Although the coronavirus pandemic is in Green Country and our futures have several unanswered questions, we will rebound.
We've put together the important information you might want to know when it comes to housing.
Below we have complied information about evictions, payment plans, rent assistance, legal assistance, etc .
"Can I be evicted?"
The simple answer in Oklahoma is "no."
According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, evictions across the state have mostly been suspended. The only exception is an "emergency eviction." Most county courthouses are not hearing eviction cases, so experts say if you get a notice, wait, and contact your landlord.
Keri Cooper, the Executive Director of the Tulsa Apartment Association says, "Communication is Key! If the resident is concerned about no longer being able to afford their lease because their circumstances have changed, they need to communicate this to their property manager. It depends on the apartment community, but they may have options to help that resident. The solution really depends on the structure of the management company."
As for a tenant that temporarily not being able to afford rent, Cooper says many apartment communities are offering payment plans. "I’ve also heard of some management companies that are allowing their residents to use a concession early. For example, the resident could have received a free month rent when they signed their lease, but that free month wasn’t scheduled to happen until several months out, and now the management company is allowing the resident to use that free month sooner," says Cooper.
Cooper goes on to say that a great resource for renters who are needing assistance with paying rent is 211. 211 will be able to connect the renter to organizations that can help them in their situation. Click here for more information on 211.
"I think that at the end of the day, the most important thing is to communicate with your property manager what your situation is. Why you're not going to be able to afford rent, and I know in situations where it involves something surrounding COVID-19, I know property managers that are in our association are committed to working with the residents and keeping them in the home," said Keri Cooper, the executive director of the Tulsa Apartment Association.
What if I own my own home?
If you own your own home, experts recommend writing a letter to your lender explaining the financial hardship you are experiencing because of the pandemic and why you cannot make your payment. In fact, experts recommend contacting everything from your credit card company to your utility companies. "A lot of times you may be able to be offered a short term reduction of your interest rate, maybe an extended payment deadline, maybe waived fees or maybe they will even reduce the amount of that minimum payment that you make if they don’t waive it altogether," said Matt Shulz with Lending Tree. Companies will often times be more understanding if you can at least offer partial payment.
The biggest takeaway is to communicate and make sure to put things into writing.
Attorney Mark Zennotti with Welsh and McGough in Tulsa specializes in evictions issues. He told the Problem Solvers it is critical that people contact their landlord to let them know how they are impacted by COVID-19 and how it is affecting their income. He added, if possible, pay at least something even if you can't pay the whole bill or rent.
If a renter feels as though they may need legal assistance, Legal Aid is a great resource, Keri Cooper with the Tulsa Apartment Association says. Some residents, depending on their situation and circumstances, might be approved for free legal services.
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