Lengthening the eviction timeline will increase access to justice for Oklahoma renters (SB 1575)

This guest article is authored by Katie Dilks, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation.

In Oklahoma, a renter can go from being one day late on rent to being physically removed from their home in under two weeks. This short timeline makes it nearly impossible for tenants to gather back rent, make arrangements to show up in court, or even find alternate housing. Extending the eviction timeline will help Oklahoma tenants to exercise their legal rights and prevent housing instability and homelessness. Passing a bill like this session’s Senate Bill 1575 would have been an important step forward for Oklahoma renters. 

Oklahoma has one of the fastest eviction processes in the country

The eviction process is made up of three different legal timelines: notice to quit, case filing and scheduling, and execution.

  1. Notice to quit – this is the first required step in filing an eviction, and gives the tenant five (5) days to pay what they owe or choose to move out.
  2. Case filing and scheduling – once an eviction is filed, after the notice to quit time period has passed, the hearing must be scheduled within five to ten (5 – 10) days. 
  3. Execution – if an eviction is granted at that hearing, an execution writ can be requested immediately, which gives the tenant 48 hours to move once the sheriff posts that notice. 

This means that someone could miss their rent payment on the 1st of the month, and if there is no grace period included in their lease, could receive a notice to quit on the 2nd, an eviction could be filed on the 6th, a hearing scheduled for the 11th, and a removal could occur on the 13th. This timeline may sound extreme, but evictions often occur only a day or two slower than this example, particularly in our largest counties.

On top of this two-week timeline, Oklahoma law also sets the minimum amount of notice a tenant must receive for their court date: only three days. This means in the timeline above, a person could miss their rent on the 1st, and find out on the 8th that they have court in three days that could result in them becoming homeless. 

In Tulsa County, nearly 3 in 4 eviction cases are disposed of (by a judgment, agreement, or dismissal) in less than two weeks. Ninety-four percent of all eviction cases are concluded within the space of one month. 

The short eviction timeline prevents Oklahomans from exercising their legal rights

Unfortunately, for many Oklahomans, this lack of adequate notice means attending court is nearly impossible – it’s simply not enough time to request off work, coordinate child care, find transportation, or secure the other logistics to spend half a day at court (much less find an attorney, which is among many reasons so few tenants have legal representation). 

When tenants do not show up in eviction court, it results in a default judgment, meaning the landlord automatically wins the case and the eviction is granted. Dense language in eviction summons has made it hard for tenants to understand the impact of missing court. Plain language eviction summons legislation passed in 2023 will help, but more time for tenants to be connected with legal resources and representation will go a long way in ensuring tenants can exercise their legal rights.

Evictions disproportionately impact women, young children, and people of color

Research from the Eviction Lab as well as from local partners show that eviction has an outsized impact on single mothers with young children — the most common profile of a household facing eviction. The national eviction rate for households with kids is double that of those without children present. Children who experience eviction have a host of lifelong impacts, including worse school performance, behavioral issues, depression, anxiety, food insecurity, and gaps in health care coverage.

Additionally, eviction rates are significantly higher for Black renters than for other demographic groups. Nationally, about 1 in 5 renters are Black, but they account for 1 in 2 eviction filings. Unfortunately, eviction patterns are often driven by a very small number of landlords filing incredibly high numbers of evictions targeting vulnerable populations. Without action to address predatory eviction practices, Black Oklahomans will continue to be disproportionately impacted by homelessness and underrepresented in homeownership rates compared to white Oklahomans.

Extending the eviction timeline would increase access to the justice system and prevent homelessness

The Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation works to increase meaningful participation in a fair and accessible civil justice system. One key component of an accessible justice system is that people have the ability to easily attend court proceedings. The default judgment rates that are seen in eviction courts across the state show that is too often not the reality for Oklahomans. 

Fortunately, SB 1575 would help tackle this specific obstacle to meaningful access to the justice system for evictions. Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, have introduced this bipartisan legislation to extend the timeline for filing cases to 10-15 days from filing, and increase the amount of notice required to give to a tenant to seven days. This reasonable timeline would still allow an eviction to conclude within the space of one month, but give Oklahoma tenants a fighting chance of being able to attend their court hearings. Additionally, many landlords have found that giving tenants even just a few more days to pay their late rent is often enough to be able to come up with the resources needed to stay in their homes. This is particularly true for renters on fixed incomes, when a payment (such as Social Security, or veteran’s benefits) might arrive mid-month instead of at the beginning of the month. 

Finally, preventing evictions and ensuring a reasonable amount of time when eviction is necessary, and it helps avoid homelessness. It gives people additional time to secure new housing and relieves our shelter system from absorbing even more Oklahomans, which avoids the dramatic and long-lasting consequences of homelessness. 

This common-sense reform, particularly in conjunction with other recent reforms such as requiring eviction court forms to be in plain language, help move our eviction courts to a level playing field for both landlords and tenants.

# # #

About the Author 

Katie Dilks is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation, where she works to collaboratively identify and strengthen statewide solutions ensuring access to civil justice for all Oklahomans. Katie brings over a decade of experience in access to justice work to her role, primarily her 9 years of work at Georgetown Law as the school’s Associate Director for the Office of Public Interest and Community Service. Katie developed and led the innovative Public Interest Fellows program, working with over 600 students to prepare them for careers as public interest attorneys. 


Oklahoma Policy Insititute (OK Policy) advances equitable and fiscally responsible policies that expand opportunity for all Oklahomans through non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy.