What is an Eviction Summons?

Lainie Petersen

When a landlord wishes to evict a tenant from a rental property, the landlord must typically follow a specific process of providing the tenant with notice and then following up by filing an eviction case in court. When a legal case is filed, the law often requires that the defendant be served with a summons to appear in court so that he has a chance to present his case. In some places, an eviction summons must be served to the tenant before an eviction hearing can take place. An eviction summons typically includes the details of the case, including the landlord's reasons for evicting the tenant as well as the date, time, and place of the hearing.

A notice of eviction posted on an apartment door.
A notice of eviction posted on an apartment door.

It is important that both landlords and tenants understand housing eviction laws as well as the types of eviction notices required under the law. For example, an eviction notice and an eviction summons may sound alike, but may not be the same thing in law. In many countries, including the United Kingdom and in much of the United States, landlords must first provide a written notice to a tenant prior to filing for an eviction at the courthouse. This eviction notice, sometimes called a quit notice, informs the tenant that the landlord is planning to evict her and usually states the reason for the eviction, whether the tenant can do anything to prevent the eviction, and the time frame in which the landlord wants the tenant out before the landlord goes to court.

An eviction summons, on the other hand, is generally an official notice of an impending court hearing. An eviction summons may have a more formal structure than an eviction notice, and there may be additional requirements about serving the summons. In some places, there may be significant restrictions on who can serve the eviction summons to a tenant. For example, some places may require that a court summons be served by law enforcement, such as a sheriff's deputy or constable. In other places, any adult who is unrelated to the case may be able to serve a summons to a tenant. If the landlord is unsuccessful in finding the tenant to have him served, the law may make provisions for proceeding with the eviction hearing anyway.

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Tenants who receive an eviction summons should take action immediately and ideally should seek legal advise. An eviction summons will usually contain instructions for responding to the case and may require that the tenant file legal papers in court if she intends to attend the hearing. By attending the hearing, a tenant can present her defense to the judge. If she does not have a defense, she may be able to ask the judge for more time in her home before she is required to move.

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