The eviction process is one of the greatest downsides to owning a rental property. Not only is it a stressful experience, but it can also be painful and incredibly cumbersome. Because of this, it’s crucial to know how to navigate the eviction process both legally and effectively in order to be successful as a rental property owner.
In this blog post, we will recap our latest webinar in which we discussed the eviction process from start to finish.
Reasons to Evict a Tenant From Your Rental Property
There are a few reasons to evict a tenant from your rental property. First, and certainly most common, is non-payment of rent. The second reason you may find yourself having to evict a tenant is a violation of other lease terms. This could be unreported maintenance issues, failure to care for the yard, and any other violations.
The final reason to evict a tenant from your rental property is for any type of illegal activity.
Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
The Oklahoma State Courts Network says this:
The district court shall have jurisdiction to try all actions for the forcible entry and detention, or detention only, of real property, and claims for the collection of rent or damages to the premises, or claims arising under the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
This is simply another way of saying that a Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) can be granted for failure to pay rent or another violation of the lease.
Starting the Eviction Process
To evict a tenant under any circumstance, you’ll need a lease or other legal document. This will need to explain what back rent is owed or what clause of the lease is being violated. You cannot evict a tenant if you do not have a lease in writing.
If you don’t have a current lease for your property, you are technically in a month-to-month rental situation. This is a great example of why it is important to maintain an updated lease for each of your properties, regardless of the agreement you have with that tenant.
No matter the reason for the eviction, you will need to deliver the eviction notice in one of two ways. First, you can serve the notice in person to the tenant of the property. You can also deliver the notice to any family member of the tenant over the age of 12 years old who is residing with the tenant.
In some situations, serving the notice in person is not an option. Instead, you can post the notice in a conspicuous place on the dwelling unit. Once this is complete, you will then mail a notice to the tenant using certified mail. Certified Mail provides you with the proof that you need in court to prove that you mailed the notice.
Evicting for Non-Payment of Rent
If you are evicting your tenant for non-payment of rent, the first step is to issue a five-day pay or quit notice. Generally speaking, we will send a pay or quit notice on the sixth day of the month except for extenuating circumstances.
This notice simply states that you have five days to pay the rent total. If the tenant does not pay the rent that is due, the eviction process will begin.
Evicting for Other Lease Violations
If you are evicting your tenant for other lease violations (otherwise known as “material non-compliance”), the first step is to issue a 10-15 notice that tells the resident that they have 10 days to remedy the breach of the lease or the lease will terminate in 15 days.
Evicting for Illegal Activity
The process of evicting a tenant for illegal activity is a bit different. As a landlord, you may execute immediate eviction if there is illegal activity such as crime or drugs. In this type of situation, the landlord will only have to provide a 24-hour notice of eviction. Once this is complete, you can file the necessary court paperwork.
Filing the Eviction in Court
If the rent is not paid or if the violation is not abated per the 10-15 day notice, then the landlord must go to the courthouse downtown and file the affidavit and summons to appear in court.
This advises the tenant that they have been sued and that they should appear in court should they choose to do so. It is an affidavit of forcible entry and detainer, which amounts to a small claims lawsuit.
The landlord must serve the filed affidavit to the tenant. This can be done either by hiring the sheriff’s office to serve the affidavit or by hiring a private licensed process server. This cost for this service is generally between $50-100. If the individual who serves the affidavit is not licensed, it will not be valid.
Following the serving of the affidavit, you will receive a court date that will take place in a small claims court. The landlord or an attorney representative for the landlord must show up in court on the assigned day so they can represent the plaintiff (landlord) in the case.
It the defendant (tenant) fails to show up to the court date, the eviction is uncontested. The landlord is then granted possession of the property. If the defendant does show up, there could be a judgment for possession of the property.
Executing the Eviction
If the Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) is granted, the plaintiff (landlord) must return to the courthouse a few days later to have the judge sign an execution. The execution grants the landlord the right to schedule the lockout.
This execution has to be served either by hiring the Sheriff’s office or by hiring a private licensed process server. This execution notice gives the tenant 48 hours notice to vacate the property.
After the 48-hour lockout notice and execution are served, the landlord is legally granted possession of the property. At this time, you are able to enter the property, change the locks, etc.
Unfortunately, it is not always this easy. There are times when the tenant may refuse to leave the property with the 48-hour period. This type of situation has the potential to become violent or dangerous. For this reason, it is wise to work with the Sheriff until you are sure that the tenant has vacated the property.
If the tenant refuses to leave the property, the Sheriff will need to enforce the 48-hour notice to vacate. Oftentimes, the landlord will accompany the Sheriff at this time to unlock the property.
It’s important to realize that the Sheriff will not enforce the notice unless they previously served the notice. If you think that the eviction has the potential to become an ugly situation, it is wise to have the Sheriff serve the execution notice as opposed to a private licensed process server.
Finishing the Eviction Process
Once the eviction is complete and the tenant is out of the property, the property is ready to clean, fix up, and re-rent to a more ideal tenant. This might include property repairs, deep cleaning, important maintenance, or other repairs. It’s rare to have an eviction where you are left with a clean property. You can account for varying states of disarray.
As soon as you have completed these repairs, you can put your property back on the market to start making money once again!
Avoiding the Eviction Process
In an ideal world, we would be able to avoid the eviction process completely. Unfortunately, this is not entirely possible. However, there are a few ways to minimize the likelihood of having to navigate this frustrating process.
Hire a Property Management Company
One of the primary reasons we have property owners contact us at Keyrenter Tulsa is that they have found themselves needing to evict a tenant. When you work with a property management company to lease your property, you have a professional who can handle the eviction process from start to finish if the need should arise.
Properly Screen Your Tenants
Of course one of the best ways to avoid the need for eviction is to properly screen your tenants. We utilize an incredibly thorough screening process to ensure that our property owners have tenants who will respect their properties. Although this screening process is not foolproof, we have found that it plays a large role in decreasing the need for evictions.
You can read more about our best practices for screening tenants here.
Thank you for reading more about the eviction process! As always, we are available to answer any questions you have regarding the property management services we offer at Keyrenter Tulsa. We look forward to hearing from you!