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Last update: 20-03-2006
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Service of documents - Netherlands

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. What does the legal term “service of documents” mean in practical terms? Why are there specific rules on the “service of documents”? 1.
2. Which documents need to be served formally? 2.
3. Who is responsible for serving a document? 3.
4. How is the document in practice normally served? 4.
5. What happens when in exceptional cases service to the addressee himself is not possible (e.g. because he is not at home)? 5.
6. Is there any written proof that the document has been served? 6.
7. What happens if something goes wrong and the addressee does not receive the document or the service is effected in violation of the law (e.g. the document is served to a third person)? 7.
8. Do I have to pay for the service of a document, and if so, how much? 8.

 

1. What does the legal term “service of documents” mean in practical terms? Why are there specific rules on the “service of documents”?

In judicial proceedings, it is very important that all the parties in a dispute are fully informed of each other’s standpoints in a case. This ensures that they are aware of the other party’s arguments, enabling them to give a well-informed response. To ensure as far as possible that the parties are properly aware of each other’s standpoints, there are rules which stipulate that documents setting forth those standpoints must be supplied to the parties.In the Netherlands, this is known as the service (through a bailiff) or notification of documents (by post). Either way, the objective is the same, i.e. to inform the parties in the proceedings. The two main ways of submitting a dispute to the court in the Netherlands are the summons and the application or petition. The law dictates when a summons must be used and when a petition must be submitted. (For more on this, see the information on bringing a case to court). If the wrong method is chosen, the court will rectify proceedings.In the case of proceedings commenced by writ of summons, a bailiff issues a summons to the defendant at the request of the plaintiff. Once the plaintiff has placed the case on the cause list of the competent court, the defendant can submit a

Proceedings commenced by a petition commence upon postal submission of a petition to the office of the clerk of the competent court. The court then summons the applicant and the affected parties named or apparent from the application, again by post. In some cases the petition has to be served by the bailiff, notably in divorce cases.

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2. Which documents need to be served formally?

The plaintiff must arrange for the defendant to be provided with the summons and the court ruling in an official manner, i.e. via the bailiff.

3. Who is responsible for serving a document?

The bailiff, who is domiciled in the Netherlands.

In proceedings commenced by a petition, the plaintiff need only submit a petition to the office of the clerk of the competent court. A summons will then be issued to the applicant and (if applicable) the affected parties (except in divorce cases) by the office of the clerk of the court, which also dispatches the other procedural documents. The summons or documents are sent by either ordinary or registered post, depending on the situation.

4. How is the document in practice normally served?

In proceedings commenced by a writ of summons, the summons is served by the bailiff. The formal document he issues is called a writ, and this is an authentic deed. The writ is normally handed to the opposite party in person. If he refuses to take receipt of the writ, the bailiff records his refusal on the writ and it is assumed that the copy has been received by the person, even if the person for whom it is intended has refused to accept it. The bailiff either leaves a copy of the writ with this person, in a sealed envelope, or sends it by post. If the bailiff does not succeed in serving the document on the opposite party in person, he may leave the document with someone who is present at the opposite party’s homeIn the case of legal persons governed by public law (such as provincial and municipal authorities), the summons is served at the place where the administration sits or has its office or to the person or domicile of the head of that administration. In the case of a legal person governed by private law, the summons is served to that person’s office or to the person or domicile of one of the directors.

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If service by post (notification) will suffice, this will usually take the form of the relevant documents being sent by post or courier. Another option is to hand over the documents at the cause-list session.

In proceedings commenced by a petition, service by a bailiff is very rare. As

If you are in a foreign country and wish to summon someone in the Netherlands to appear before a foreign court, you will need the assistance of a bailiff established in the Netherlands. You can do this by sending the document to a Dutch bailiff in his capacity as receiving agency, under the European Service Regulation. Alternatively, the serving agency in the country in which the court is located can send the document directly by registered post to the party or parties involved.

5. What happens when in exceptional cases service to the addressee himself is not possible (e.g. because he is not at home)?

Proceedings commenced by a writ of summons

If this person is not present in person, a copy of the relevant writ can be given to a member of that person’s household or to another person on the premises, who can be expected to hand the copy to the person for whom it is intended in a timely manner.

If a copy cannot be left with any of these persons, the bailiff leaves a copy of the writ, in a sealed enveloped, at the home of the person upon whom it has to be served. If that is not possible either, as a last resort the copy is sent by post.

Of course, it may be that a person has no known domicile in the Netherlands, in which case the writ is served at the public prosecutor’s office of the court where the case has been instituted. The same arrangements apply to legal persons.

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For service on persons who have a known domicile or residence outside the Netherlands but within the EU, you will need to use EC Regulation No. 1348/2000 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil and commercial matters.

Proceedings commenced by a petition

The basic premises behind the notification of documents in proceedings commenced by a petition are different. The reasoning behind the summoning of the applicant and affected parties by ordinary post is that these persons have themselves indicated an address – in a petition or statement of defence (submitted to the office of the clerk of the court) – at which they can be reached. Thus it is safe to assume that a summons will genuinely be effected.

If an affected party has not himself given his address, he will be summoned by registered post. If this letter is returned to the clerk of the court, he checks whether the addressee was entered in the relevant registers at the address indicated in the summons on the posting date or at the latest one week thereafter. If this is so, he sends the summons immediately by ordinary post. Otherwise, the clerk of the court corrects the address (if possible) and sends the summons once again by registered post, unless the court decrees otherwise.

International rules may also apply to proceedings commenced by a petition. For instance, service must take place in accordance with Article 14 Paragraph 2 of EC Regulation No. 1348/2000 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil and commercial matters if the applicants or affected parties have no known domicile or known residence in the Netherlands, but do have a known domicile or known residence in a State in which the EC Service Regulation applies.

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6. Is there any written proof that the document has been served?

In proceedings commenced by a writ of summons, the bailiff names the person with whom the copy of the writ has been left in the writ, indicating that person’s capacity. This constitutes indisputable proof of the manner in which the document was issued, and to whom.

The bailiff has to sign the writ and the copies; if he does not, this will render the writ null and void. However, this oversight can be remedied by means of what is known as a rectified writ.

If a document is sent to the opposite party by registered post, there will often not be any written proof as experience shows that the opposite party will usually refuse to sign for receipt.

The same is true of proceedings commenced by a petition if the parties are summoned or a document is sent by registered post.

7. What happens if something goes wrong and the addressee does not receive the document or the service is effected in violation of the law (e.g. the document is served to a third person)?

In the Netherlands, it is standard practice to serve the writ of summons on the person for whom it is intended. If that person is not present, the law permits a writ to be served on a household member or on a third party whom the bailiff encountered there, or alternatively the writ may be left at the premises or sent by post. The latter two options are only used if there is no person present on whom the bailiff can serve the writ. In all of these cases it is assumed, provided the legal requirements have been met, that the writ has reached the person in question.

There are a number of circumstances that may render the writ null and void, such as failure to include the mandatory details. Likewise, the bailiff’s failure to sign the writ will render it null and void (see question 6 above). However, in such cases consideration is given as to whether the oversight in question caused unreasonable prejudice to the person for whom the writ was intended: if it did not, the writ will not be null and void.

A failing that renders a writ null and void may be rectified in another writ, either at the request of the person who requested service of the writ, or by the court.

In proceedings commenced by a petition, the address details of the applicant and other affected parties are assumed to be correct; therefore, if something goes awry with the summons, the applicant or the relevant affected person is, in principle, personally responsible.

8. Do I have to pay for the service of a document, and if so, how much?

Charges are made for the service of a document. The bailiff will charge a fee for service. The fees are twofold, i.e. they consist of a non-fixed, negotiable fee that is agreed upon between the client and the bailiff, and a fixed fee set by the government that applies to the opposite party. These latter charges for bailiffs’ acts are included in the costs of the proceedings.

Further information

Some of the above information is taken from Articles 45-66 and Articles 271-277 and 291 of the Code of Civil Procedure. For more, visit Overheid.nl Nederlands:

  • click on “wet- en regelgeving” (laws and regulations)
  • type in: “burgelijke rechtsvordering” (civil procedure) (under no. 3 in the headings)
  • choose: “Wetboek van Burgelijke Rechtsvordering” (Code of Civil Procedure)

« Service of documents - General information | Netherlands - General information »

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Last update: 20-03-2006

 
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