The federal moratorium that has protected some tenants from eviction expires Friday, July 24. As a result, eviction filings in Oklahoma are expected to increase.
The moratorium was part of the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in March. It protected tenants whose homes are part of certain federal housing programs or have federally backed mortgage loans.
Once the moratorium ends, landlords must give tenants at least 30 days-notice before forcing tenants to vacate. Richard Klinge, director of the Pro-Bono Housing Eviction Assistance Program at the Oklahoma City University School of Law, said he expects an uptick in eviction filings in the state by the end of August or early September.
“The moratorium only delayed rent. It did not forgive rent,” Klinge said. “They couldn’t charge late fees, but they didn’t forgive any of that rent. So if the rent is not being paid, it’s just accumulating for those tenants who have been covered by the moratorium.”
Housing has been a concern for many Oklahomans during the pandemic. Margi Preston, executive director of Heartline, said the organization’s resource hotlines for the state have had over 10,000 calls related to housing assistance so far this year, which is up 36% from this time last year.
The Oklahoma City Housing Authority has about 2,700 public housing units that are currently occupied. About 9% of tenants are behind on rent payments, which is about twice as many as before the pandemic. Executive Director Mark Gillett said the housing authority will give residents who are late on payments the opportunity to enter into payback agreements.
“Our plan is to not evict anyone for non-payment,” Gillett said. “It is not our intent to file these 200-ish evictions on Monday morning.”
The $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit that was part of the CARES Act will also expire at the end of the month. Klinge said this could exacerbate housing difficulties for unemployed Oklahomans who are behind on rent payments.
Congress is expected to pass another coronavirus relief package.
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