Landlord, Tenant Act Fails to Pass in House
Mike Seals - March 11, 2021 11:23 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would prohibit the courts from extending the terms of tenancy failed the House today on a vote of 26-51.
House Bill 1564 by Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola, would have allowed a landlord to immediately apply to a sheriff for enforcement of the right to possession upon the entry of a judgment. The measure limits the amount of a late payment fee to 15% of the monthly rent. The measure provides that the provisions in the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act are enforceable even during a catastrophic health emergency.
“This was not a matter of trying to deny someone tenancy, but about reestablishing the rule of law and not the rule of judges,” Gann said. “This ensures contracts and the Constitution remain in place even during a pandemic.”
Last week, a decision by a federal judge in Texas stated CDC guidelines are unconstitutional and “there is no federal law that requires a landlord give possession of a dwelling to a person who cannot pay rent…,” Gann said.
Gann said the issue was brought to him by a landlord in his district that had to take a tenant to court for failure to pay rent. The judge ruled that the landlord could not evict. Gann likened the scenario to the theft of property.
Gann said he would always hope that landlords would consider extenuating circumstances and work with their tenants before they sought eviction. He also encourages advocacy groups to help those struggling to pay rent during times or emergency or just personal hardship. But, he stressed, citizens must not allow for unconstitutional rulings from either judges or government bodies no matter the circumstances.
“We are governed by the rule of law in this nation,” Gann said. “Our nation’s founders established a Constitution that has governed us for more than 200 years. We have a three-tiered system of government to ensure appropriate checks and balances and that keeps us free. We must never allow legislating from the bench or for laws to be written by the executive or his or her operatives.”
Gann said his legislation was brought forward after the Federal Housing Administration last year forbid landlords with a federally backed mortgage from evicting their tenants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later issued a moratorium on evictions based on public health. The moratoriums on evictions are set to expire at the end of this month.