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Oklahoma residential evictions are governed by the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act ("ORLTA"), codified at 41 Okla. Stat. §§101-136. Evictions are complicated. You are going to need a skilled Oklahoma landlord eviction attorney.
Under the ORLTA, residential landlords can evict a tenant for any number of reasons, the most common of which are:
Oklahoma Landlords CANNOT Use Self-Help Remedies
An Oklahoma landlord is not allowed to use "self-help" to force a tenant to leave the apartment or the rental property. Examples include:
The statutory provisions of the ORLTA regarding forcible entry and detainer provide the exclusive procedure for ousting a tenant. Ramirez v. Baran, 730 P. 2d 515 (Okla. Supreme Court 1986).
If a landlord uses self-help, the tenant can bring suit and recover possession and also recover statutory damages in the amount or two months' rent or twice the actual damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater. 41 Okla. Stat. §§ 121(C) and 123. The tenant may also have other rights and causes of action under common law. Wagoner v. Bennett, 1991 OK 70, 814 P.2d 476 (Okla. Supreme Court 1991).
Oklahoma Eviction Procedures -- Five Steps
As described more fully below, there are generally five steps to evicting your tenant:
1. Give notice to quit
2. File eviction lawsuit
3. Serve tenant with lawsuit
4. Appear in court (possibly several times)
5. Have county sheriff execute a writ of execution if the tenant refuses to vacate
Each step must be followed carefully. For example, if the wrong notice is sent or if the eviction is started too soon, then your case will be dismissed.
Step One: Notice To Quit Must Be Given
The type of notice that a landlord must give depends on the reason for evicting the tenant.
Oklahoma Five-Day Notice or Demand -- Non-payment of Rent
For non-payment of rent, a five-day notice or demand is required under 41 Okla. Stat. § 131(B). The notice must state that rent is due and that the landlord is terminating the lease if the rent is not paid within five days. If the rent remains unpaid, the landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in the small claims court of the county where the rental property exists. Demand for past due rent is deemed a demand for possession of the premises and no further notice to quit
possession need be given by the landlord to the tenant for any purpose. A sample five-day notice can be seen here,
Oklahoma Ten-Day Notice To Quit -- Lease Violation -- Five-Day Waiting Period
Under §§ 126 and 127 of the ORLTA, landlords can impose reasonable rules and regulations. Likewise, tenants have certain obligations like the duty to keep the premises clean and not be too noisy. If an Oklahoma tenant is violating the rules and regulations and/or violating their duties under the ORLTA, then a ten-day notice is required. The notice must inform the tenant how they are violating the lease and inform the tenant that the violations must be remedied within ten days or the lease will be terminated. If the violations are cured, then the lease continues as before. 41 Okla. Stat. §§126, 127 and 132(B).
If the tenant does not cure the violations, there is a five-day waiting period before the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
Oklahoma No-Day Notice of Termination -- Repeat Lease Violation
Any subsequent breach of the lease or noncompliance allows the landlord to immediately terminate the lease and begin eviction proceedings. A "written notice" must be given to the tenant. This is a "no-day-no-cure" type of notice. 41 Okla. Stat. § 132(B).
Oklahoma Notice of Imminent/Irremediable Harm -- Emergencies
Section 132(C) of the ORLTA allows a landlord to immediately file an eviction lawsuit if the tenant is violating the lease in such a manner as “to cause or threaten to cause imminent and irremediable harm to the premises or to any person.” However, notice is required and tenant must correct the violations "as promptly as conditions require." If the tenant does not correct the problem "as promptly as conditions require," the landlord may terminate the rental agreement by immediately filing a forcible entry and detainer action.
This section of the ORLTA is somewhat unclear in that no time frames are provided. Practically speaking, depending on the emergency, the cure period might be as short as 24 to 48 hours. Here is a good example of why you need qualified legal counsel.
Oklahoma No Notice Terminations -- Criminal Activity
Section 132(D) of the ORLTA allows a landlord to immediately file an eviction lawsuit if there is:
In contrast to §132(B), where "written notice" is required for an immediate termination of the lease, §132(D) does not seem to require "written notice." Another example of why it is best to seek qualified legal counsel.
Oklahoma 7-Day and 30-Day Notices To Quit -- Month-To-Month and Week-To-Week Rentals
Under 41 Okla. Stat. § 4, month-to-month leases require a 30-day Notice To Quit and a week-to-week rental requires a 7-day Notice To Quit.
What If My Oklahoma Tenant is Holding Over?
If the tenant holds over and remains in possession after the lease expires, a landlord can begin a lawsuit for possession immediately without notice. But self-help is still not allowed. Ramirez v. Baran, 730 P. 2d 515 (Okla. Supreme Court 1986).
How Do I Serve Notice On My Tenant?
Notice is to be delivered personally to the tenant and, if that cannot be done, then notice must be given to a family member over the age of twelve (12) years residing with tenant. If service cannot be made on the tenant personally or on such family member, notice shall be posted at a conspicuous place on the dwelling unit of the tenant. If the notice is posted, a copy of such notice shall be mailed to the tenant by certified mail. 41 Okla. Stat. § 111(E).
Step 2: Prepare and File the Eviction Lawsuit.
After expiration of the various days required for the notices (5-day or 10-day and the 5-day waiting period), the landlord may begin a lawsuit in the county where the property is located. Eviction lawsuits are called a "Forcible Entry And Detainer Action" -- or "a Forcible" for short and often "FED". 12 Okla. Stat. § 1148.1.
To file the lawsuit, a landlord or the landlord’s attorney must go to the small claims court at county district courthouse and file the following documents:
The filing fee is somewhere between $60 and $135 for the landlord depending on how much back rent is being claimed. Because evictions in Oklahoma are handled as small claims, the process is less formal. Thus, no complaint is needed. The document that begins the eviction lawsuit is the Affidavit Of Forcible Entry And Detainer. The affidavit sets out information about the property, the landlord, names all the persons on the lease and in possession. You do not generally file the lease or the notice. You bring those to court and show them to the judge.
Step Three: Serve The Summons And Complaint.
Service of summons and the complaint is necessary for two reasons: it gives notice to the tenant that a lawsuit has been filed and gives that date, time and place for his or her appearance and such is necessary for the court to gain “personal jurisdiction” over the tenant. Such personal jurisdiction gives the court power over the parties, the rental property and the power to make binding judicial orders.
The summons is personally served by the County Sheriff or by a special process server.
Step Four: Go To Court, Obtain A Judgment and A Writ of Execution
When your eviction case is filed, a trial date is set. That date may be continued if there was no service of summons on the tenant and for other reasons. But on the first trial date (or the one subsequently set), you will appear with your attorney and will have documents and other evidence to show the judge why your tenant is in violation of the lease. You will also bring other witnesses if they help prove your case.
If you are successful in proving your case, then the judge will issue a judgment -- a Journal Entry -- in your favor awarding the following possible types of compensation:
If your tenant does move out immediately (or within the time allowed by the judge), you can prepare a writ of execution. After paying the required fee (about $115-120 as of 2017), the clerk will issue the writ of execution which you then take to the county sheriff. The writ of execution is the order directed to the county sheriff requiring the sheriff to remove the tenant(s). See sample writ here.
Step Five: Have Writ of Execution Posted and Executed
Step five is a two-part process. The first part is delivering/posting by the Sheriff or the landlord a notice of judgment/notice to vacate -- often called a "Warning Letter" -- which advises the tenant that the eviction will take place within 48 hours. Second, the actual eviction is scheduled based on the availability of the Sheriff’s Office and coordination with the landlord. On lockout day, the sheriff deputy will meet the landlord at the property, direct the tenant to leave using force if necessary and allow the landlord to secure the property (board up, change locks).
If the tenant has left household goods, furnishings, or any other personal property in the rental unit, the landlord has certain obligations for 30 days to allow the tenant to retrieve said personal property. Rules regarding tenant's property are governed by 41 Okla. Stat. § 130.
If you are thinking to yourself: “How do I evict my Oklahoma tenant?”, you need to contact a talented and proven Oklahoma landlord eviction attorney. As said at the beginning, every step in the process must be done correctly, must be done according to the ORLTA and must comply with applicable rules of process, procedures and evidence. As we also can see from the discussion above, the ORLTA is unclear in some places, such as how much notice is needed for emergencies. Good eviction lawyers can help and can get your tenant out as fast as possible. Contact an Oklahoma eviction attorney today.