Notice to Oklahoma landlords: The door to residential evictions is now open

Eviction notice graphicBy Ashley M. Schovanec

For the past seventeen months, many Oklahoma landlords were prevented from evicting tenants for the nonpayment of rent due to various federal eviction moratoriums. Thanks to a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the latest eviction moratorium has now been declared unlawful and landlords are free to move forward with evictions based on the nonpayment of rent.

Attorney Ashley Schovanec Web

Ashley M. Schovanec is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

Congress initially declared a moratorium on evictions at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. Following the lapse of the first moratorium in July 2020, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) imposed a series of the CDC’s own nationwide eviction moratoriums. As authority to promulgate the moratorium, the CDC relied on §361(a) of the Public Health Service Act, which is a statute originally passed in 1944 and a provision that has rarely been invoked except in the context of quarantining infected individuals and prohibiting the import or sale of animals known to transmit disease. The stated purpose of the CDC’s halt on residential evictions was to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The justification was that housing stability helps protect public health in that homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into congregate settings, such as homeless shelters.

The CDC’s moratoriums applied to only certain evictions – those based on the nonpayment of rent. In order for a tenant to invoke the protections provided by the CDC, a tenant was required to provide the landlord with a CDC declaration form affirming that tenant was in financial need as a result of the pandemic. The last CDC moratorium expired on July 31, 2021. Thereafter, the Biden administration implemented yet another moratorium, which was set to expire on October 3, 2021 but was derailed by the U.S. Supreme Court on August 26, 2021.

In Alabama Association of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Services et al., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the CDC exceeded its authority in imposing nationwide eviction moratoriums. The per curium opinion criticized the CDC’s reliance “on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination” and found that “[i]t strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts.” The Supreme Court concluded its opinion, “[i]f a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it.”

Now that the Supreme Court has declared unlawful the latest nationwide eviction moratorium, it is up to states and localities to impose eviction restrictions. New York, California and the city of Boston have imposed restrictions of their own to protect renters from eviction. As of now, there are no eviction constraints in the state of Oklahoma. This means the door is now open for Oklahoma landlords to file evictions to remove tenants who were previously shielded by the federal eviction moratoriums. Landlords may now file suit against tenants to collect past due rent, including all unpaid rent payments that accumulated during the federal eviction moratoriums.

The impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Alabama Association of Realtors is significant for both landlords and tenants. If you are a landlord or tenant seeking guidance in navigating evictions in light of recent changes to the law, please call 405-552-2470 or email Ashley M. Schovanec.

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What is the status of evictions and foreclosures in Oklahoma amidst the COVID 19 pandemic?

By Gretchen M. Latham

In March 2020, the State Supreme Court entered an Order extending statutory deadlines, which included an extension of any answer deadline on pending civil cases. For foreclosure actions, that means many borrowers were given additional time to reply to a Petition in Foreclosure.

However, even though the State Supreme Court subsequently entered additional COVID 19 related orders, the deadline extension has now expired, and some lenders are resuming the foreclosure process. The same is true for eviction matters, which were not put on hold, but rather, the landlord was required to state whether the action at issue was subject to the CARES Act, which covered certain types of transactions.

Gretchen Latham Web

Gretchen M. Latham’s practice focuses on representing creditors in foreclosure, bankruptcy, collection and replevin cases.

The result of these events is that landlords and lenders are likely to begin resuming both evictions and foreclosures, but they should do so only if allowed under existing law and recent legislation.  The need to check on current status of legislation is becoming even more important, as lawmakers in Washington are looking to extend federal employment benefits and the moratorium on evictions.  The situation is ever-changing, and having a complete knowledge of the law is advisable before beginning any eviction or foreclosure.

This is especially true given the short timeline for evictions in Oklahoma. While many landlords opt to undertake these actions on their own – and are permitted to do so – now more than ever it is critical to be fully aware of the changing legal landscape and the uncertainty of when, or if, COVID 19 will be brought to a manageable level. Landlords are wise to be fully aware of their options when the hard decision to evict must be made.

The same is true for foreclosures, where lenders may be required to include a statement as to whether the mortgage loan in question is subject to the CARES Act and may have to provide the Court with additional information when seeking judgment.  For many loans, foreclosures were placed on hold for a period of time. However, this is not true of all loans and is not in place in every state. The differences between what one state has done vs. the choice of a different state can be confusing to lenders, making it essential for lenders to maintain contact with their attorney regarding the status of foreclosures in any given state.

For Oklahoma, some foreclosures are proceeding on schedule now that the extension of statutory answer deadlines has expired.  For lenders that have not yet resumed foreclosures actions in the Sooner State, the time has come to readjust the lawsuit timeline.

Lenders and landlords are wise to sit down with an attorney to talk over their options when these hard foreclosure and eviction decisions must be made.

To discuss your options, contact Gretchen Latham at the contact information below:

Gretchen M. Latham, Attorney
Phillips Murrah P.C.
PHONE: 405.606.4774

Phillips Murrah

Phillips Murrah’s attorneys continue to monitor developments to provide up-to-date advice to our clients during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Keep up with our ongoing COVID-19 resources, guidance and updates at our RESOURCE CENTER.

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