The first attempt in serving any notice should be by personal service. This type of service is to personally hand the notice to the tenant. If you are unable to get the Tenant to answer the door for personal service to be completed, then you can use an alternative form of service.
Once personal service is completed, the time period for the notice starts but does not include the day of service. For example, if a 3 day notice is served on Thursday, the time period for the tenant to pay is Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If they have not paid by Sunday, then an unlawful detainer action may be commenced on Monday.
As a side note, this notice can be served by anyone over the age of 18. That does include the Landlord. Only when it moves to legal action must someone over the age of 18, not a party of the lawsuit, complete the service of legal documents.
Alternative service can be completed through a multiple of options. The first, and most common, is to serve by post and mail. This requires that a copy of the notice be posted on the door, or in a conspicuous location, as well as mailing a copy through the mail, postage prepaid (you cannot just place a copy in the mailbox). The copy mailed does not have to be certified (as a warning, if you send certified, tenants have been known to reject them, therefore, the mailing was not completed).
For this type of service, you have to add an additional day to the notice period. For example, on the 3 day notice, if you post and mail on Thursday, the tenant has 4 days, not including the day of service. So, they will have Friday through Monday to pay, and an unlawful detainer can be started on Tuesday.
Another option of alternative service is leaving a copy with an occupant of the premises (not the tenant) who is of suitable age (typically over 13) and mailing.
The final step is for the server of the notice to sign a declaration. This document is submitted to the court, under penalty of perjury, that the server served the notice on the Tenant under one of the options. Without this notice, the courts has no way of knowing that service was completed properly. Without such, the courts will not grant any request made.
To conclude, proper service is essential or one would have to start from scratch if not done properly. No matter what notice is served, it must be done under one of these options, and the time period element applies. So, if a 10 day notice is served via post and mail, the extra day would actually give the tenant 11 days to comply.
One last warning, when serving a notice to terminate tenancy, it must be done at least 20 days (if the lease does not provide more time) before the end of the period. So, if rent is due on the 1st, the notice must be given at least 20 days before the 1st.
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