The official term for an eviction lawsuit in Oklahoma is a Forcible Entry and Detainer action. The eviction process can differ from county to county, but they more or less are the same:
- Send a clear written notice
- Fill out the forms
- Serve the documents
- Attend the trial
- Wait for judgment
This article details a summary for a landlord to refer to when evicting a tenant. Alternatively, a landlord can ask an attorney for legal help if they have any questions on landlord-tenant rights. There may be free legal services offered at the local justice court.
An eviction notice is usually a form that is filled out by the landlord that details their violation and whether or not a tenant can fix the issue. The notice period depends on the reason for eviction. The landlord must give the right form so that they have a bigger chance of winning the case.
Notice requirements include timely delivery of the notice and they have to be written down and delivered to the tenant.
1. Failure to pay rent or nonpayment of rent
The most common reason for eviction is the failure to make a timely rent payment. A landlord may evict a tenant for failing to pay the rent due.
Rent is considered late in Oklahoma a day past its due. However, a grace period that gives more time to pay rent due may be available if indicated in the lease/rental agreement.
Before a landlord can start with the eviction action for not paying rent, the landlord must provide the tenant a written eviction form called a 5-Day Notice to Pay. This notice informs the renters that are required to move out of the property or they have five days to pay the rent in order to avoid eviction.
If tenants manage to pay all past due rent in full to the landlord before the 5 days are up, the entire eviction process stops and they can continue staying within the rental premises.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
A lease agreement can vary between tenants. Landlords and tenants are required to uphold the terms of the lease agreement at all times and avoid committing lease violations.
In Oklahoma, the landlord can evict the tenant for a lease violation. The landlord must provide a written notice called a 15-Day Notice to Comply which gives the tenant 10 days to fix the issue. Should the tenant be unable to correct the issue in 10 days, then they have the remaining 5 days to vacate the property. Lease violations include:
- Damage to the rental unit
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Material health/safety violations
- Too many people are living inside the rental unit
- Housing a pet in a pet-free rental unit or rental premises, etc.
The landlord may continue to file an eviction lawsuit if the tenant fails to resolve any lease violations and remains inside the rental unit after the given notice period.
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal activity on the rental premises, the landlord is not legally obligated to inform the tenant that they will be starting the eviction process. In this case, the landlord may skip directly to the next step.
Examples of illegal activity include, but are not limited to:
- Any kind of criminal activity that threatens the lives of others within the rental property
- Criminal activity involving drugs
Felony convictions are also classified as illegal activity:
- Violence, assault, battery
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of a controlled substance
4. Non-renewal of the lease after the end of the rental period
An Oklahoma eviction process does not allow a landlord to evict a tenant without good cause. The landlord must either wait for the tenant to commit a violation or wait for their rental term to end.
However, a tenant can be evicted if they stay in the property even a day after their written lease ends (and have not arranged for a renewal).
This type of eviction notice usually only applies if the landlord wants to end the tenant's lease. The required notice time given to a tenant depends on their tenancy type. The landlord must provide the right eviction notice which could be either a 7-Day Notice to Quit or a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
Should the tenant remain in the rental premises even after their notice period ends, the landlord may proceed with the eviction in order to evict the tenant from the property.
Filing a Forcible Entry and Detainer Action
Should the landlord decide to proceed with the eviction process after the notice period has passed, they must start filing for an eviction lawsuit, also known as a Forcible Entry and Detainer action in Oklahoma. Successful evictions rely on correct filings, so the landlord must file all the forms correctly.
Small claims court is usually where most evictions are handled.
1. Steps in filing
- Proceed to the small claims court the rental property belongs to
- Fill out the forms
- Pay the filing costs
It takes between 24 hours to 30 days before a landlord can file a complaint. This depends on the notice given to the tenant. The landlord must wait for the notice period to end before filing for an eviction case.
Serving the Tenant
The Summons and Complaint must be served to the tenant. The landlord must not serve this document themselves. The document should contain information such as the date and time of the court trial.
The Summons is a court order that informs tenants they have to attend the eviction hearing.
Oklahoma allows a professional process server or the sheriff to serve the document. It must be served on the tenant at least 3 days before the eviction hearing is scheduled.
1. How to serve documents to a tenant
The summons and its corresponding documents have to be served on the tenant through one of the following methods:
- Personal Service: The Summons and Complaint is served to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service: A copy of the Summons and Complaint may be left at the tenant's place of residence or rental unit with someone who lives with them who is at least 15 years old
- Mailing Service: The server mails the documents via certified mail and requests a return receipt.
- Posting Service: A copy of the document is placed in a secure and visible position by the entrance of the tenant’s rented property. This method is a last resort, and if this is the chosen method of service, it has to be posted within the five-day period before the court action.
2. After serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenant has the option to file an answer, but they are not required to do so.
The Summons and Complaint must be served at least three to five days before an eviction hearing is scheduled.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgment and get a Judgment for Possession
A landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against their tenant in order to win. Should the tenant fail to show up to the hearing, the landlord may win by default.
The tenant has a 3-day period to request a new trial, but they still have to move out of the property.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and filed an answer
In an Oklahoma eviction process, the tenant is not required to file an answer, but they may do so if they wish. During the court hearing, the landlord has to support their Forcible Entry and Detainer action with evidence and show it to the judge. This includes, but is not limited by the following:
- Copy of the deed and the lease/rental agreement
- Rent receipts
- Rent ledgers
- Bank statements
- Witness statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations committed by the tenant
An eviction hearing is scheduled within 5-10 days after the Summons was issued.
An eviction hearing is scheduled within 5-10 days after the landlord filed the complaint. The tenant has 3 days to request a new trial after the judgment is passed in favor of the landlord.
1. After the landlord wins the case and gets a Writ of Execution
Once the landlord wins the case and provided the tenant does not file for an appeal or reconsideration, the court will issue a Writ of Execution upon the landlord's request.
The Writ of Execution is a court order which informs the tenant that they must move out of their housing on the property within 48 hours after the Writ is delivered to them in person. If the tenant fails to do so, they will be forcibly evicted.
2. Move out process
This final step in the eviction process is to move the tenant out of their housing on the property. Tenants have a maximum of 48 hours to vacate the property after receiving the Writ of Execution.
Only law enforcement officials can remove the tenant from the property.
There is no specific timeline outlined by the law. The Writ of Assistance may be issued within a few hours to a few days while the move-out period can take a few days to a few weeks.
Oklahoma Eviction Process Timeline
Evicting a family member follows the same process as all other evictions. If it is about nonpayment of rent, the notice must still allow them to pay rent within 5 days. The same goes if they committed a lease violation and so on.
The landlord must give a notice to the tenant because they can only start filing for eviction if the notice period has expired and the tenant does not pay past due rent nor fix their violation—whichever the reason for eviction is.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part of the eviction process can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, can occupy a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on which could be used to show the schedule of payments.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also, show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation, which could be used in the court case in your favor.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can you kick someone out without an eviction notice?
No. A landlord can be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant. Consequences can include being sued twice the monthly rental average or actual damages, whichever is greater.
Plus, the statute can also cover the tenant's court costs.
Can you evict a tenant without a lease in Oklahoma?
Yes, but you still have to go through the regular process for evictions by providing an appropriate written notice. Tenants without a lease falls under tenant at-will so make sure you give the right eviction notice.
What are the potential penalties for a self-help eviction?
According to the Oklahoma Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What other laws should I be aware of?
Landlords must be aware of any updates regarding COVID-19 Eviction Policies as dictated by the CDC. Due to COVID-19, some states have implemented an eviction moratorium or the government may be offering rent relief efforts to help tenants in eviction protection.
Landlords must also check out information about laws on Security Deposits so that they understand how it can help them in case their tenants are unable to pay for rent or repairs.