Serial evictions in Tulsa County add to ongoing eviction crisis as CDC moratorium ends
TULSA, Oklahoma. – Serial evictions continue to pose problems for tenants in Oklahoma, trapping low-income tenants in a vicious cycle of not only having to repay rent to stay in their accommodation, but other fees and expenses as well of justice.
Legal experts describe it as a way for homeowners to raise more money, and this adds to the existing eviction crisis in Tulsa County. Eric Hallett, of Legal Aid of Oklahoma, said it was a form of financial abuse.
“This family’s credit is destroyed,” he said of the serial evictions. “This family can’t find another place to go.”
Property managers can use the courts to collect rent and late fees while passing legal fees on to tenants. In a Tulsa County case, a Cobblestone Apartments tenant faced 14 evictions dating back to 2019. All but one resulted in a default judgment. The tenant in this situation wished to remain anonymous for fear of another eviction.
“There is no protection against retaliation in Oklahoma,” Hallett said.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute has started a project called Open Justice Oklahoma, which tracks down the state’s most prolific serial evictors. Data revealed Cobblestone Apartments in Tulsa County topped the list, with 629 evictions filed from 2019 to 2020.
“Unfortunately, we have companies whose entire business model files dozens and dozens of evictions every month,” said Ryan Gentzler, of Open Justice Oklahoma.
Experts said the problem was mainly with business or out-of-state owners filing hundreds of evictions each year.
“The vast majority of evictions we see are not these Tulsa-based mom and pop owners receiving their retirement income; it’s these large corporations that are depositing the majority of those deposits by far,” Gentzler said.
Tenants with multiple evictions on their record are not good candidates when applying to live elsewhere; therefore, they have two options: become potentially homeless or stay put to repeat the cycle.
“Then what happens is if the water stops working, the owner says, ‘I don’t have to fix this. If you complain, I’ll just throw you out based on this court order I have against you. Hallett said
Serial evictions are legal, but there are some questions about Cobblestone’s cases against tenants during the eviction moratorium.
At the start of the pandemic, homeowners with federally guaranteed mortgages were not allowed to evict tenants. However, this has expired.
Clifton Adcock, a Frontier investigative reporter, found a gap in the apartment complex’s eviction files.
“The CDC statements that they file, basically the documents to show that they are complying with the moratorium on evictions and things like that, they actually say they don’t have a federally guaranteed mortgage. . However, I was able to find that indeed they do. ” said Adcock.
He said the county’s mortgage records showed the apartment complex received $ 10.7 million from Fannie Mae in October 2020.
“They are not filing new affidavits that reflect this,” Hallett said of the Cobblestone eviction cases. “What happened is that the eviction factory, the debt company that files these evictions against people, takes the old affidavit and adds a new cover page to it and files it with the court. . “
He said tenants rarely show up to court in eviction cases, which means if there is no false record, the eviction is still pending.
The Frontier contacted Cobblestone’s attorney, Nathan Milner, who said he was unaware Cobblestone had a federally guaranteed mortgage.
It is issues like these that fuel the confusion about the law and the protection tenants enjoy from evictions.
Ultimately, coming out of a cycle of serial expulsions is complex. To avoid this, tenants should always go to court if they wish to challenge their eviction before a judge.
2 News Oklahoma investigators, along with the Frontier, attempted to speak with the owners of Cobblestone; however, they did not respond.
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