What is the Mailbox Rule for Evictions

No one ever said that being a landlord was going to be easy, but the mailbox rule for evictions makes the process downright complicated! It's a law that says anything that has been dropped into the mail is deemed to be delivered. It applies to more than just evictions too. The IRS, insurance contracts, and even transactions involving the sale of property all use the mailbox rule for delivery verification.

There's only one issue with this rule: the party receiving something doesn't actually know that they are supposed to be receiving something. There's a few other issues with this rule as well:

• Mail sent by first class is often not traceable.
• To get delivery confirmations, added costs to the mailing process must be added.
• There's no guarantee as to when someone checks their mail.
• With mail theft, you can't even guarantee that someone will get their mail.

So when does the clock start ticking on an eviction notice if a landlord is using the mailbox rule?

Laws About Evictions Are Very Strict

It is not uncommon for a landlord to be off by just 24 hours in the eviction process and because of this one issue, have the entire case dismissed. That means the landlord would have to go through the entire eviction process from the beginning! The mailbox rule for evictions is troublesome from another standpoint as well, because even if the eviction is ordered, it can be appealed because of the process of notification being defective because of the uncertainty that the mail service provides.

The problem with the mailbox rule is that if you go by the “dropping it in the mail” time frame, the required notification period is running while the notification is in transit. In an Iowa case, a law that allowed the mailbox was thrown out because it removed fairness from the equation. If a tenant gets a certain amount of time to respond to an eviction, it is deemed that they should have the full amount of time without question.

A Judge Must Be Reasonably Certain a Notice Was Received

Even if you send something by certified mail, you may encounter a tenant who is not home at the time to receive the mail. They'll get the card in their box that says they have a letter waiting for them and you're left at the mercy of whether or not a tenant is savvy enough to recognize that the certified letter is from you about an eviction.

That's why even though a personalized mail service or a process server is more costly, it is more reliable because you're catching someone in person. You're removing the doubt for a judge that a notice was or wasn't received because you'll have verification that the document was received by the party in question. In some states, the mailbox rule for evictions still applies and has definitive timing with it, like in Oregon where 72 hours is added to the mailing date.

For certainty, however, and especially with an eviction, an investment now means a reduced risk of having to go through the process a second time. That's why the mailbox rule for evictions should be avoided if at all possible.
Posted on May 25, 2014


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