What Does Summons Returned Mean in a Florida Foreclosure?

When a Florida foreclosure is filed, the clerk signs one summons for each defendant. In foreclosure actions, because there may be people living in the home that are not on the mortgage but may have an ownership interest in the property, summons are issued for tenants, and those tenants are listed as "Unknown Tenant #1, Unknown Tenant #2." A plaintiff — the person filing the lawsuit — usually puts at least two tenants but may put as many as it thinks there are people who have an ownership interest in the home, usually garnered from public records.


Service of Summons

Once the clerk signs the summons and opens the case, the summons must be served on the defendants. Depending on your county, summons may be served by a process server or the sheriff. If one case has 10 defendants, you must serve all 10 defendants with a summons and a copy of the foreclosure complaint. If some of the defendants are tenants, the summons may be served on the persons living in the home.


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Summons Information

The summons is the notification that a lawsuit has been filed and that the person whose name is on the summons was properly served with the lawsuit. It tells the defendant how many days he has to file an answer or other responsive pleading. It also gives the plaintiff's name and address, or the plaintiff's attorney, if the plaintiff has an attorney.


Return of Summons: Served

If the process server or sheriff was successful in serving the defendant, the serving agency files a return of service stating that the summons was served, the name of the defendant and the date and time it was served. The agency files the original with the clerk and forwards a copy to the plaintiff.


Return of Summons: Unserved

If the serving agency cannot find a defendant, the agency files a return of summons stating that it could not find the defendant to serve. In the case of a summons for "Unknown Tenant #n," it may be because there was not an unknown person living at the residence. If the return of service states a defendant's name, this means that the agency could not locate that person at the address. Depending on the agency, it may contact the plaintiff for a different address, and will try to serve the summons on the defendant at a different address, for example, a work address. If the agency still cannot find the person, it will file a return of summons stating that the defendant was not served.