In an unpublished opinion dated July 27, 2009, the Division I Court of Appeals, case #62307-9-I (Culpeper v Jordan), decided a case against a landlord that has a profound effect on landlords and how notices are to be served.
Given this opinion we recommend you err on the side of caution by following the steps listed in any notices on your tenants.
List each of the tenant’s names on the notice.
When personally serving notice with two or more tenants named, you need to provide a copy for each tenant. If each tenant named is not standing before you to accept service of the notice in their hand, then you can only serve the tenant who is present. You will need to post the remaining copies of the notice and mail a copy to each tenant that was not personally served.
When posting the notice, post a copy for each tenant named. (e.g., if there are three tenants then post three copies). You are required to mail a copy to each named tenant when the notice is served by posting.
Mail a separate copy addressed to each tenant named on the notice. Do not list more than one name per envelope. Mailing is required when a notice is posted. Mailing can be completed by first class mail (no requirement for certified/registered mailing).
One of the latest arguments raised by the tenant advocates is that any notice ( 3 day, 10 day, etc.) served to a tenant is invalid as the person who was served was not of “reasonable age and discretion” as required. My counsel to get around this is if, you knock on the door and a child answers, (defined as anyone who may be under 18) just post a notice on the door and mail it to the tenant. You can justify posting the door rather than serving the person by saying that you were not sure of their age and did not want to give it to someone too young.
The Catch-22 of this situation is that they are then going to argue that the service statute requires you to give it to a person if possible, instead of just posting it. All in all, I think you would be better off by posting if you have any doubts at all. You might want to make a note as to your guess as to the age of the person opening the door.
HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED
Tenants were husband and wife. They entered into a lease with a landlord for residence in Snohomish County, Washington. In the spring of 2008, they became delinquent in their rent. The landlord physically hand delivered a notice to “pay or vacate” to the husband tenant, Isaac Jordan. The notice stated it was to “Isaac and Brandy Jordan”. Within minutes of receiving the notice, and while the landlord was still present, Isaac handed the notice to his wife Brandy. The tenants neither paid rent in full nor vacated the premises.
The landlord filed the unlawful detainer (eviction). The tenant responded and in their answers, the tenant argued that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. They asserted that RCW 59.12.040 required the landlord provide a copy of the notice to each of them.
Because the landlord only delivered one copy of the notice and because he only delivered that copy to the husband, the tenants claimed that the wife Brandy had not been properly served with the notice and that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The court of appeals ruled in favor of the tenants.