How do I evict a roommate?

UPDATED: Nov 29, 2010

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How do I evict a roommate?

I got a roommate in in mid-October; no signed agreement and no rent paid (they wouldn’t pay without agreement). I now want the roommate out. She has practically no belongings. I invited her to stay with the understanding that we would eventually sign an agreement. Since that time, no signed agreement and no rent money at all. What is her status (roomer/boarder vs renter/ tenant)? Do I serve her notice, and without a lease, how much time to vacate (now, 7 days, 10 days, 30 days)? Can I just change the locks and set her stuff on the porch?

Asked on November 29, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Oklahoma


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

As you seem to be aware, you must first determine how the law “classifies” the unwanted occupant: are they an licensee or are they now a tenant. Someone occupying your home may be considered a tenant regardless of whether a lease was signed or rent was paid.  If the person paid for things like utilities or food, the payment of these expenses can be considered “rent”. Accordingly, some state laws will treat them as a “tenant”. To remove them from the premises you will have to file a formal eviction proceeding (“unlawful detainer action”) as in any other landlord-tenant relationship.  If no form of rent has been paid, many states permit you to simply ask the occupant to leave and remove their belongings without any legal proceedings.  However, in other states, someone who enters your home and stays with your permission will be classified as a “licensee”.  This status grants the occupant more rights than a general “guest.”  To revoke the permission you gave them to remain on your property, you will need to go through the steps of a formal eviction to have them legally removed.

In your situation, your occupant will more than likely be classified as a tenant.  Therefore, your next step is to prepare for a unlawful detainer action (i.e. eviction).  Before you can file suit however, you must first serve the occupant with a written notice to vacate (or “notice to quit”) the premises. This is a more formal way of asking the person to leave your home. The notice must be given before the suit is filed. In OK eviction can happen for these reasons: non-payment of rent, breach of contract and ending a month-to-month lease. Non-payment of rent gets a 5-day notice, breach of contract gets 15 days and ending a month-to-month agreement takes 30 days. Additionally, there are 3 required pieces of information that must be included on the written notice. The first is the demanded date to quit, the second is the reason for termination and the third is any cure for the problem. If your occupant fails to leave by the requested date, you can then file your eviction action.

Once you file your petition, you need to request an unlawful detainer hearing.  This is a short court hearing in which you explain the reason for the eviction and present evidence of the prior notices to vacate. If the judge agrees with you, the judge will issue an order of eviction and a writ of possession (or your state’s equivalent). The order will usually set a vacate date for the occupant. If they still refuse to leave in violation of the order, you can then call law enforcement and to have them removed, using physical force if necessary.

It is important to note that, if you fail to comply with all of your state’s eviction procedures you will delay removal of the occupant. You may even find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit for unlawful eviction. Therefore follow the law and - do not - be tempted to use “self-help” measures such as changing the locks or physically removing the person yourself.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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