How to File a Breach of Rental Agreement
Updated: May 13
If you are the landlord, you may sue for eviction, back rent, and any damage the tenant caused to the property.
If you are the tenant, you may sue your landlord for defects on the property, or to recover excess payments.
If you have a rental agreement, and the other party has breached the agreement, you may file suit in court. If you’re the landlord, you may sue the tenant for eviction, back rent, and any damage the tenant caused to the property. If you’re the tenant, you may sue the landlord for defects on the property, or to recover excess payments.
What you must first decide
You must first determine:
What has the other person done that is in breach of the rental agreement?
What relief do you want from the lawsuit?
If you are the landlord:
Evict the tenant
Recover any back rent that the tenant owes you
Recover the cost of any damages the tenant has caused on the property.
If you are the tenant:
If the property is defective, you may notify your landlord of the defects. If your landlord does not repair the defects, you may deduct the cost of repairing the defects from your rent. You may also sue your landlord for the cost of the repairs. Also, if your landlord does not correct the defects within 14 days after you notify him, you may terminate the lease agreement thirty days after you have given your landlord notice of the defects.
If your landlord has collected more from you than he was legally entitled to collect, you may sue the landlord to recover the excess payments.
Should you file suit?
Filing a lawsuit should be a last resort. Whether you are the landlord or the tenant, it’s best to first try talking with the other party, and see if you can get things worked out between the two of you. Before you go to court, you might want to try mediation. Mediation is where two parties go before a third-party neutral, called a mediator. The mediator is not like a judge, in that the mediator may not order you to do anything. But the mediator can try to guide you toward a settlement. You may go to mediation before or after you file suit in court. For more information on mediation, read my post here.
Filing a suit for breach of rental agreement
Much of the information related to filing a suit for breach of a rental agreement is located in previous blog posts on this site. In this section, I’ll summarize the basic points in filing a suit for breach of a rental agreement, and link to the prior posts, where you can read about the topics in more detail.
If you are the landlord
To evict a tenant, you must file a suit for forcible entry and detainer. Before you file a suit for forcible entry and detainer, you generally must give the tenant thirty days’ notice to vacate the property. (In some cases, you don’t need to give notice at all; in other cases, the time for giving notice is more or less than thirty days.) If the tenant doesn’t leave within the requisite time period after you give notice (or if no notice is required), you may then go to court and file suit. The judge should give you a hearing date. At the hearing, if the judge determines that you have the right to evict the property, the judge will order the tenant to leave, and the judge may also sign an order authorizing a sheriff to physically remove the tenant from the property. For more information on filing a forcible entry and detainer action, read my post, “How to Evict Someone in Oklahoma.” This post also tells when notice is required, and how many days you have to give notice before you may file suit.
If you are a landlord, you may also sue the tenant for back rent, or for any damages that the tenant has caused to the property. You may sue for these payments in the same action as a forcible entry and detainer suit, or, you may file the suit for back rent or damages separately from a forcible entry and detainer suit. Or, if you’re not suing for eviction at all, you may sue for back rent or damages as a stand-alone lawsuit.
If you sue for more than $10,000, your case will be heard in district court. To see what a district court case is like, read my post here.
If you sue for less than $10,000, you may file either in district court or small claims court. Small claims court is quicker and cheaper than district court. To find out how small claims court works, click on my post, “How to Go to Small Claims Court in Oklahoma.”
If you are suing for a breach of rental agreement, general principles of contract law will govern your case. For a brief overview of contract law, read my post, “How to File a Breach of Contract Lawsuit.”
If you are the tenant
If you are the tenant, and you sue your landlord for breach of a rental agreement, the same law applies:
If your case is for more than $10,000, you must file in district court. Read my blog post about district court here.
If your case is for less than $10,000, you may file in small claims court or district court. Read my blog post about small claims court here.
Your case will also be subject to general principles of contract law. See my post on the general principles of contract law here.
Also, if you are the tenant, and your landlord has filed an eviction suit against you, you may countersue for breach of a rental agreement. For more information on how to fight an eviction, read my post, “If You’ve Been Evicted in Oklahoma.”
Need help? Contact the Persaud Law Office
The law on landlord/tenant agreements is complicated. The other side might be trying to take advantage of you. The Persaud Law Office has represented both landlords and tenants in court. If you are the landlord or the tenant, and the other side is breaching the rental agreement, you may feel that you need help. Contact us today.