How to Evict a Tenant (Process)
Oklahoma State law requires that a landlord issues a written notice to a tenant before an eviction lawsuit can be filed. A tenant may be evicted for non-payment of rent, violation of rules and regulations of the lease, violation of the tenant’s obligations, or criminal activity. The landlord is not permitted to cut utilities, change the locks, or make the rental property insecure to remove a tenant or force them to comply. Eviction is only legal if a court order has been issued. Even with a court order, the tenant may only be forcibly removed by a law enforcement officer.
Step 1 – Notice to Quit
To begin the eviction process, the landlord must fill out the appropriate notice form. These are five (5) types of eviction notices in Oklahoma:
5 Day Notice to Quit – Used when a tenant has failed to pay rent and provides them with five (5) days to either pay the rent or vacate the unit.
15 Day Notice to Quit – Provides the tenant with ten (10) days to cure the violations. If the tenant doesn’t remedy the violations within ten (10) days, they will have five (5) days to vacate.
7 Day Notice to Terminate – For week-to-week tenancies; gives the tenant seven (7) days notice before their lease is terminated.
30 Day Notice to Terminate – Used to inform a month-to-month tenant of the landlord’s intention to terminate the lease agreement.
Immediate Notice to Quit – Used when a tenant has committed a crime on the premises, damaged the property, or has been a menace to other tenants. The form gives the tenant an unconditional notice to vacate the rental property or be removed by court order.
Step 2 – Serve the Notice to Quit
The landlord must serve the notice on the tenant personally or send it by certified mail with a copy posted on the premises of the unit. If the tenant is not on the property at the time of delivery, the notice may be left with another resident who is at least fifteen (15) years old. The landlord should keep copies of the notice for their records.
Step 3 – Prepare Summons and Complaint
If the tenant fails to comply with the notice, the landlord can file an eviction action in court. To open an eviction case, the landlord will need to file a Summons and a Complaint (also known as a Petition or Affidavit) form. The Summons informs the tenant of the date and time to appear in court and the Complaint details the specifics of the case against them. These forms can be obtained from the court in which the case is being filed. Examples of different county Summons and Complaint forms are provided below.
Canadian County — Summons
Oklahoma County — Petition and Summons
The landlord will need to fill out the Complaint and provide their personal information on the Summons form before submitting them to the court. In addition to these papers, the plaintiff (the landlord) must file a Civil Cover Sheet and an Affidavit As To Military Service for the eviction action to be processed. The affidavit will attest to whether the tenant has a record of military service and in what capacity. The cover sheet is used to identify the landlord (the plaintiff), the tenant (the defendant), and the type of case.
Step 4 – File Forms With Clerk
The eviction lawsuit must be filed directly with the Small Claims Court Clerk for the District Court of the county in which the rental property is located. In Oklahoma, an eviction action is referred to as a “Forcible Entry and Detainer.” The court will charge a filing fee, which varies depending on the location and how much the landlord is seeking in damages.
Step 5 – Serve Summons and Complaint
After the papers have been filed, the tenant will be served copies of the Summons and Complaint. The tenant must be served these documents at least three (3) days before the hearing date. If they do not, the hearing may be rescheduled. Furthermore, the Summons and Complaint must be delivered to the tenant by a private process server or Sheriff, and cannot be served by the landlord.
Step 6 – Attend Hearing
Both the landlord and tenant must attend the court hearing at the appointed date and time. If the tenant is not present, it will most likely result in a default judgment against them. At the hearing, both parties will have the chance to present their case to the judge. If a judgment is made in favor of the landlord, the tenant will be ordered to vacate the rental property and may be required to pay damages to the landlord.
Step 7 – Remove Tenant
If the tenant does not comply with the court order by moving out, the landlord must file a request with the court to regain possession of their property and have the tenant to be physically evicted by a Sheriff. The court will issue a Writ of Execution directed to the Sheriff who will then post a notice to vacate (or “Warning Letter”) which gives the tenant forty-eight (48) hours to move out. If the tenant still does not move out, the sheriff will remove the tenant from the property. Any belongings left behind by the tenant should be kept for thirty (30) days (at the tenant’s expense) to make retrieval possible.