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Tulsa County Eviction Filings Seem Headed for Pandemic Record in September Despite Moratorium

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On Sept. 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an eviction moratorium through the end of the year.

According to Open Justice Oklahoma, from then through Friday, 449 evictions have been filed in Tulsa County. That's more than 10% of all filings since March 15.

"September is on track to be the highest eviction month for filings since the beginning of the crisis," said Open Justice Oklahoma Director Ryan Gentzler.

The Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation is hearing not enough tenants know their rights under the moratorium. Executive Director Katie Dilks said tenants must submit a declaration to their landlord to get the protection.

"The vast majority of them have never heard of the moratorium, were unaware it existed, were unaware of the steps they needed to take to be protected by it, and beyond that, only about half of them are actually aware of the rental assistance that’s currently available," Dilks said.

The declaration is available online through Legal Aid of Oklahoma. Tenants can also apply for rental assistance online through the Tulsa Housing Authority. The deadline for their CARES Act–funded program has been extended through October.

Representation is also an issue in eviction proceedings. Typically, 90% of landlords have an attorney, while 90% of tenants do not. The Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission is encouraging cities to look at a right to counsel to give tenants a better chance to stay in their homes. Dilks said there have been several studies of programs nationwide.

"All of them, uniformly, find that for every $1 you spend on ensuring that tenants facing eviction have legal representation, that comes back in savings to the community, economic stability to a level of $3 or $4," Dilks said.

Gentzler said families also need more cash assistance to stay housed.

"Another stimulus payment, enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government, in order to not only pay their rent but provide for their own basic needs," Gentzler said.

If you can’t pay your rent, 211 can connect you with resources, but if you’re facing eviction, you must go to court to avoid a default judgement.

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