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Tulsa councilors, state delegation push for tenant protections

Apartments are seen near 21st Street and Riverside Drive in Tulsa.
Max Bryan
Apartments are seen near 21st Street and Riverside Drive in Tulsa.

Tulsa’s state representatives and city councilors want to pass a law to protect tenants from landlord retaliation.

Oklahoma is one of only six states that does not protect tenants from landlord retaliation. House Bill 2109 — which would have added tenant protections in the 2023 Legislative Session — made it past the House of Representatives but didn’t see the Senate floor.

"A bill that tells people how they’re going to manage their property is always going to have some pushback," said Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa. "That being said, if you’re going to manage that property in such a way where people are paying you to live there and you’re allowing them to live in that property, we probably need some protections in place to take care of that."

Boatman said bills covering the topic often get held up in committee because some lawmakers are landlords themselves.

"(These lawmakers) take constitutional privilege, which is effectively a ‘no’ vote. So there are just very procedural and logistical problems to it," Boatman said. "And then you have landlord-tenant protections in rural Oklahoma, where I know my landlord, I go to church with my landlord, I see him at the grocery store."

If a bill were to pass, Boatman said it should specifically address landlord and tenant rights, not other issues related to housing.

Such a bill would coincide with Tulsa City Council's ordinance for the city to inspect rental properties for habitability. Councilor Lori Decter Wright, who championed that ordinance, says to expect a push from council’s capitol lobbyist on a tenant protection law.

"Collectively, leaders in Tulsa in various sectors — public, private, philanthropic — understand that we need to get that amendment in whatever iteration makes sense for Oklahoma to put those basic protections in place so that tenants are not retaliated against when they report health and safety issues to their landlords or their management companies," she said.

Decter Wright says some landlords need to evict tenants, but that tenants shouldn’t be afraid to report legitimate problems with their homes.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.