Is it ok to serve a P.O. Box?

faqServing a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA) (commonly referred to as a “Post Office Box”) Business & Professions Code § 17538.5

If you know that the person you are suing has a mailbox with a commercial mail receiving agency, you have the option of serving the agency location with copies of your Plaintiff’s Claim. Please note that CMRAs offer “private mailboxes,” but these are not technically P.O. boxes. Be advised that “post office boxes” are offered by the federal government only, and cannot be served.

What is a commercial mail receiving agency?

A commercial mail-receiving agency, also known as a mail drop, allows for the rental of a private mailbox. Unlike P.O. boxes, which are a service of the United States Postal Service (a federal agency), these private mailboxes are available through various commercial agencies (e.g. Mail Boxes, Etc.). Addresses at a CMRA are given the designation “PMB” (private mailbox).

Why am I able to serve a commercial mail receiving agency?

When a customer rents a private mailbox at one of these agencies, state laws require that they sign an agreement which authorizes the CMRA owner or operator to act as agent for service of process for the mail receiving service customer.

How do I serve a commercial mail receiving agency?

Below are the proper steps for serving a CMRA

  1. You must verify the location of the PMB (private mailbox). Contact the U.S. Postal Services office and ask for the location of the box. This has the added benefit of allowing you to verify that this box does indeed belong to a CMRA, and is not a federal post office box (which cannot act as agent for service of process).
  2. Ask a friend, process server, sheriff, or anyone over 18 years of age and not a party to the case to serve the CMRA owner or operator with copies of your claim.
  3. Every CMRA owner or operator shall be required to accept service of process for and on behalf of any of their mail receiving service customers. (B & P C § 17538.5 (d) (1))
  4. Though not required by law, it is always a good idea to mail a copy of the plaintiff’s claim to the PMB itself. The CMRA owner or operator is required to place a copy of the documents or a notice that the documents were received into the customer’s mailbox or other place where the customer usually receives his or her mail.
  5. The CMRA will send all documents by first-class mail to the last known home or personal address of the mail receiving service customer. Make sure to serve the CMRA at least fifteen (15) days prior to your hearing date.
  6. File a completed Proof of Service form with the court clerk five (5) days before your hearing date.

What if the person I’m suing no longer rents the private mailbox?

State law requires that CMRAs accept service of process for and on behalf of any of their mail receiving service customers for two (2) years after termination of any mail receiving service customer agreement. So you may be able to serve the owner or operator of the CMRA within two (2) years after end of the private mailbox rental agreement. (B & P C § 17538.5(d) (1))

What if I already have a judgment?

Upon presentation of a certified copy of a judgment, the CMRA is obligated to disclose to the judgment creditor (winning party) the last known address of any of its mail receiving service customers against whom the judgment was obtained. (B & P C § 17538.5(d) (3))

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