82-1-202. Action to compel release -- procedure without court action. (1) If the lessee or assignee of a lease neglects or refuses to execute a release as provided by this part, the owner of the leased premises may sue in any court of competent jurisdiction to obtain the release, and in that action the owner may also recover from the lessee or the lessee's successor or assigns the sum of $100 as damages, all costs, together with reasonable attorney fees for preparing and prosecuting the suit, and any additional damages that the evidence in the case warrants. Writs of attachment may issue as in other cases. If in the action the plaintiff fails to establish the forfeiture of the lease, attorney fees must be allowed to the lessee or assignee of the lease. Issues in regard to attorney fees must be determined in the same manner as other issues in those actions.
(2) When, by its terms, an oil or gas lease has expired and is subject to forfeiture for nonperformance and more than 3 years have elapsed since the expiration, the owner of the leased premises, in addition to all other remedies, may serve a written notice on the lessee or on the assignee of the lease, and the notice must state:
(a) the names of the lessor, lessee, and assignee of the lease if assigned;
(b) the date of the lease and the date of the expiration of the lease;
(c) the description of the lands leased;
(d) the place, book, and page where the lease is recorded; and
(e) that if the lessee or assignee fails to execute a release of record of the lease or abstract of the lease, the lease must be terminated and is of no effect and must cease to be a lien upon the lands described in the lease, unless the lessee or the assignee of the lease, within 60 days from the date of service of the notice, files, in the county clerk's office in the county where the lease or abstract of the lease is recorded, an affidavit stating that the lease is in effect and delivers a copy of the lease to the owner of the leased lands.
(3) If the lessee or the assignee of the lease resides in the county where the lease or abstract of the lease is recorded, the notice must be personally served on that person. If the lessee or the assignee of the lease does not reside in that county but the lessee's or assignee's address appears on the records in that county clerk's office or is otherwise known, the notice must be mailed by certified mail to that person at that address, and in addition the notice must be published once a week for 2 consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the lands are situated. If the address of the lessee or assignee is unknown, the notice must be published in the manner provided in this subsection. The date of service of the notice, if served personally, the date of mailing, if served by mail, and the first date of publication of the notice, if published, must be at least 60 days before the date of termination referred to in the notice.
(4) Upon the expiration of the time mentioned in the notice, if the affidavit of the lessee or assignee has not been filed as provided in this section, the owner of the leased lands shall file an affidavit of service of the notice in the county clerk's office of the county in which the lands are located, and the affidavit must be kept as a permanent file in the clerk's office. This proof of notice when filed is prima facie evidence of the sufficiency of the notice, and from the filing of the notice the lease is terminated and the lands are released from the lien of the lease.