This is the next article in our series on Oklahoma Commercial Landlord Tenant Law.  In the last article, we discussed the types of notices that a commercial landlord must serve on the tenant to terminate the tenancy.  This is crucial because you can’t legally file for eviction when the tenancy is still intact.

In this article, we will focus on a recurring issue: the commercial eviction process if there is no lease.  Despite knowing the fact that a written lease agreement is the most favored way to solidify a landlord-tenant relationship, we understand that life happens. If you find yourself amid a landlord-tenant mess and would like to end the tenancy but have no lease for guidance – this article is for you.

Commercial tenancy without a lease

A written agreement is not required to form a landlord-tenant relationship.  However, to address future ambiguity and potential disputes both parties should outline important terms in writing.  A written lease spells out the rights and duties of the parties, outlines the terms, and solidifies the provisions unique to the case.  This point is further highlighted by the fact that Oklahoma law does not address commercial tenancy in depth like its residential counterpart.  Therefore, it’s essential to lay out the terms in writing at the outset so both parties are on the same page from the get-go.

Under Oklahoma law, if a person is in possession of real property with your permission then the person is presumed to be a tenant at will.  It is just another way of saying a month-to-month tenancy.  For instance, if you let a friend who owns a bookstore rent a commercial property and he moves in, you just created a tenancy at will.  Put another way, if you orally agree to let another person rent a commercial space without putting the terms in writing, that person is now a tenant at will. (Title 41-§1).

Similarly, if you let a friend rent a commercial space where he orally agrees to pay rent every month once a month, then you have a month-to-month tenancy.  So the fact that there is no written lease doesn’t mean that you can reclaim possession of the property at any time.  More than likely a tenancy at will exists in such a situation.  Therefore you must follow the notice requirement under Oklahoma law to terminate the tenancy first before you can file for eviction.

Both the tenancies, at-will and month-to-month can be grouped under the same category for notice purposes.  We will discuss this in the next section.

Commercial eviction process without a lease: terminating a tenancy at will

If you don’t have a written lease then you may have a tenancy at will.  As discussed earlier, this is another way of saying a month-to-month lease.  This type of tenancy exists even if the agreement was only oral and never reduced to writing.  The same rule applies when you rent your property out and collect the rent on a once-a-month basis.  Because the law recognizes this tenancy, the tenant has the right to occupy the property unless it is terminated.

If you don’t have a written lease you may have a tenancy at will, also known as a month-to-month tenancy.  Let’s discuss the commercial eviction process when there is no lease.

First, the Commercial Landlord must serve a written 30-day notice to quit on the tenant.  This must be done in one of three ways: by handing the notice to the tenant in person; by handing the notice to another person older than 12 years residing on the premises; or by posting the notice on the property AND  mailing it to the tenant by registered mail.

This notice gives the tenant a reasonable time to find another location or move out.  If the tenant fails to move out within thirty days after the service, then the tenancy is deemed to be terminated. As a result of which the tenant has no right to be on the premises and you may file for eviction.

Second, you must file a Forcible Entry and Detainer Action (eviction) with the court clerk in the county where the property is located.  To reiterate, this action can only be filed after the landlord has served the 30-day notice and waited for 30 days.  At the time of filing, the clerk will issue the summons and give you a court date.

Third, you must serve the summons on the tenant. Unlike the notice to quit, this must be done by the sheriff’s office or a professional process server – and must be done at least three days before the court date.  The summons notifies the tenant that there is an eviction filed against him and lets him know the hearing date and time.

Fourth, it’s imperative that you appear for the hearing prepared to testify and present any evidence that the judge may ask for.  For instance, the Judges are generally strict about the notice requirements.  If the notice is improper, defective, or an adequate time hasn’t passed, then your case may be thrown out.  After hearing the testimony of both sides, the judge will make a ruling.  If he or she agrees with you then an order will be entered in your favor and signed.

Lastly, if you believe that the tenant may not leave on his own accord, you can get the sheriff involved.  By presenting the signed order and paying for a Sheriff’s Writ you can hire the sheriff’s department to forcibly remove the tenant from the premises.

Commercial eviction process without a lease: when rent is past due

If you have a tenancy at will or a month-to-month tenancy where the tenant is behind on rent, you can terminate the lease by serving a 5-day notice to quit – if the tenant is late for less than 3 months.  This serves as a demand on the tenant to pay the past due in full or vacate the premises.  If the past due amount is not paid in full in those 5 days, you have the right to terminate the tenancy.  Similarly, if the tenant is late on rent for three months or more a 10-day notice to quit is required.  These notices eliminate the need to wait for the entire 30 days to file for eviction and is only applicable if rent is past due.  The service and hearing requirements for a 5-day and 10-day notices are the same as the 30-day notice.

Hire Niroula Law for your commercial landlord-tenant needs

Whether you need assistance with drafting a commercial lease or resolving a tenant issue, we are here to help.  Niroula Law is experienced in Oklahoma landlord-tenant laws and has represented clients like you in many Counties.  Contact us today online or by telephone to reach out to an Oklahoma real estate law firm to speak to a commercial landlord-tenant lawyer.