Any way you slice it, eviction proceedings can be tough and emotions run high regardless of who you are, a Landlord or a Tenant. After you have served the required notice to the Tenant, waited for the required number of days, and filed the eviction action (also known as a Forcible Entry and Detainer) – it’s now time for you to appear before the judge for the eviction hearing. During the hearing, things may sometimes get heated, emotional, or go on an unnecessary tangent, this is precisely why it’s important to take the following precautionary measures and not end up making these 5 mistakes.

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(1) Not listing all the co-tenants on the Notice, Petition, and Summons: This may seem like a harmless error, but if the co-tenant is listed on the lease agreement you must add him or her to the requisite notice, petition, and summons. If you fail to do so and the judge rules in your favor, the eviction order will only be good against the person whose name is listed on the petition. So legally, after you file the writ, the Sheriff is only allowed to forcibly remove the person whose name is listed on the petition. This means that the co-tenant may not be legally removed from the property. To avoid creating these types of scenarios, you must be careful to make sure that all the co-tenants on the lease are listed on the notice, petition, and summons.

(2) Not bringing the lease agreement with you: This may seem like a rookie mistake, but it happens all the time. The last thing you need while you are trying to argue your case in front of the judge is not being able to present the lease when the judge asks for it. The lease agreement contains vital information such as the tenant’s name, property address, lease terms, rent amount, etc. Therefore, it’s very likely for the judge to ask to see the lease agreement at the eviction hearing, and if you are unable to produce the lease, you are only making it hard for the judge to rule in your favor. The failure to bring the lease agreement with you may cause the judge to continue the hearing for another time where you will be directed to bring the lease with you, or even worse he or she may rule against you. There are some instances where a written lease agreement does not exist, for example in a month-to-month tenancy, or a tenancy at will, as long as you show up for the hearing and can testify as to the existence of such tenancies. Oklahoma Landlords, make sure you don’t show up at the eviction hearing without a copy of the lease agreement, having a copy of the lease at the hearing helps move the process along smoother, saving you time and money in the long run.

(3) Not showing up on time: This seems like the most obvious one, but I see it day in and day out, landlords are either late for the hearing or do not show up at all. Life happens and the judge understands that, if you are running a few minutes behind and you call the judge’s clerk to let them know, the judge may be fine with waiting for a bit while you make it to the court. But remember, never assume the judge will be fine if you walked in after the initial name call has been completed. It’s your duty to be there on time for the hearing on the day and the hour that was set by the court clerk at the time of the filing of the petition. Set your alarm clock, have someone remind you, and do whatever is necessary to make sure you arrive at the court on time. It’s imperative that you show up to the court on the day of your hearing, on time with all necessary testimony and witness – it gets the hearing off to a good start, plus you can’t win if you don’t show up.

(4) Not bringing a military affidavit: Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a Landlord is required to submit an affidavit stating whether the Tenant is in the military or not, and documents supporting such statements. The Act protects members of the military who are on active duty for the nation’s defense from getting their rights violated because of the service. Therefore, even if the tenant does not show up to the hearing, the judge may still deny you an eviction order until you submit a military affidavit stating that the Tenant is not in military service. Many small claim courts offer these types of pre-printed forms which you may fill out while you are at the hearing. However, it’s always a good idea to take one with you for good measure – you don’t want the lack of a military affidavit to be the reason for the judge’s refusal to sign the order.

(5) Not bringing the proof that shows a failure to pay rent, or other lease violations: You may file for eviction for a few different reasons including failure to pay rent when due, breach of lease terms, and holdover situations just to name a few. You must include a legal basis for eviction on the notice, petition, and summons – Additionally, you must also be ready to prove the legal grounds you stated are true. For example, if the Tenant has failed to pay rent when it’s due, you may introduce an account ledger that shows the lack of payments for the respective months. Or, a bank statement showing that no deposits have been made for those particular months may suffice. If the Tenant fails to comply with a term of the lease, and the non-compliance is not cured 10 days after being notified, you may initiate the eviction proceeding and at the hearing introduce documents, pictures, testimony, or witnesses showing that such breach occurred. These are only a couple of examples, but the point here is to be ready to present some type of evidence, either through testimony, witnesses, pictures, etc. that helps you prove the legal grounds for eviction. If you are unable to prove the legal grounds on which the eviction proceeding is based, it’s very likely that the judge will not rule in your favor.

Can I have an Attorney appear at the hearing on my behalf?

Absolutely, you can hire an attorney to attend the hearing on your behalf and to make sure the required paperwork has been filed, and necessary evidence has been presented at the hearing, thereby putting you at ease and giving you peace of mind. Vivid Niroula is an experienced Landlord lawyer based in OKC who has a solid understanding of Oklahoma Landlord Tenant laws and the eviction process in Oklahoma County. If you need help with your eviction process please contact our law office by calling (405) 456-9250, or by filling out the Contact Us Form.