Community association managers and boards often ask whether they are required to allow a process server access into a building or gated community. Specifically, they want to know, “What do our door staff or security guards do when process servers request unannounced or unauthorized access to our community?” For those who are unaware, “service of process” is when a court summons or other court documents are served by a licensed process server on an individual or business (often a defendant or required witness in a lawsuit).
The answer is that community associations are required to allow process servers access into a community to attempt to serve a particular resident. A 2015 amendment to Section 735 ILCS 5/2-203 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure allows process servers access to “gated residential communities.” And yes, the term “gated residential community” does include condominium associations, housing cooperatives, or any other private community associations. The law effectively requires door staff or guards in such communities to allow access to the premises to a process server attempting to serve papers on a defendant or witness who resides within the community. Under 720 ILCS 5/31-3, it is a Class B misdemeanor to knowingly interfere with the service of process by an authorized process server.
The service of a summons is made (1) by leaving a copy of the summons with the defendant personally or (2) by leaving a copy at the defendant’s usual place of abode, with some family or person residing that is 13 years or older. The process server should inform that person of the contents of the summons and send an additional copy of the summons in a sealed envelope to the defendant at their usual place of living.
A key point to remember is that door staff, security guards, and management staff cannot and should not accept process or papers on behalf of any community residents. The association’s security guard or door staff does, however, have the right to question or review the credentials of the process server attempting to gain access. Most professional process servers will have the proper forms of identification and court paperwork ready to provide any security or door staff personnel member. Finally, the door staff or security guard should not inform the individual to be served (via phone call, for example) that a process server is coming to the unit or home. Doing so would potentially interfere with the service, as the individual may refuse to answer the door.
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