The following are actual notes from a Sheriff's deputy directly from an online docket:
"Upon walking up to the building, this deputy saw a person in the window that clearly saw this deputy. Subject refused to come to the door. After multiple knocks on the door deputy left the building and while sitting in the sheriff's car could see a person in another window...taking pictures of the deputy. No service, turn in."
When this happens in a foreclosure or ejectment (post-sheriff's sale evictions are called ejectments in Pennsylvania), local counsel will advise of the need for a motion for special or alternative service. This means additional costs and delays in your timelines. For years, lenders/servicers have voiced dissatisfaction with the time it takes sheriffs' deputies to serve complaints, the fact that service could not ultimately be accomplished, and the time it takes some county courts to rule on motions for special service.
Let's step back and consider the facts.
Some people view lawsuits as war. Borrowers are not inclined to help you in your lawsuit against them. Additionally, there are websites that provide assistance to borrowers, including "how-to" advice to avoid being served.
Factor In Delays
Delays in serving complaints should be factored into existing timeline expectations and lenders/servicers should anticipate approving motions for special service on at least 30% of foreclosures and ejectments. Lenders/servicers must also understand that while these motions may seem perfunctory, it will take more time than usual in some counties, as each has its own motion procedures.
In some counties, attorneys appear in motions court on designated days and times to formally present motions for special service to a judge who will usually and expeditiously sign the proposed order. In others, motions for special service are mailed for filing or electronically filed, and then we wait for an order, which may take days or months. Further, some judges have additional prerequisites before they will entertain a motion for special service.
Such idiosyncracies mean higher initial costs for service of complaints in such counties. While this may seem like a conspiracy to bilk money from plaintiffs, it is advisable to be proactive and request the additional service attempts upfront to maximize chances of success with a motion for special service, if it becomes necessary.
M. Troy Freedman is an attorney with Richard M. Squire & Associates, LLC, Jenkintown, Penn.