This is the next article in our Oklahoma Commercial Landlord Tenant Law series.  The last article listed some commonly occurring issues that we will address in this series.  In this article, we will guide you through the intricacies of evicting a commercial tenant. We have broken down the entire process into several steps to help landlords understand their rights and navigate the legal nuances with confidence.

Identify the reason for commercial eviction

Your journey begins with pinpointing the specific reason for evicting the commercial tenant.  This clarity is crucial, as it dictates the type of notice you need to serve under the law.  Common reasons include non-payment of rent, lease violations, and the desire to pursue other endeavors with the property.

For example, consider the scenario where the tenant falls behind on rent, resulting in overdue payments.  Despite your communication efforts, the issue remains unresolved and you would like to regain possession of your property.  Alternatively, a tenant might breach lease terms prompting you to serve the proper notice as per the lease agreement.  Even after the notice the tenant fails to rectify the issue.  Similarly, you may have a month-to-month tenancy arrangement that you wish to terminate to regain the property to pursue other endeavors.

Serve the proper notice to terminate the commercial lease

Next, it’s crucial to note that before you can file an eviction lawsuit, you must ensure that the tenancy has been terminated.  The reason is simple: if any type of tenancy exists, then it means that the tenants have a legal right to be there – and your eviction action will fail.  Serving proper notice and waiting for the required period terminates the lease agreement.  Enabling you to file an eviction action.

If you are in the middle of a lease, where the term hasn’t expired yet, and the rent is past due, you must serve a 5-day written notice to quit – if the tenant is behind on rent for less than three months.  But, a 10-day written notice to quit is required if the tenant is behind on their rent for three months or more.  After these notices have been served, the tenant has five (5) and ten (10) days respectively to pay the past-due rent.  If they don’t, the landlord can terminate the lease and file for eviction.

A 30-day notice is required if you have an at-will tenancy.  At-will tenancy is just another way of saying month-to-month tenancy.  So, if you have a month-to-month tenancy or have no written agreement where the tenant pays you once a month, you have an at-will tenancy.  If this is the case then you must serve a 30-day notice.  By serving this notice and waiting for 30 days, you effectively terminate such tenancy and are legally allowed to file for eviction.  We see this scenario in situations where a landlord wishes to do something else with the property and would like to legally regain possession.

Oklahoma Commercial landlord-tenant law is not as extensive and detailed as its residential counterpart.  The law does not outline the process of notifying the tenant in case of a lease term violation.  Therefore, you must review the lease agreement itself to understand specific notice requirements and procedures that must be followed when a violation occurs.  If you are a landlord dealing with a lease violation, refer to your rental agreement to educate yourself on the requirements and to ensure an appropriate course of action is taken.  If the violation is not rectified within the time as outlined in the lease, and if the contract allows it, you may choose to terminate the lease.

However, there are some scenarios where a notice may not be required to end the tenancy.  If the lease agreement has a specific expiration date when the tenancy will end, no notice is necessary after that date.  Similarly, if a tenant who has a month-to-month arrangement commits waste (physical damage, unauthorized alteration, neglect, lack of maintenance, etc.), then no notice is required.  Likewise, if a tenant continues occupying the property after the lease term expires without your permission, no notice to quit is required.  In these cases, you may file an eviction action immediately.

File an eviction lawsuit, serve the tenant, and attend the hearing before a judge

With proper notice served, proceed to file a Forcible Entry and Detainer Action (eviction lawsuit) against the tenant.  This is done by filing the lawsuit in court.  During this, the clerk will issue the summon and set a court date.

While a landlord can personally deliver a notice to quit to the tenant, it’s important to remember that they cannot personally serve the summons.  It must be done by a sheriff or a professional process server at least three (3) days before the hearing date.

At the hearing, both parties must appear before the judge and explain their side of the story.  The judge after listening to the testimony from both sides and reviewing relevant evidence will make a judgment.  If the judge agrees with you he or she will sign the journal entry, also called the eviction order.  This order must be filed with the court clerk.

If you would like law enforcement to remove the tenant from the property, you may do so by presenting the eviction order to the court clerk and paying for a Sheriff’s writ.  The sheriff will serve the writ to the tenant, providing them 48 hours to vacate voluntarily before executing forced removal.

Hire Niroula Law to take care of your commercial landlord-tenant issues

I hope this article was helpful in briefly explaining the commercial eviction process under Oklahoma law.  The eviction proceeding itself is pretty straightforward.  However, it contains several procedural steps, and any minor oversight may cause the case to be dismissed costing you unnecessary time and money.  We are well-versed in Oklahoma landlord-tenant laws and have successfully helped many landlords in Oklahoma, Cleveland, and Grady County.  We take care of the entire process from beginning to end which includes serving the notice, filing the petition, serving the summons, attending the hearing, and filing of the writ.  Contact us today online or via telephone to get in touch with a real estate law firm to talk to a commercial landlord-tenant lawyer.