‘Eviction tsunami’ looms in Oklahoma, says legal analyst

In Your Corner

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – For thousands facing unemployment, rent payments are still due.

Despite evictions being on a brief hiatus, rent payments are not forgiven, and experts believe an eviction backlog could be looming.

“I’ve been here five years, always paid up,” said Lori Jakubowky, standing outside her Oklahoma City rent home. “They always tell me I’m one of their best clients, they love me. All of a sudden this happens; it’s just scary.”

News 4 first met Lori earlier this month. She and 200,000 plus Oklahomans have recently filed for unemployment.

In early April, Lori was only able to pay half of her rent. She tells In Your Corner she informed her landlord, hoping they’d understand.

Less than 10 days into the month though, she received a notice threatening eviction.

“I can’t promise you when I’ll pay, but I will pay,” Lori added.

It’s a fear felt across our state. Richard Klinge, with OCU’s Housing Eviction Legal Assistance program, fears what may be on the horizon.

“I’ve referred to it publicly in writings as an eviction tsunami,” he said “Assuming the landlords push these issues, and these people are evicted, they’re gonna be on the streets.”

There is understandable confusion though for tenants, as the state has helped renters temporarily.

The state Supreme Court has closed county courthouses, and eviction hearings won’t be heard until next month at the earliest

Some local sheriff’s offices have also announced they won’t be executing eviction orders for the time being.

But these eviction hearings will eventually be heard, and in many counties, eviction cases are still being filed

“So if somebody doesn’t pay their rent, the process may be delayed,” said Richard. “But as the acts are currently drawn and interpreted, they’re still gonna be liable for that rent.”

For those with federally subsidized rent, there’s a longer timeline. The federal ‘CARES Act’ provides a 120 day eviction moratorium through at least late July.

“During that time, your landlord can not charge you late fees or penalties,” said Klinge.

While eviction notices may still be sent out, it’s important to know you can’t be kicked out until the full eviction process takes place.

“A landlord can not evict you from a house without taking you to court, getting a judgement against you and having a sheriff to come out and evict you,” explained Klinge.

People like Lori are stuck waiting for unemployment money, now looking to Washington and state leaders for guidance.

“[Landlords] don’t need to be sending these letters out unless they’re gonna do it,” she said. “Right now, my concern is having a roof over me and my dog’s head. I don’t want to be homeless.”

Some good news to end on here. Lori tells News 4 an anonymous donor has recently stepped in to pay her rent both this month and next.

The In Your Corner bottom line, make sure you foster a good relationship with your landlord and try to work something out as this pandemic continues.

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