Bill that allows evictions during a pandemic passes House committee

Mike Seals - February 11, 2021 10:28 pm

by: Jessica Bruno

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill that would prevent courts from halting evictions during a public health emergency, like a pandemic, is on its way to the Oklahoma House floor.

“HB 1564 is a solution in search of a problem,” Katie Dilks, Executive Director for the Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation, told News 4 on Thursday.

The bill is authored by Rep. Tom Gann, (R-Inola). It would prevent courts from halting evictions, even in the event of a health emergency, like the pandemic.

It passed the Business and Commerce House committee on Wednesday with a 7-3 vote.

“It will drastically raise the risks and consequences for tenants,” Dilks said.

On February 4th, the CDC released a moratorium, temporarily halting evictions due to the continuing effects of COVID-19.

While he did not reply to KFOR’s request for an interview or comment about HB 1564, Rep. Gann was quoted in a Public Radio Tulsa article saying he’s talked with landlords of tenants who have refused to pay their rent because of the moratorium.

“The CDC moratorium, which protects people from evictions of non-payment of rent only if they haven’t been able to pay their rent through the end of March, only applies if people go through certain steps and hit certain qualifications,” Dilks said. “One of those qualifications is if they’ve made their best effort to access all possible forms of government assistance, which includes emergency rental assistance that would be available.”

Rep. Cyndi Munson (D-Oklahoma City) took to Twitter on Thursday morning, writing “This bill is so cruel & I am struggling so much this morning comprehending how in the hell it made it to a Committee hearing.”

“I think it’s hurtful to work on measures that put people who are in hardship in even worse situations,” Munson told News 4. “I felt like it lacked compassion and was very disconnected to our current, you know, circumstances that we’re living through with the pandemic and then, it’s 19 degrees outside right now.”

Munson feels there is a better way to help not only tenants, but landlords too.

“We can find ways to find solutions to help both,” she said.  HB 1564 is on its way to the House floor and then if passed, will have to go through the Senate next.

 

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