LAW CHANGE PROHIBITS SECURITY GUARDS FROM DENYING PROCESS SERVERS UNANNOUNCED ACCESS ONTO PROPERTIES
In America, litigants enjoy the benefit of full and fair trials in state courts but not until the defendant is served. With growing number of gated communities and expensive highly guarded condominiums popping up, access to the wealthy and privileged is unsurprisingly often more difficult than access to those who cannot afford these homes. Few could blame them for living with such private lifestyles but when their ability to live with restricted access extends to process servers with legal process for them, then the court system fails and America fails.
Until 2011 when the F.S. 48.031 was updated to include paragraph 7, if residents refused to allow process servers past the security gates or condo security desks to their front door, process servers were simply asked to leave. If a process server refused to leave, police could even arrest them for trespassing even though they had legal process in hand for an occupant that was actually on the premises. For a process server, the pain was real. For years process servers wrote, called, and even personally appealed to Florida law makers to update the law to prevent those who could afford to hide behind gates and security guards to evade service. Fortunately, lawmakers heard our cries for help and they did something about it. In 2011 Florida lawmakers enacted into law F.S. 48.031(7): "A gated residential community, including a condominium association or a cooperative, shall grant unannounced entry into the community, including its common areas and common elements, to a person who is attempting to serve process on a defendant or witness who resides within or is known to be within the community." That's not all they did. They made it a crime to impede with our service of the process. If a security guard refused to grant us access, or if they call the occupant to warn them that we are coming, they could be charged with a crime.
Unfortunately, not all security guards are aware of this relatively new law so our servers at Miami PSPI, LLC carry copies of 48.031(7) to provide to security guards when they refuse to allow us on to properties. For the most part this works well enough but every so often we get an overzealous security guard who tests the law a bit but they always lose. Unfortunately, many new buildings have elevators that open inside the residential units. Currently, the law is interpreted such that in the case where the elevator opens inside the residential unit, the server may not be allowed up the elevator. Furthermore, it is even unclear if the elevator door in the lobby can legally be considered to be the front door of the residence for the purpose of posting writs where posting is considered valid service, i.e. Three Day Notices and Evictions. There is currently no proposed statutory law or even case law to deal with this situation so this is truly uncharted territory. For now we remain content with 48.031(7).