TULSA, Okla. — Even though the federal moratorium on evictions gets another extension, it doesn't mean some cash-strapped renters won't face problems.
A Tulsa area woman said she faces the threat of eviction nearly every month.
Stop by Maria's, and most days, you'll find her at home working on a crossword puzzle or doing light chores around the house in between doctor's appointments, therapy sessions, and even surgeries.
She hurt her back on the job in 2016 and hasn't been able to work since. She draws a social security disability check every month, and it's her only income. What adds to the hurt are eviction notices slapped on her front door.
"It's embarrassing to get an eviction notice, actually," Maria said.
When Maria moved into her mobile home park a couple of years ago, she told the office she doesn't get her disability check until the second Wednesday of every month. Maria said she was told, "No problem."
But it wasn't long until she started receiving eviction notices for paying after the fifth of every month as required in her lease.
"I wouldn't have rented here if I was going to get eviction notices every month because of my disability," Maria said.
Month after month of missing payments by the 5th, Maria would pay her rent plus a $100 late fee when her disability check came in. Maria said she'd done that nine times to avoid eviction.
She asked the landlord to change her due date to line up with when her disability check arrives. Maria said she was told it was not an option.
"It kind of makes me mad because he knows I'm going to pay it," she said. "The money's coming. It's just going to be late."
Eric Hallett with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma said, "Unfortunately, a lot of landlords use this situation for disabled and older retired people to exploit them financially for that extra $100."
Hallett added, "A disabled person can ask for a change in the lease terms at any time."
And while it's a good idea to get those terms in writing, Hallett said it's unnecessary. He said it's a form of discrimination. People like Maria need to ask their landlord for accommodation based on their disability by providing a letter and reliable verification from a doctor or therapist.
"What's important to the landlord is not receiving the money by the 3rd day of the month or the 5th day of the month," Hallett said. " What is important is receiving their money consistently."
Maria hopes to heal her back, her stress, and her finances in the months to come, and hopefully get off disability and back on the job.
"I can work longer hours and maybe get ahead a little bit and not have to worry about this," Maria said.
To help, KJRH put Maria in touch with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, and it will go over any options she may have.
The nonprofit law firm told 2 Works for You they can resolve many cases without going to court. Not only do landlords get a better understanding of the law, but Legal Aid also said the tenants get the accommodations they're entitled to.
Legal experts said the only time a landlord can refuse those accommodations is to prove it would cause them an administrative or financial burden. Moving a due date generally won't prove that.
For more information about Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, click here. If you think you have a case of discrimination, report it to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office.
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