselves (Section 5) and
      • Date, print their name, and sign the form (Section 6)
    • Copy and file the Proof of Service form

      a member of the public showing documents to a court clerk
      1. Make one copy of your filled out Proof of Service form.
      2. File the original and copy at least 5 days before your court date.
      3. The court will keep the original.
      4. The court will stamp and return the copy to you.
      5. 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.

    Small claims

    What's next?

    After you've served your Plaintiff's Claim, your next step is to get ready for your small claims court date (trial).

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