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DC Landlord & Tenant Service of Process

If there is one issue I see pro se landlords have their cases dismissed on over and over, it's issues with service of process. The rules can be a little complex but usually the problems arise when the landlord wants to save the cost of a process server. Remember the following tips and you will have a better chance of not having to start over for improper service.

1) Don't serve anything yourself and don't have any interested party serve anything for you. The process server must be a person not involved in your case.

2) Your server must make diligent efforts to serve the tenant in person before posting and mailing are acceptable. That usually means two attempts, one in the morning and one in the evening, on different days. But personal service is best so if you know when the tenant is home, tell your server and make life easy for them.

3) Details are important. If the process server leaves the notice or complaint with someone they must describe that person, as well as the address where they took it. If they posted it they must describe the door and the hallway, such as "second door on left after coming in glass entry doors, door painted white with the numbers 123 in gold paint." A photo of the posted notice is a plus. The affidavit must be notarized and filed with the court before the initial hearing or your court date could be delayed.

4) A thirty day notice for anything other than nonpayment of rent must also be served on the Office of the Rent Administrator within five days of serving the tenant. These notices require special language about that service, which I'm not covering here.

5) Give yourself enough time. A thirty day notice handed to the process sever can't be filed on in Landlord & Tenant court on the thirtieth day, you need to look at the service date. The summons and complaint also must be served timely or your case will be delayed or dismissed.

6) Always bring a copy of the notarized affidavit to the initial hearing. If the court doesn't have it for some reason it will save you time.

Proper service of process is the first obstacle you must overcome to getting your tenant evicted. Even if the tenant comes to court, if service was improper your case can be dismissed. If your tenant isn't paying you that isn't time you can afford to lose.

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