Real Estate Law Questions and Answers
BASIC RULE: YOU MUST ACT IN GOOD FAITH
As a residential landlord in Oklahoma, you must comply with a number of obligations to your tenant which cannot be altered by your lease agreement. Here are answers to some questions you may have.
Q: What are my obligations to have the premises vacant for a tenant at the commencement of the lease?
A: At the commencement of the lease, you are obligated to deliver full possession of the premises to the tenant in compliance with the rental agreement. If some other person is wrongfully in possession of the premises, you may bring an action for possession against that person and recover damages.
Q: What are my obligations as to security deposits?
A: As a landlord, you may require a security deposit for damages occurring during the lease term. You must keep the deposit in an escrow account in a federally insured institution in the State of Oklahoma. Misappropriation of the fund is a misdemeanor. After the lease has ended, if the tenant makes written demand within six months, you are required to refund the unused portion of the deposit within 30 days. Any deductions for damages or unpaid rent must be itemized in a written statement, delivered to the tenant in person or by mail with return receipt requested. If the tenant does not make written demand for the deposit within six months after the lease is ended, you may keep the deposit.
If you sell or otherwise transfer the property, you must either:
Q: What are my obligations as to condition of the premises?
A tenant may agree to perform specified repairs, maintenance tasks, alterations or remodeling by a "conspicuous" writing, separate from the rental agreement. If, however, this agreement is to avoid your responsibilities under the law, you may not be acting in "good faith." A landlord may have to comply with local building code ordinances.
Q: What are my tenant’s remedies for defective condition of the premises?
A: If there are defects in the premises which affect health and/or safety, and they have not been caused by your tenant, or some person or animal on the premises with your tenant's consent, your tenant may give you written notice of the defect. The notice may state one of the following options:
If you willfully or negligently fail to provide an essential service (heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas, etc.,) your tenant may:
If the premises are in such bad condition that they pose an immediate threat to health and safety, your tenant may give you written notice. If you do not repair as soon as conditions require, the tenant may immediately end the lease by giving written notice. Please note that termination of the lease is but one of the remedies available to a tenant in the event of a landlord’s default under the terms of a lease. A tenant may still file a lawsuit against a landlord for any damages that may arise for any failure on the part of the landlord to remedy defective conditions on the premises.
Q: May I adopt rules and regulations to govern the use of the premises?
A: You may, from time to time, adopt rules and regulations for the convenience, peace, safety and welfare of all tenants. Such rules must apply fairly to all tenants, and be clearly understandable by the tenants. The rules must not be an attempt to evade your obligations under the law. Tenants must be given notice of all rules and regulations at the time they enter into lease agreements, or at the time the rule is adopted.
If a new rule substantially changes the tenant's rights under the lease, the tenant will not be bound by the rule without consenting to it in writing.
Q: Do I have duties of notification?
A: You must, in the rental agreement, prominently give your tenants written notice of the name and address of the person entitled to accept service or notices. This may be the owner, the manager, or a person authorized to accept service and notices. The information must be kept current. In the event of non-compliance, the person making the lease agreement with the tenant assumes all of the obligations of a landlord. Also, as a landlord, you are required to disclose to potential tenants if there has been drug activity in the house or apartment.
Q: What can I do with property left by a tenant in a dwelling?
A: If the property has no value, you may discard it. If the property has value, you must give notice to the tenant that they must pick up the property within 30 days or the property will be deemed abandoned. If the tenant does not claim the property within the time period in the notice, you may dispose of it in any manner which you deem reasonable and proper. You must store the property during the 30-day period in a safe location and use reasonable care to protect the property. If the tenant removes the personal property, you may charge the tenant a reasonable storage amount and other costs accrued under the rental agreement.
Q: What are my tenant's obligations?
A: Your tenant must keep the living area clean and safe; dispose of trash properly; keep plumbing fixtures clean; use facilities safely; avoid deliberate or careless damage to the premises; avoid disturbing other tenants, and comply with lease provisions and valid rules and regulations.
Q: What if my tenant does not comply with these obligations?
A: If the non-compliance can be remedied by repair, replacement or cleaning, you may give written notice to the tenant that if the defect is not cured in 10 days, you as landlord will take the necessary action and add the cost to the rent. The lease will not terminate.
If the non-compliance affects health and safety, you may notify the tenant the lease will terminate upon a date not less than 15 days after receipt of notice unless remedied within 10 days from receipt.
If there is an imminent threat of harm, the non-compliance must be remedied as soon as conditions require, or the lease may be terminated immediately.
Q: Do I have the right to enter a tenant's dwelling unit?
A: You have a right to enter in a reasonable manner at reasonable times to inspect, make repairs, supply services, or show the premises to purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen or contractors. Unless there is an emergency, you should give at least one day's notice to your tenant of your intent to enter. If you harass your tenant, the tenant may enjoin your actions and recover damages.
Q: How can a tenant's lease be terminated?
A: If the lease has a specified termination date, the lease cannot be ended prematurely unless the tenant fails to pay rent, or defaults in an obligation under the lease which is not cured after receiving notice from the landlord, as explained above.
If the rent is not paid when due, you may give written demand for payment in five days. If the amount is not paid, you may immediately sue for eviction. You may not change the locks to keep your tenant out of the dwelling.
If the lease is month-to-month or a tenancy-at-will basis, it may be ended by you or the tenant at any time by giving 30 days notice prior to the effective date of the termination.
If the lease is on a week-to-week basis, only a week's notice is necessary.
Q: What if a tenant moves out before the end of the term?
A: Under the law, you have an obligation to mitigate damages. This means that you must use reasonable means to find a new tenant for the balance of the term. If you do not, the lease is considered ended as of the date you have notice of abandonment, and you cannot collect anything from your tenant. If you try to re-rent and cannot find a tenant, or find one who pays a lesser amount of rent, your original tenant will be liable to you for the amount of your loss.
Q: What if a tenant fails to move out when the term is up?
A: If the tenant remains in possession without your consent, you may immediately sue for eviction and damages. You may also collect twice the amount of the rent, pro-rated on a daily basis, if the tenant's holdover is not in good faith.
Q: What if provisions of the lease agreement differ from the law?
A: Any provision which conflicts with a mandatory part of the law is unenforceable.
Q: Am I liable to my tenant for flood damages?
A: If your premises have been flooded within five years, and you know of this, you must include this in your lease, or you will be liable to your tenants for flood damages.
The law of Landlord-Tenant is quite complex. This page attempts to outline some of the rights and obligations of the landlord in a residential lease. You should not rely on this to solve detailed legal problems. Only your attorney can give you the specific advice you may need to help you with your legal problems as a landlord. Please note that, in addition to Oklahoma law, federal law may apply to residential leases in certain situations (i.e. Section 8 tenants, etc.). You should always consult an attorney to ensure compliance with these laws.
Residential tenant's rights and responsibilities
RULE NUMBER ONE: Put It In Writing!
RULE NUMBER TWO: Act In Good Faith!
As a residential tenant in Oklahoma, you have rights and duties relating to your home or apartment which cannot be bargained away in your lease. The residential Landlord-Tenant Law provides the legal framework for your lease and your relations with your landlord. Here are answers to some questions you may have.
Q: What if my dwelling is not open to me at the beginning of my lease?
A: By giving written notice to your landlord you may end your lease and have your prepaid rent or deposit returned.
Q: What happens to my security deposit?
A: Your landlord can require a security deposit; it must be kept in a federally insured account in Oklahoma, separate from the landlord's own funds. You, as tenant, must request the return of the money in writing within six months after your lease is ended. Tenant should provide landlord with a forwarding address or new address where deposit is to be mailed. The landlord must return it, with a written explanation of any deduction for damages or rent owing, within 30 days after your written request. If you do not request a refund in writing, the landlord may keep your money once the six months is up.
If your landlord sells the house or apartment, you must receive:
Q: What services am I entitled to?
Q: What do I do if my landlord does not make necessary repairs or provide necessary services?
A: You must give your landlord written notice of any needed repairs to keep your living quarters safe and healthy (It is recommended that written notice be mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, when possible).
Your choices (if the defect affects safety or health):
Q: Who is liable for personal property (beds, electronics, furniture, clothing) that is damaged or destroyed by water from a leaky roof or broken pipe?
A: Generally, a landlord will not be liable for damage to personal property arising from a leaky roof or broken pipe. Most rental contracts provide that the tenant is responsible for these losses and the courts enforce the landlord's position. The best solution is for the renter to purchase a renter's insurance policy.
Q: Can my landlord make rules that are not in my lease? Can they be changed?
A: Your landlord can make rules and regulations as to use of the premises which apply fairly to all tenants. Any rule must relate to convenience, safety or welfare of tenants, and tenants must have notice of such rules.
If a new rule changes your lease in a material way, you will not be subject to the rule unless you consent to it in writing.
Q: To whom do I give notices?
A: Your landlord must give you information in writing as to the name and address of the owner, manager or other person who is authorized to accept notices from tenants. This must be kept current. If this disclosure is not made, the person who signs your lease, as landlord, has all the duties of a landlord and must accept notices and make repairs.
Q: What if I move out and leave property in my living unit?
A: Your landlord may dispose of worthless property. He may store your property; you must pay storage costs if you want it returned. If you do not remove your property in 30 days, it will be deemed abandoned and the landlord may dispose of the property in any manner deemed reasonable and proper. You may be required to pay storage costs and other costs accrued under the rental agreement in order to obtain your property.
Q: What are my responsibilities as tenant?
A: You must keep your own living area clean and safe, dispose properly of all trash, keep plumbing fixtures clean, use facilities safely and not deliberately or carelessly destroy anything which belongs to the landlord. You must comply with your lease and all proper rules and not allow anything to be done which would disturb other tenants.
Q: What can the landlord do if I do not meet my responsibilities?
Q: Can the landlord come in my home without permission?
A: The landlord can enter in a reasonable way at reasonable times to inspect, make repairs, supply necessary services, to show the building to purchasers, tenants, workmen, etc. Unless there is an emergency, the landlord should give you at least one day's notice of intent to enter.
Q: Can the landlord end my lease?
A: If you have a lease with a specific expiration date, your landlord cannot evict you before that date unless you fail to pay rent, or otherwise default in some obligation under your lease which you fail to cure after receiving proper notice from the landlord.
If you do not pay your rent within five days after written notice of your landlord's written demand for payment, your landlord may terminate your rental agreement.
If you have a typical month-to-month lease, the landlord must give you 30 days written notice or you can give the landlord 30 days written notice to end the lease, but it must be 30 days prior to the end of any given month. For example, if a 30 day notice to vacate a month-to-month tenancy was given on March 3, the tenant would have until the last day of April to vacate. Likewise, the tenant must give the same type of notice of his desire to terminate or otherwise be obligated for the written payment through the end of April, as in the other example.
If it is a “tenancy at will,” a 30-day notice to either the landlord or tenant to end the lease may be given at any time.
If you have a week-to-week lease, the same rule applies, but you need only give or receive one week's notice.
Q: What if I fail to move when my lease is up?
A: Your landlord may immediately sue for your eviction and damages. The landlord also may collect twice the amount of rent if your holdover is not in good faith. If the landlord consents, you may stay on as a month-to-month tenant.
Q: What if my lease has provisions which are different from the law?
A: The law provides that any provision which conflicts with the Landlord-Tenant Act is unenforceable.
Q: Can the landlord deny or terminate a tenancy because of a blind person’s guide dog?
A: Not unless guide dogs are specifically prohibited in the rental agreement and such rental agreement was entered into prior to Nov. 1, 1985.
Q: Am I protected from flood damage?
A: If the landlord knows that the premises have been flooded in the last five years, you must be told about the flooding in your lease. You may sue for damages to your property if you are not advised of past flooding.
Q. What else should I know?
A. If a landlord knows that any part of the dwelling unit was used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, the landlord must disclose this information to a prospective tenant unless the landlord has had the level of contamination checked and it is within the limits allowed.
A landlord may request that a tenant provide the name, address, and telephone number of a person to contact in the event of the tenant's death. The landlord may also ask that a tenant sign a statement that, in the event of the tenant's death, the named person may enter the dwelling unit to remove the tenant's property and receive the security deposit. If the landlord does not request the information, a tenant may provide the information to the landlord.
The law of Landlord-Tenant is quite complicated. This pamphlet explains some of the basic ideas in simple language; you should not rely on this information to solve detailed problems. Only a lawyer can give you specific information.
Web links of interest for Oklahoma and Arkansas