IN YOUR CORNER: Renters stuck living in water and filth seek help

In Your Corner

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s a problem experts say has plagued Oklahoma for decades. Now, as tenants fight for equal footing with landlords, they’re also fighting for sanitary living conditions following last week’s storms.

IF YOU ARE A TENANT SEEKING LEGAL ADVICE, YOU’LL FIND NUMBERS AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE

The arctic cold has long since passed, but damage left behind has flooded our inboxes.

Among those was Marsha Thomas, who has lived in Oak Creek Apartments for 34 years.

Marsha’s floors have been saturated with water for days, but there hasn’t been a drip out of her faucets in more than a week.

“I’ve got feces all in my stool. In my tub, and I’m not in good shape. This is a health hazard,” she explained. “Not able to take a shower, not able to brush my teeth. It’s terrible.”

Marsha is not alone.

A couple buildings over, Travis Martin is having the same problems. Go inside his bathroom and you’ll find a hole beneath the sink that goes clear to the next apartment. These are remnants of a fix by maintenance not yet complete.

Downstairs, another neighbor showed us a leak above her refrigerator that had ruined much of her food.

Experts say it’s a problem that faces our state time and time again.

We caught up with Richard Klinge with OCU-Law Pro-Bono Housing Eviction Assistance Program to learn what tenants should do.

“Our laws are so limited for tenants, that they don’t have many options,” he said. “First thing the tenant needs to do is obviously call the landlord and let them know the problem. If it’s not fixed immediately, they need to send a written notice.”

In Oklahoma County, the notice can be written, emailed or even texted. Richard says tenants should make sure they keep a copy.

Photo goes with story

The landlord then has “reasonable time” to start the repair process.

If it’s not handled in a reasonable time, Oklahoma City residents can reach out to the Action Center.

You can also call the center at 405-297-2535

“It creates a work order for my department,” said Mike Miller, Inspection Services Superintendent with Oklahoma City. “It actually puts them a place in line for our inspectors to go out and meet with the owners.”

So many tenants, though, don’t know where to turn.

We did what we could to turn Oak Creek around. A person working in the office turned us toward their corporate office, Trinity Multifamily.

Trinity sent the following statement:

“Trinity Multifamily is committed to providing the quickest resolutions to the issues caused by the historic natural disaster that much of the country experienced last week. Our onsite teams have worked tirelessly over the weekend and late into the recent nights to make repairs to the many busted pipes. We ask our residents for patience as we work through each of the problems as quickly as possible.”

TRINITY MULTIFAMILY

Hours after meeting with Marsha, her unit’s water was turned on.

The next morning though, In Your Corner had a new voicemail. Turns out water was now leaking from her ceiling and has ruined a good chunk of her food.

Richard is calling for new legislation to update the Landlord Tenant Act, which has remained largely unchanged for 40 years.

He hopes for an end to retaliatory terminations. He’s also calling for apartment maintenance and rent payments to be codependent.

“Because our laws are so landlord favorable in this area,” said Richard. “Tenants are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Fortunately, some items were addressed in a state bill last year.

Unfortunately, that bill never made it to a vote. In Your Corner contacted the bill’s sponsor, Chris Kannady, to learn what happened and what the future may hold.

He did not return multiple requests for comment.

Caught in the middle are thousands of Oklahomans in desperate need of water and change.

“This is where I live, it’s the only place I have to stay,” said Travis Martin. “It’s no place for me to go; I pay my money.”

Richard advises tenants who are navigating these issues to seek out legal advice.

See below for numbers:

OCU-Law Pro-Bono Housing Eviction Assistance Program: 405-208-5207

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma: 1-888-534-5243

OKC Action Center: 405-297-2535

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