Service of Process Southern California Evictions

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Service of Process Southern California Evictions

Hello, I am John Feely. My office is located in Long Beach, California, and we handle a lot of evictions (also known as Unlawful Detainers).

We have many clients, residential and commercial who are based throughout Southern California; mainly Long Beach, Norwalk, Torrance, San Pedro, Lakewood, Lynwood and other cities in and around Long Beach.

Many of my clients have questions for me regarding the eviction process, especially regarding the eviction timeline after the tenant has been served with the Unlawful Detainer complaint. Here are some of the most common ones with some helpful answers:

My tenants were personally served with the Unlawful Detainer Complaint…. What happens next?

If your tenants were personally served with the Unlawful Detainer Complaint, they have 5 days to file a response with the court. This information is stated on the Summons, which was given to them when they were served with the Complaint by the Process Server. This means that the tenant would go to court and file a response with the court which is usually an answer. If they do this within 5 days of being served, your Unlawful Detainer case is now contested. After it is contested, I will request from the court a trial date. In Unlawful Detainers, this happens rather quickly and according to law is supposed to be set 20 days of the request. The trial date comes in the mail to my office and to the office or home of the opposing counsel or tenant. Once we have a date, usually myself or if I’m unavailable one of my colleagues will go to court for your trial and judgment will be entered.

What happens if you can’t personally serve the tenants?

Sometimes, it can be difficult to locate the tenants. Tenants often hide out and will not answer the door if they know they have an eviction law suit coming. If the process server is unable to personally serve the tenants after “due diligence”, which is usually about 3-4 attempts, the tenants will be served through substituted service with the Unlawful Detainer complaint. This means that the process server will leave a copy of the complaint with someone else at the residence of suitable age and discretion and then mail a copy to the tenant. In this situation, the tenant will have 15 days to answer, instead of the regular 5 days. Unfortunately, there is no way to circumvent and speed up the process on a tenant that is refusing service. The process server cannot resort to trespassing in order to effectuate service.

What happens if the tenant cannot be served by substituted service?

Worst case scenario, after the server tries around 6 or 7 times at personal service they will return to my office with a log detailing their attempts. If both personal service and substituted service are not options, I have to take the process servers declaration to the court and get an order to post the summons and complaint from the judge or commissioner of the Superior Court where the lawsuit is filed. Once the judge signs this order the process server is allowed to post and mail a copy of the summons and complaint. In this case service is completed 10 days after the process server posts and mails the complaint. If the tenant doesn’t answer within this 10 day period, I can request that the court enter a default judgment.

What happens if the tenant is served but they do not answer or file a response with the court after getting served?

If the tenant doesn’t respond or answer, a default judgment may be entered against them. After a judgment is entered claiming that the plaintiff (or Landlord) is entitled to the premises, a Writ of Possession will be submitted to the court. The writ of possession is the document that the court stamps which is given to the Sheriff to perform the lockout.

Why does it sometimes take so long for the Writ to be issued back from the court?

The courts in California, and especially the Unlawful Detainer courts can be especially backed up just due to the sheer number of cases that are filed. Also, many courts in Los Angeles County have actually closed and consolidated. Evictions are serious lawsuits but budget cuts to the courts have made it tough. Currently unlawful detainers take longer than they ever used to and unfortunately there is no current remedy to this problem.


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Eviction Law Group - Long Beach Eviction Lawyer
Located at 3780 Kilroy Airport Way, Suite 200
Long Beach, CA 90806.
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Phone: (562) 353-4517
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