Bill Becker

Tiny Changes = Huge Impact

Atomic Habits is one of the best books I have ever read. The gist of it is how tiny changes in your habits can have a huge impact on your life. It’s true in almost all aspects of life…including whether or not someone suddenly finds themselves booted out of their home or apartment.

I attended my first meeting today of the monthly Leadership Council of A Way Home for Tulsa (AWH4T) which is a collective impact of over 30 voting organizations that exists to plan and implement strategies that support a system of outreach, engagement, assessment, prevention, and evaluation for those experiencing homelessness here in Tulsa.

One of the items on the agenda was the eviction process in Tulsa. Tulsa has the 11th-highest eviction rate in the country. Comparing Tulsa’s process with Nashville (a similarly sized city with similar medium income) and Nashville has an eviction rate half that of Tulsa (3.42% vs 6.95%). Why? Glad you asked.

In Tulsa it costs $58 to file an eviction notice (same as in 2004)…in Nashville it’s $191.50. In Tulsa, that eviction notice can go out on the 10th with a 3-day notice. In Nashville, the landlord has to wait till the 19th of the month to file with a 6-day notice. In Tulsa, they can and do simply tape the notice to your door (not like it’s windy here in Oklahoma). In Nashville, the Sheriff has to serve it to you in person.

In Tulsa “Eviction Court” is scheduled for the 15th and the landlord doesn’t even have to be present. In Nashville ultimately a court date is scheduled 4 to 8 weeks after rent is late and the landlord has to make a strong case for eviction.

What’s the point of all this? In Nashville, renters get time to catch up. There are hundreds of stories in Tulsa where someone had said, “If I just could just get to the 15th or next Friday I can pay rent.” In any other matter, if I sue you I have to show up in court and testify but not in Eviction Court.

Small, simple policy adjustments like filing fees, filing times, and landlord representation could have a huge impact on whether or not someone finds themselves on the street.