An Oklahoma residential rental lease agreement must contain certain terms and disclosures and be inclusive of your and your tenants obligations under the lease. Your rental agreement is a valid, enforceable contract so long as its terms comply with state and federal laws and is not unreasonable.
Although you need only certain basic provisions, it is to your benefit to include clear, unequivocal language regarding notices and procedures, conduct, renewal and termination procedures.
As a landlord, you have certain responsibilities to your tenants:
- Provide a fit and habitable residence
- Make all necessary repairs to maintain the residence as habitable
- Keep common areas clean and sanitary
- Provide and maintain electricity, water, heat, plumbing, sewage, air conditioning, ventilation and other appliances in good working condition
- Provide trash receptacles
- Install smoke detectors that comply with applicable codes and explain to tenant how to test them
- Heat, running and hot water may not be your responsibility if you have separate metered connections to your various rental units
Pursuant to state and federal anti-discrimination laws, you may not refuse to rent to anyone nor treat current tenants differently based on race, color, creed, religion, gender, familial status or disability or because the applicant or tenant has a service dog. You can turn down a rental application based on the applicant’s poor credit or references, criminal convictions or lack of sufficient income.
Tenants also have basic duties:
- Keep the premises clean and safe and make minor repairs
- Properly dispose of trash
- Use facilities and appliances safely and properly
- Obey the law
- Comply with all lease terms
- Do not disturb other tenants
Though not required, you should provide a copy of the lease to your tenants.
Contents of the Lease
The following terms and disclosures should be in your rental agreement:
- Name of landlord and property manager who is authorized to manage the property, address where rent is to be paid and where request for repairs are to be directed (required)
- Names of the tenants and other occupants—have all adult tenants sign the lease
- Description of the premises
- Term of the lease—weekly, monthly, yearly or other
- Amount of rent, due date, and grace period (no preset late fee is permitted)–you may request prepaid rent of your tenant at the beginning of the tenancy
- Returned check fees—state amount
- Security deposit—no limit, no interest required, funds to be deposited in an escrow account in a federal insured financial institution in Oklahoma; return funds within 30-days of tenant vacating unit or within 6-months of tenant’s request or send written statement with specific reasons for withholding by mail with return receipt requested—recommend you have a mutual inspection of the premises shortly before or after tenant vacates
- Signed, separate statement of the premises’ move-in condition including list of current damages to be given to tenant and signed by tenant after inspecting premises (not required but recommended)
- Obligations of landlord regarding repairs and maintenance and of services provided as indicated above
- Obligations of tenant as noted above—you may include rules of conduct or others that are for the convenience, peace, safety and welfare of all the tenants
- Responsibility for utilities
- Major appliances that are being provided
- No commercial, business or unlawful use of premises by tenant or conduct that constitutes a nuisance or is unlawful
- Pet clause—may limit type of pet, weight and require tenant to clean up pet waste in common areas, ask for deposit
- Subletting clause
- Right of entry by landlord to make repairs, inspect and show to future tenants or purchasers or if the tenant has been causing a disturbance or is otherwise violating the lease—24-hours’ notice is required though you may enter immediately if it is an emergency that threatens the safety of tenants
- Notices regarding termination for nonpayment of rent, other lease violations
- Notice for increasing rent—30 days for a monthly lease (may not be for a discriminatory or retaliatory purpose)
- Disclosure of the presence of any lead-based paint or hazards on the property for rental property built before 1978—both landlord and tenant must sign an EPA-approved disclosure form and the tenant provided an EPA pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”
- Automatic renewal provision unless tenant gives notice to not exercise the option within a certain time before the lease expires (such as 30-days) but you may choose to terminate the lease by giving notice to the tenant according to your notice provision, which may be 30-days before the lease expires
- Disclosure if the unit or premises has been flooded in the past 5 years
- Disclosure if the premises was the site of methamphetamine lab
Depending on your county or municipality, there may be different rules affecting your lease such as requiring interest be paid on a security deposit. Be sure that the lease complies with local ordinances.
Unlawful Lease Provisions
You may not include certain terms in your Oklahoma residential lease agreement that are contrary to law or public policy or alter certain responsibilities mandated under the law. These include:
- Waiver of right to sue landlord for neglecting duties or obligations under law
- Taking a lien or security interest on the tenant’s personal property
- Prohibiting tenant from joining a tenant’s union
- Terminating the lease without a court order
- Waiver of any section of the law regarding security deposits
- Requiring tenant to vacate if a victim of domestic violence
Security Deposits not Capped
Oklahoma law does not limit the amount you can charge as a security deposit and you need not deposit funds in an interest bearing account so long as it is an escrow account in a federally insured financial institution located within the state. The deposit is used to cover the cost of any damages that are not the result of ordinary wear and tear or deterioration or for unpaid rent after the tenant vacates the unit.
Though not required, you may want to have your tenant review and sign a move-in checklist. Once the tenant vacates the unit, you have 30-days to return the deposit or serve the tenant an itemized statement of any damages and its cost by mail with return receipt requested.
Termination of the Lease
Fixed term leases expire on the date indicated in the lease. You can have an automatic renewal provision if you wish though it should give your tenant 30-days before the expiration to send you a notice to vacate. The lease can become either another fixed term or a month-to-month if you specify. You must give the tenant 30-days’ notice of a rent increase.
For nonpayment of rent, you must give a 5-day notice to vacate although you are permitted to begin proceedings to recover the rent as soon as the rent becomes overdue though it is prudent to wait until at least the 5-day grace period has expired since you can begin eviction proceedings at that time.
For all other lease violations, serve a 15-day notice to vacate with 10-days for the tenant to cure the breach if the breach can be remedied by repair, cleaning or replacement. But if the breach affects health or safety, then send a 15-day notice to vacate unless the condition is cured within 10-days.
If the violation is one that poses an imminent threat of harm or that may cause damage, then you may request it be remedied as soon as possible or you may terminate the lease immediately. For drug or other criminal activity, you may immediately terminate the lease.
Military Exception Protects Members of Armed Forces
Under the Servicemembers’ Relief Act, a tenant who is a member of the Armed Forces including the national guard or Coast Guard or any of the uniformed services can terminate a fixed term lease or any other lease if the tenant receives deployment orders to move more than 35 miles from the premises for more than 90 days and a copy of the orders is given to the landlord. This also applies if the tenant is ordered to reside in government-supplied quarters. The tenant is required to give 30-days’ notice if practical and to pay for the remainder of that month’s rent but with no further obligations under the lease.
Constructive Eviction and Deduct and Repair
If you neglect to provide a fit and habitable residence such as essential services or they fail to function and you do not repair or restore them, the tenant can send you a written request to cure the condition in 14-days or the lease will terminate and the tenant will vacate in 30-days. If the condition is dire and materially affects the health or safety of the tenant and is not fixed as soon as conditions require, the tenant may elect to immediately terminate the lease.
Alternatively, if the cost of repairs is less than $100, the tenant may inform you that he or she will deduct that amount from the rent as an expense to do the repairs if you fail to do so within 14-days.
For a landlord that willfully causes an essential service to fail, the tenant could end the rental agreement immediately or move to substitute housing while court action is brought.
Your Oklahoma residential rental lease agreement needs to contain certain mandatory disclosures and its terms should be clear and unambiguous regarding rent, deposits, pets, termination notices and other duties and obligations. If you have any questions regarding your lease, consult with an Oklahoma landlord/tenant lawyer.