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Council Working Group To Look At Rental Property Policies In Tulsa

Matt Trotter

Days after volunteers helped move the last residents out of a condemned apartment complex, the Tulsa City Council announced a new working group to look into potential policy solutions.

Councilor Phil Lakin says the Residential Rental Property Habitability Working Group is not meant to go after the 90% of landlords he believes are doing right by their tenants.

"But worry about the 10% that are bad and are just profiting on the backs of good, reasonable, standard, minimum living conditions. And obviously, what we saw was — campgrounds in some places are better than what those people were having to live with," Lakin said.

Its work is spurred by the situation at Vista Shadow Mountain, a sprawling apartment complex near 61st and Memorial where residents dealt with leaks, mold and structural damage, and some didn’t have walls, floors or ceilings for months. The city only found out because the owners didn’t pay a water bill.

Earlier this month, fire department inspectors determined none of the buildings on site were fit for people to live in.

Councilor Lori Decter Wright has described the conditions at Vista Shadow Mountain as "third world" and on Wednesday called the complex a canary in a coal mine. 

"We had no choice but to evacuate these people out of this situation. They're not in a better situation right now. It's going to get worse for them before it's going to get better because they're in hotels that are probably not fit," Decter Wright said.

The council working group expects to make recommendations to prevent similar situations by Oct. 1.

Some councilors said there are local problems they know must be addressed in state law, including the lack of protections from landlord retaliation for renters who report poor living conditions.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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