If You’ve Been Sued for Eviction or Foreclosure, You Should Be Served In Person
(But Don’t Hide From The Process Server!)
I hope this newsletter finds you and your family doing well.
For this newsletter, I want to focus first on the importance of personal service. If you are sued for eviction or foreclosure, the law requires that you be served in person with the lawsuit before you can legally be required to file your response with the clerk of court.
What does personal service look like? This will usually involve an individual, certified as a process server, showing up at your home and handing you a stack of papers. The first page will usually say Summons on it.
You are not required to sign for the papers, so do not assume that you were not properly served because nobody asked you to sign for the papers. The process server will write down their license number and initials as well as the date of service on the summons. The process server then prepares what is called a Return of Service, which is a document filed to notify the Court that you have been served and that your deadline to respond has started to run.
If you are served, make sure to read all of the documents carefully and make special note of your deadline to file your response with the local clerk of court.
If you are served with an eviction suit, you will only have 5 business days to file your response with the clerk of court. This 5 days begins to run from the date you are personally served with the eviction lawsuit.
If you have been served with a lawsuit for mortgage foreclosure, you will have 20 calendar days to file your response with the clerk of court. This deadline also begins to run from the date you were personally served with the lawsuit.
It is important to remember that avoiding process servers will not be a good strategy. If you avoid service of process on purpose and do it long enough, what eventually happens is the process server will file an Affidavit of Avoidance and you will be served by substitute service, where the lawsuit may be left at your door step. This is called “drop service.” Also, keep in mind that most judges do not look kindly on parties who dodge process servers, so this can create problems for you later in the case.
It is also important to remember that, under Florida law, a process server is permitted to serve the lawsuit on anyone who is at least 15 years of age and a resident at your home.
If there is a defect in the service of process (for example, the process server wrote an incorrect date for service on the summons), you would typically address this by filing what is called a Motion to Quash Service of Process and you would explain the defect with service of process.
Our next newsletter will focus on answering a lawsuit for eviction or foreclosure. We’ll offer a few helpful suggestions on properly preparing your answer and protecting your rights in the case.
Have a great evening.
Ryan C. Torrens, Esq.
Consumer litigation attorney