Service of an eviction case is a requirement for starting any eviction against a tenant. The law requires that the tenants have proper notice that such a case has been brought against them. A landlord’s failure to comply with these service requirements can be fatal to one’s case.
Service of an Eviction Case
An eviction generally requires serving two types of documents to a tenant: a notice to quit, informing the tenant that their tenancy is being terminated, and a summons, informing the tenant that an eviction case is occurring in court against them.
Service of an eviction is needed to put a tenant on fair notice that the landlord is attempting to obtain possession of the rental unit. Simply calling or emailing the tenant is not sufficient; the law requires (like any other lawsuit) that the tenant have formal notice of the eviction.
Contrary to popular belief, a landlord does not need to serve a notice to quit by constable or sheriff. However, the landlord bears the burden of proving that the tenant received this notice. If the landlord is unable to do so, the court will dismiss the eviction. For this reason, most landlords (smartly) serve notices to quit through a constable or sheriff. Under the law, such service creates a presumption that the tenant received the notice. Absent a compelling argument to the contrary, proof of service by a constable or sheriff establishes that the tenant received the notice to quit.
A summons, which is a formal court notice stating that an eviction case will begin, must be served by a sheriff. A constable, who is a private officer, is also permitted to serve most eviction cases. This formal service is a mandatory requirement, unless the tenant elects to waiver service. Failure to properly serve an eviction case will likely result in its immediate dismissal by the court.
Service of an eviction is a critical part of a Massachusetts landlord-tenant case. Failure to comply with these requirements can add unnecessary time and expense onto one of these cases, and make the process far more difficult than it needs to be. For this reason, consider hiring an experienced landlord-tenant attorney to assist with one of these matters.