TULSA, Okla. — The coronavirus pandemic has been financially devastating for many Oklahomans, causing many to be unable to pay their rent and leading to eviction filings in court.
Landlords are still filing eviction orders despite the moratorium by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cases are still being brought to court and if you don’t show up for your hearing, you could lose your case and get evicted.
“If you don't show up to assert your rights, then you just have no rights," said Eric Hallett with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. "Currently, we have attorneys available at no cost to almost all tenants who show up in housing court. So, if you show up and you ask for an attorney, it is likely that you will get one for free. That may be able to stop your eviction entirely.”
The moratorium on evictions only protects renters for the next three weeks if it isn’t extended.
“Right now, we have a huge backlog of cases at the courthouse that the CDC order applies to these cases have been on hold, effectively since that September order, and in January, they will all come due again," Hallett said. "So, in January, we're going to see a huge spike in evictions in Tulsa county.”
The possibility of mass evictions leads to an even bigger issue across the city.
“Tulsa is the 11th highest eviction city in the nation. So, a lot of people that are out searching for apartments have evictions on their records, but unfortunately, sometimes that is a non-starter for a lot of our housing opportunities in Tulsa if you have an eviction on your record they don't want to rent to you," said Tyler Parette with Tulsa Housing Solution. "So, it creates this, this really difficult spot for renters to be in where they desperately don't want to be out on the street, but there aren't a lot of options for them to find permanent safe, affordable housing.”
Another problem right now is that 2-1-1 has run out of CARES Act funding to help tenants pay rent.
Here are some tips if you can’t pay your rent or are facing eviction:
- Talk to your landlord and explain your situation.
- Try reaching out to your place of worship or a charity for help.
- If you are ordered to court make sure you show up.
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