Plain Language Legal Definitions 

Legal terms and definitions can be confusing and sometimes intimidating. The words included in this section are commonly found when talking about renting and evictions. If you have a question about a legal term or meaning related to renting or eviction, please call the Landlord Tenant Resource Center at 918-218-4138.  

 You can access a comprehensive online legal dictionary via

Landlord  The person or company that owns the rental property. 
Tenant/Renter  A person that agrees to rent a rental property from a landlord. 
Property Manager  A person or company hired by a landlord to be responsible for the rental property and to collect rent. 
Lawsuit  Paperwork filed with a court where one person asks for money or asks that something start or stop against another person. 
Damages  The money value of any losses suffered because of another’s actions. 
Judgement  The final decision a  judge grants at the end of a hearing, including what an individual has to do. 
Execution  The official enforcement of a court judgement. 
Summons  A legal document issued by a court clerk that says a lawsuit has been filed against you and states the date and time you must appear at court. 
Hearing  The time when the people involved in a lawsuit go before a judge to have their case decided. 
Order  Any command a judge issues. 
Court Clerk  The person who keeps all court records and who is responsible for accepting new lawsuits being filed. 
Writ of Possession  A legal paper that directs the Sheriff to remove a tenant from the rental property. 
Sheriff Removal  The formal process when the Sheriff posts notice for a tenant to leave and makes sure the removal happens. 
Abandonment  When a tenant voluntarily leaves a rental property before the lease is over. 
Motion  A legal process where one person asks the judge to order that a specific rule be followed or that a specific remedy be issued. 
Mediation  When a landlord and a tenant sit down with a neutral third person and try to resolve any issues without filing for an eviction. 
Garnishment  A legal process where money owed because of a judgement is taken directly from someone’s paycheck. 
Service  The delivering of papers to a particular person that follows legal rules and procedures. 
Process Server  A person legally allowed by the State to serve legal papers. 
Default Judgement  When the person being sued  fails to go to court and the judge issues an automatic judgement in favor of the Plaintiff. 
Property/Premises/Unit/Dwelling  A structure that is used as a home. 
Rent  The amount owed by the tenant to the landlord for the use of the rental property. 
Rental Agreement/Lease Agreement  All agreements, rules, and regulations that define the terms for the use of a rental property by a tenant. 
Good Faith  Acting with honest and sincere intentions. 
Deposit/Security Deposit  Any money held by the landlord to make sure damage caused by a tenant (other than normal wear and tear) can be paid for.  
Legal Holiday  A holiday observed by the district court when the court is closed to the public. 
Constructive/Illegal Eviction  When a landlord interferes with a tenant’s use of a rental property to such a level that the tenant can no longer reasonably live there.This may include changing the locks or disconnecting utilities.  
Eviction  A court process where a landlord can ask a judge to make a tenant leave a particular rental property. 
Fixture  Personal property owned by the tenant that is made a permanent part of the premises because removal would be impossible or impractical. For example, if a tenant installed ceiling fans on the premises the ceiling fans would have to remain even after the tenant leaves the premises. 
Quiet Enjoyment  A tenant’s right to enjoy and use the rental property without interference by others. 
Renewal  An option to restart the lease agreement after the previous lease end date has passed. 
Right of Entry  A set of rules that says when a landlord may enter the premises. 
Termination  The end of the lease. 
Warranty of Habitability (Safe Housing)  The landlord must provide premises that are safe and fit for humans to live there. 
Objection  When a party challenges the way a question has been asked in court based on a particular legal reason. 
Overruled  The judge does not agree with the objection and the question can be asked and answered. 
Sustained  The judge agrees with the objection and the question cannot be asked or answered. 
Continuance  When a judge changes the original court date to give each person more time to prepare their case. 
Plaintiff  The person who files the lawsuit, or the person doing the suing. 
Defendant  The person a lawsuit has been filed against, or the person being sued. 
Judge  The person who will listen to the facts of a case and will decide what happens. 
Bailiff  A law enforcement officer who maintains order and security in the courtroom. 
Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED)  The legal process landlords use to evict tenants. 
Docket  The cases that will be heard in court on a particular day. 
Notice  Putting information in writing and delivering the document to either your landlord or your tenant. 
Possession  The legal right of a person to physically occupy the home. 
Occupant  Any person living in a rental unit who is not a tenant or minor child and who did not sign the lease agreement. 
Lease  The written agreement between a landlord and a tenant that includes all the rules and responsibilities for each person.  
Party  Person that is part of a legal event. For example if a landlord sues a tenant for eviction both the landlord and the tenant are a “party” to the case.