How Are Legal Papers Served?

There are only three ways to deliver or “serve” a notice of petition and petition in nonpayment and holdover cases. Usually, a rent demand, a notice of termination and a notice to quit should be served in one of these three ways too. As a landlord, you must get a friend or a licensed process server to give the papers to the tenant. You cannot serve the tenant yourself. However, you may accompany a friend who does not have an interest in the case to serve the tenant. Your friend must be more than 18 and may not have served more than five legal papers in a year to be able to serve your papers.

Personal Delivery.
Your friend or process server must first try to give the papers to the tenant personally. If your friend or process server goes to the tenant’s house and the tenant answers and takes the papers, service is done. Your friend or process server must fill out the affidavit of service on the back of the original form, to swear that the papers were given to the tenant. The affidavit must be notarized.

Substituted Service.
If when your friend or process server goes to the tenant’s apartment, the tenant is not home, your friend or process server can give the papers to a person of “suitable age and discretion” who also lives in the apartment. By the next day, excluding weekends and certain holidays, two more copies of the papers must be mailed to the tenant, one by regular mail and one by registered or certified mail. Your friend or process server must fill out the affidavit of service on the back of the original form, and swear that the papers were given to a person of “suitable age and discretion.” The affidavit must be notarized.

Conspicuous Place Service (“Nail and Mail”).
If your friend or process server goes to the tenant’s apartment and nobody answers, your friend or process server must try again. If the first attempt was made during working hours, the second attempt must be made during non-working hours. On the second attempt, if nobody answers at the tenant’s apartment, your friend or process server may leave a copy of the papers attached to the door or under the door. By the next day, excluding weekends and certain holidays, two more copies of the papers must be mailed to the tenant, one by regular mail and one by registered or certified mail. Your friend or process server must fill out the affidavit of service on the back of the original form, swearing that the papers were left at the door. The affidavit must be notarized.