A lease term runs for a specific period of time, usually anywhere between 6 months and a year. When a tenant signs it, they obligate themselves to pay rent for the entire period of the lease, whether or not they live there.
Life may happen, though, and your tenant may need to break their lease early. What are you to do in such a scenario? As a landlord, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations between a landlord and a tenant that apply when a tenant breaks their lease early.
In this article, we’ll go over the unjustified and justified reasons for early lease termination. This way, you’ll be well-informed on your rights should you encounter such a scenario.
Rental Agreement in Oklahoma
Drafting a solid lease agreement is key to a stress-free landlord experience. You should make sure that it includes all important terms in order to avoid any potential conflicts or misunderstandings in the future. One important term your lease should have is the minimum notice requirements before a tenant can break their lease.
The following are the notice requirements in the state of Oklahoma.
- A 7-days’ written notice for tenants looking to end a week-to-week lease.
- A 30-days’ written notice for tenants looking to terminate a month-to-month lease.
Tenants on a fixed-term lease don’t have to provide any prior notice. That’s because the end date is clear. (41 OK Stat § 41-111(C)).
A tenant looking to serve a termination notice to their landlord must use a specific delivery method. They must not do it in person. Rather, they must send it to the landlord by mailing it via certified mail.
Do landlords in Oklahoma have a responsibility to re-rent the unit after a tenant has left? Yes! The law requires that you use reasonable means to find a new tenant for the remaining period under the lease. A comprehensive lease should also state whether a tenant has a right to sublet or not.
Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Oklahoma
Some reasons generally don’t offer enough justification to release a tenant from their lease obligations. Resultantly, the tenant gets no protection against potential penalties. The following are some examples of unjustified reasons a tenant can use to break their lease.
- The tenant bought a home.
- The tenant got separated or divorced and moved out.
- The tenant is upsizing or downsizing.
- The tenant is moving in with their partner.
- The tenant is relocating to a new town for work.
Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Oklahoma
As a landlord in Oklahoma, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with the legally justified reasons a tenant can use to break their lease. The following are a handful of scenarios that exist in the state of Oklahoma.
1. Your lease has an early termination clause.
This is a pretty straightforward process for tenants. All they have to do is meet the conditions you’ve listed on the lease in order to terminate their lease.
Generally speaking, early termination clauses require tenants to do two important things in order to qualify for early lease termination. One, the clause requires tenants to pay a penalty fee. Normally, this is the equivalent to the rent of two months. If the rent is, say, $1,000, then the tenant must pay $2,000.
And two, the clause usually requires that the tenant notify the landlord of their intentions one month in advance.
2. The tenant is starting active military duty.
Is your tenant a service member and has been relocated for active service? If so, that may be a legally justified reason for the tenant to break their lease early without penalty. The relocation usually occurs in either of two ways. One, through a deployment; or two, through a permanent change of station.
For the tenant to end their lease successfully, they must adhere to the provisions of the Service Members Civil Relief Act. Among other things, the act requires that the tenant provide a written notice of their intentions, and prove that they intend to stay in active service at least for the next 90 days.
But even with all the requirements met, the lease doesn’t end right away. The earliest it can do so is 30 days after the next rent period has begun. Suppose, for instance, that the tenant served you a notice on the 13th of March.
If rent is due on the 1st of every month, then the earliest the lease can end is on May 1st. Meaning, that the tenant would still be liable to pay the rent of April. In Oklahoma, a service member includes members of the armed forces, activated National Guard, and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service.
3. The unit is no longer habitable.
As a landlord, it’s important that you keep your rental property habitable. Both you and your tenant have certain responsibilities in this regard. If your unit becomes no longer habitable, your tenant can break the lease early. Some of your responsibilities include:
- Making repairs within a reasonable period of time.
- Ensuring heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, sanitary, plumbing, and electrical facilities are working as they should.
- Providing and maintaining the appropriate receptacles for garbage removal.
- Providing running water.
For an exhaustive rundown of your habitability responsibilities, please see OK Stat. § 41-118.
4. You are found to have harassed your tenant.
As a landlord, it’s in your best interests to respect your tenants’ privacy. You’ll want, for instance, to avoid entering your tenant’s unit unannounced. According to Oklahoma law (41 OK Stat. § 41-128(C)), landlords have a responsibility to notify their tenants one day prior to entering.
In addition, you must also have a legitimate reason for entering your tenant’s rented unit. Such reasons include to inspect the unit, or when you need to show it to prospective tenants or lenders.
With this information, you’re now well-versed when it comes to your tenant breaking their lease in Oklahoma. Have more questions? If so, Keyrenter Tulsa has you covered! We provide comprehensive property management solutions to property owners in Tulsa and the surrounding areas.
This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.