Landlords have a clear upper hand in the more than 1,000 evictions filed each month in the Tulsa County court.
A review by law students in TU’s Terry West Civil Legal Clinic of nearly 1,400 January cases found 82% of landlords have an attorney, while 3.5% of tenants do, even with attorneys from legal service nonprofits generally available at court.
Legal clinic Director Roni Amit said that lack of representation for tenants is especially problematic given the more than 500 cases where the landlord who filed didn’t have a current LLC registration with the state, giving them no standing to sue.
"And very often, that registration has expired and is no longer valid, but that’s not getting checked unless the tenant happens to get representation. And a tenant’s attorney, the pro bono attorneys, that’s very often their first step," Amit said.
The study also found the eviction docket is heard most weekdays at 2 p.m., which could contribute to 66% of tenants not appearing in court, and cases are often settled in hallway negotiations judges send the parties into.
"Tulsa has such a high rate of evictions that there’s no way the system can really function fairly, and the current system really relies on the fact that tenants don’t know their rights," Amit said.
The study notes one family was evicted over $48.
The study recommends landlords face a higher evidentiary burden to win cases, targeted early interventions like settlement mediation and better tenants' rights education.
Around 4,000 evictions have been filed in Tulsa County this year.
Note: KWGS is licensed to TU.