While Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is still high, and congress has still not decided on whether or not to end the extra unemployment income payments in the CARES act, many people are facing something for the first time in their lives, eviction.
Unless Congress passes a new law to extend either the moratorium on evictions or to extend UI payments you may be facing eviction sooner than you think.
Eviction can stay on your credit report for seven years but can affect your ability to get a lease forever.
Even if an eviction is not successful you may find that every lease application you file for the rest of your life will ask about it.
Landlords will not rent to someone who has ever been served with eviction papers whether they were ultimately evicted or not.
Avoiding eviction if possible is one of the most important things you can do for your financial future.
Know your rights
As soon as you get a letter from your landlord saying they intend to evict you, call legal aid for advice.
If you are not behind on payments yet but suspect you will be soon it is important to try to make a deal with your landlord before the first rent payment is missed.
It is illegal in Oklahoma to evict someone without written notice and most cases do end up in court unless you are able to pay to stop the process.
Do not move until you are sure that you legally have to, and do not let a landlord break the law by trying to force you out illegally by turning off the water or other means of intimidation. Keep your lease ready in case you need to show it to police or other officials.
If you are already late it is time to move into defense mode. Gather all documents you have available including:
- letters or notices from your landlord,
- court summons you received,
- lease agreements you have,
- receipts or records of rent you have paid in the past,
- witness statements about the conditions of the rental including repairs you’ve made
- or anything else that might help your case.
As soon as you realize that eviction may be on the horizon it is important to keep as many conversations as you can in writing.
Try to only communicate with your landlord in writing and keep notes daily of your actions to try to prevent eviction, including details about who you’ve called, what you spoke about, and any negotiations or promises that were made.
Getting more help
Call 211 or reach out to Legal Aid in your area to try to get help.
Some programs are available to help you avoid being removed from your home but you should apply as soon as you can because there are more people needing help than there is help to give.
Legal Aid may be able to help you all the way through to court, or they may just be able to give you some pointers on next steps but it is vital that you seek and accept any help that is available to you.
If you are having trouble paying your rent and other bills, having to juggle between paying rent and keeping the lights on or paying bills and keeping food on the table apply for any kind of social programs you can from state agencies.
Reach out to friends and family to ask for help if everything else fails.
Preparing for the worst
Even if you believe you may be able to avoid eviction this month, look ahead to your future financial situation and start making plans now for when it comes up again. Do you have friends that need roommates you can move in with? Can you live with family for a while? What resources or connections do you have that you can leverage to keep yourself afloat?
If you cannot pay and you cannot afford to move and you do not have anywhere to stay it is important not to give up. The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation until there are no further options to change direction.
Keep trying to work with your lawyer or landlord. Make sure you show up to any and all court hearings even if you feel like your case is unwinnable. If you don’t show up to court you will lose your case.
It is possible that with unprecedented evictions during this economic disaster landlords will have to choose more carefully who they accept and reject in the future.
While it may seem hopeless tonight you may find a new path in the morning. Do what you can to tend to your mental health during this stressful time and reach out for help if you feel like you are in over your head.