eviction

Rental Realities

For the next 90 days, help is right across the street for Tulsa County tenants in eviction hearings, and the court will help direct them to it.

The new Tulsa County FED Docket Social Services Hub is set up at Iron Gate, across from the Family Center for Juvenile Justice, where eviction proceedings have been held since mid-2020.

Free legal assistance is among the available services. Legal Aid Oklahoma Coordinator of Housing Advocacy Eric Hallett said there were around 100 tenants on Tuesday’s three-hour docket alone.

The CDC eviction moratorium protecting renters impacted by COVID ended July 31st. 

 

There may be some additional federal protections on the way, but in the meantime, those seeking legal help can get it at court.

 

Oklahomans Fear Eviction Spike As Federal Moratorium Expires

Jul 26, 2021
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

TULSA — The first time Terra Atkins came to help tenants at the derelict apartment complex, she stumbled and fell down several steps, ripping the sole of her shoe. As she landed in the grass, she looked up at what she thought was an approaching kitten.

It was a rat.

The fall gave her a limp, but that didn’t keep her from offering help to tenants in the complex where eviction notices were already on many of the doors — some graffitied, some with a gaping hole where a deadbolt was supposed to be — or stuffed in the crack of their doorway. 

Flickr user rickonine / Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Updated May 6, 10:10 a.m.  

Thousands of Oklahomans could be affected by a federal judge's ruling Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacked authority to issue a national eviction moratorium.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich issued a stay of her order until at least May 16, when the Department of Justice's filings to appeal the ruling are due. That means people who have filed for protection under the moratorium can stay in their homes for now.

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The Biden administration announced Monday morning that the moratorium on evictions implemented to protect renters in danger of becoming unhoused during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended through the end of June. 

"The moratorium that was scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021 is now extended through June 30, 2021," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

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A state House committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would prevent courts from halting evictions, even during a health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Bill 1564 says courts have no discretion to extend terms of a lease. Some supporters, including bill author Rep. Tom Gann (R-Inola), said they’ve talked to landlords with tenants who simply refused to pay because they couldn’t be evicted during a federal moratorium.

Despite the pandemic-triggered federal moratorium on residential evictions, evictions do still happen in certain cases here in the Tulsa area. Why? Our guest is Prof. Roni Amit, who's with the Terry West Civil Legal Clinic at the University of Tulsa College of Law. This clinic, per its website, "addresses access to justice for marginalized communities in Tulsa, with a particular focus on the intersection of legal needs within these communities.

City of Tulsa

The City of Tulsa’s housing policy director is leaving that job to make an interim role permanent.

Becky Gligo has been picked as the executive director of Housing Solutions, the organization leading work to end homelessness by members of the A Way Home for Tulsa Coalition. She’s led Housing Solutions on an interim basis the past 10 months while also working at the city.

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Tulsa city councilors will consider a resolution this week supporting a right to counsel for people facing eviction.

The resolution also encourages tenants, landlords, mediators and courts to find solutions that will allow time to get rent paid, including through assistance programs.

Councilors Kara Joy McKee and Lori Decter Wright are behind the resolution. They said they hope the resolution will send a message to judges and help steer more renters toward available, free representation.

File photo

Evictions are not among the in-person proceedings Tulsa County judges voted to suspend until Jan. 11 because of rising coronavirus infections.

Eviction hearings were previously moved to the Family Justice Center, which is not covered by a new administrative order issued this week.

Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation Executive Director Katie Dilks said continuing in-person eviction hearings makes Tulsa County an outlier.

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Anticipating a surge in evictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, housing experts are encouraging Oklahoma lawmakers to take steps to help tenants.

A right to counsel for tenants is a policy several groups have proposed, and it came up again during an interim study hosted by Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa) last week.

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma Executive Director Michael Figgins said the eviction process moves quickly under state law, with a five-day notice to tenants, three to five days’ notice on a court summons, and 48 hours to leave if they lose a case.

File photo

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 Tulsa Housing Authority is encouraging renters in Tulsa County who have struggled financially to pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for a share of federal relief allocated as part of the federal CARES Act.

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This story was supported by grants from the Pulitzer Center, the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Park Foundation. It was a collaboration by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland, Big Local News at Stanford University, the University of Arkansas and Boston University.

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, designed to stem evictions amid the pandemic fell flat when lawyers advised landlords the deal offering to pay owed rent was too risky.

The Tulsa Housing Authority is now taking applications for an emergency rental assistance program funded by Tulsa County’s share of federal coronavirus relief dollars.

An online portal is available for people who have lost their jobs or are receiving less pay during the pandemic. Up to $3,000 per household will be given on a first come, first served basis, but applications will be held open for two weeks once completed.

Tulsa County Commissioners approved on Monday an initial $3 million for local housing assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tulsa Housing Authority will administer the program, which should start late next month. THA President and CEO Aaron Darden said funds will be available to Tulsa County residents who are having trouble paying their rent or mortgage because of the pandemic, hopefully helping them stave off eviction.

One analysis estimates as many as 133,000 evictions may be filed in Oklahoma over the next four months as a federal moratorium expires.

Several organizations in the state are teaming up to head off any surge in evictions. The Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation, Oklahoma Bar Association, and COVID task forces in Tulsa and Oklahoma City are working to beef up the Early Settlement Mediation Program.

Some of Oklahoma's $1.2 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding is going toward grant programs to help struggling small businesses and families facing eviction.

A small business relief program is getting $100 million, with 20% allocated for businesses owned by people of color. Governor’s Minority Business Council Chair David Castillo said that will help a woman he knows who had to lay off almost all of her restaurant staff and nearly shut down as the pandemic cut into her business.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Tulsa is asking Gov. Kevin Stitt for a moratorium on evictions through July 25.

The request is being made through a joint resolution with Oklahoma City and Norman, and it also asks for a ban on penalties and fees for people who can’t pay rent.

Tulsa City Councilor Lori Decter Wright said the COVID-19 pandemic and sudden economic downturn has put hundreds of families on the verge of homelessness.

The current pandemic has brought keen economic hardship, of course, to a vast number of individials and families within various levels of American society. Given that so many folks who rent a house or apartment in our community now require extra time to acquire their unemployment checks and/or federal benefits, the Tulsa City Council voted unanimously last night to ask Gov. Stitt for a statewide moratorium on evictions. In addition to this, Tulsa County has historically had one of the highest rates of eviction in the country.

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Tulsa nonprofits have teamed up to keep potentially hundreds of families from being evicted.

With funding from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Tulsa Area COVID-19 Response Fund managed by the Tulsa Community Foundation and Tulsa Area United Way, Restore Hope Ministries will work with landlords and tenants on the Tulsa County court eviction docket to get them into mediation instead.

Restore Hope Executive Director Jeff Jaynes said there will be some terms both parties must agree to before past-due rent is paid.