The Eviction Process: Serving The Notice

Every state’s laws differ somewhat when it comes to evictions, but most of them follow a standard procedure. Common steps are preparing the eviction notice, serving the notice, filing a complaint, attending a court hearing if necessary, and if all that succeeds, seeing the deputies remove the tenant. Many landlords do not see it all the way through because the tenant can voluntarily leave as soon as they receive the notice. If you own or manage rentals long enough, you may eventually get to watch the entire eviction process.

An eviction can be a long process, and fraught with pitfalls. No really; they can take anywhere from two to 12 months. Many landlords make matters worse by being indecisive about evicting bad tenants. They blunder through the long eviction method ill-prepared.

Most bad tenants and thus most evictions may be avoided through tenant screening techniques, but even contacting tenants’ employers, landlords, and running tenant screening reports are not foolproof.

To make sure you do not lose thousands of dollars to rent defaults and evictions, you can ensure you succeed quickly and the first time by hiring an eviction lawyer. You can read about it here:

Be Prepared is not just a motto of the Boy Scouts. You should know the way to evict rent-defaulting, dirty, or property-damaging renters before the need arises. Or once the time comes for tenant wrongdoing, you could be looking at a long process to evict.

Written Notice

Every state has written notice necessities – specific written legal notices that landlords send to renters, typically by certified mail. Not serving the proper notice at the appropriate time adds time and aggravation to the stressful eviction process. Some states allow language that tells the tenant to pay or leave. This is often called “Notice to Pay or Quit” or “Notice to Terminate.” Proper service of notices can make or break an eviction case later in court.

Serve the Eviction Notice

Below are various ways in which to deliver that notice to the offending tenant:

First-class or Certified Mail

Some states enable regular mail, whereas others need certified mail. Always send one certified, return receipt required, even when not needed. Having that small green signed card in court assures the judge you served your tenant properly, and the return receipt is proof. The judge will need assurances that the tenant was properly served with the notice.

Posting the Notice in a Conspicuous Place

This can be when you tape the notice to an obvious place like the outside door.


Every state has ways in which to do deliver by hand. With some, you will be able to hand it to whoever answers the door as long as they are old enough to understand what is happening. Some states need a signature. There are rules on who might receive the notice and their minimum age; delivering it to a toddler is not allowed.

Using a Process Server

Few states require landlords to use process servers. However, it has its advantages despite the cost. First, it is exhausting to prove that the eviction notice was delivered. It is additionally less dangerous than hand delivery by you, as angry tenants may be unpredictable. Still, it is expensive.

Bear in mind that some states need a mixture of these methods of serving notices before filing in court for eviction.

The Hearing

After the document is filed, your tenant receives notice from the court that they need to appear for a hearing. Most states assign a court date for all parties to come to court and settle the matter, presenting proof and creating a case before a judge.

However, some states need the tenant to contest the complaint. If they do this inside the time window, a court date is the usual way for all parties to appear. However, if the tenant fails to answer within the time assigned, the eviction order is automatically granted. Some states have similar procedures.

The lease agreement, if you have one, is essential to bring to court. Any notices, copies of checks, pictures, unpaid utility bills, and your rental ledger ought to be in your case file. If you made any phone calls, certify you have the dates, times and recordings of the calls if possible.

Always bring an additional copy of the lease agreement with you. Create notes on the section of the lease that was violated. The more organized you are with your information for the court, the easier it is for the judge to assess the information, and the better it is for you.