How to Serve a Complaint and Summons to Evict a Tenant in Michigan

The legal ways to serve eviction court papers to tenants in Michigan.

The summons containing the hearing date, and the complaint (either the Complaint for Nonpayment of Rent or Complaint to Recover Possession of Property) with all attachments, must be served on the tenant after both are filed with the court. Refer to these court documents when following the instructions below for preparing the proof of service. Also, see the Nolo article, How to File a Complaint in Court to Evict a Tenant in Michigan, for details on this important part of the eviction process.

How the Summons and Complaint Are Served to the Tenant

The court may mail the documents to the tenant on its own; otherwise the landlord will need to do the mailing. If you are the one to mail the documents to the tenant, you must obtain a postal receipt to show proof of the mailing. You, as the landlord, cannot serve the tenant, except by mail.

In addition to mailing the summons and complaint, the landlord must also have a court officer or another adult (commonly referred to as a process server) serve the tenant using one of the following second methods:

  • by delivery in person to the tenant (personal service)
  • by certified or registered mail with a return receipt requested
  • by delivery in person to an adult at the tenant’s home (substituted service), or
  • by securely attaching the documents to the front door of the rental property, if you are unsuccessful at attempting service by the other methods listed.

If the complaint is seeking a money payment then service must be made by delivery in person to the tenant or by certified or registered mail with a return receipt requested and restricted delivery to the tenant.

See M.C.R. § 4.201(D) and M.C.R. § 2.105 for service methods.

The proof of service form, described below, details how you serve the summons and complaint on the tenant.

When to Serve the Summons and Complaint

Michigan landlord-tenant law requires that you serve the tenant with the summons and complaint not less than three days before the court hearing date (you will get this date when you file the summons and complaint in court). If you are unable to serve the tenant in time, you will need to go back to the court to obtain another summons with a later court date and attempt service again.

What to File as Proof of Service

If the court clerk does not do the mailing of the summons and complaint, then you need to file page one of the summons with the court indicating you have served the tenant by mail. Page three of the summons must be filled out as evidence of service of tenant with the summons, complaint, and attachments using a second method (options described above). If service was performed by certified or registered mail, a copy of the green return receipt card must be attached to the proof of service. You must file this proof of service with the court and keep a copy for your records. See the official court summons form for details.

How to Prepare the Proof of Service

Page three of the summons contains the proof of service. This form contains four different methods of service. You need to select one of the four methods to serve the tenant (who is the defendant) with a copy of the summons and complaint. Be sure to write the case number in the top right corner of the proof of service page, page three of the summons. After the tenant is served with the eviction lawsuit documents, you must check either “Officer Certificate” or “Affidavit of Process Server” indicating who served the tenant.

Personal Service

If the tenant (defendant) was served personally, check the box next to “Personal Service” and complete the tenant’s name, address and day, date and time of service in the corresponding boxes on the form. The person who performed the personal service on tenant must then sign at the bottom of the form after the sentence stating “I declare that the statements above are true to the best of my information, knowledge, and belief.” If the person signing is not a court officer, the signature on the proof of service must be notarized.

Substituted Service

If the process server cannot locate the tenant at the tenant’s home or rental property, check the box next to “Substituted Service.” Complete the tenant’s name, the date, time and location of attempted service of the tenant, and then the name and relationship of the person the process server left the eviction lawsuit documents with. The process server must explain to an adult at the rental property that the documents are an eviction lawsuit and direct that person to give the documents to the tenant.

Nonservice Return

If the process server is unable to locate the tenant or serve the tenant by any other method, check the box next to “Nonservice Return” and describe the efforts made to serve the tenant.

Service by Attachment

The process server may securely attach the summons, complaint, and attachments to the main entrance of the rental property. If this method is used, check the box next to “SERVICE BY ATTACHMENT” and fill in the date of the service. This method may not be used if monetary payment is demanded in the eviction complaint.

Acknowledgment of Service

This section is not necessary to complete. In rare circumstances the tenant may agree to sign acknowledging being served with the eviction lawsuit or the tenant may mail the acknowledgment back to the court on the tenant’s own behalf.

Effect of the Summons and Complaint

The summons issued by the court clerk and served on the tenant will direct the tenant to appear in court for the hearing date on the summons. The landlord must also attend this hearing. The hearing will be held within 10 days of the date the summons is issued, usually 10 days from the date you file the eviction complaint. Courts have the ability to shorten this time period under Michigan law (see M.C.L. § 600.5735).

Resources on Michigan Landlord-Tenant Law

The Michigan Courts Self-Help Center provides useful information on evictions and taking court action. Another useful site is Michigan Legal Help, which provides advice on housing-related legal issues, including evictions, for both landlords and tenants. The Michigan Legislature’s website publishes a useful guide to landlord-tenant law in Michigan.

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