City leaders call for oversight following Vista Shadow Mountain closure

TULSA, Okla. (KOKI) — Some Tulsa city leaders will push for more oversight of apartment complexes owned by out of state landlords in order to try to avoid another fiasco like what is currently happening at the Vista Shadow Mountain Apartments at East 61st and South Memorial.

Friday is the absolute final day all residents needed to vacate the complex by order of the fire marshal. Originally, it was set for Wednesday, but a one time extension was given to the last residents.

READ: Tulsa fire marshal extends move out date for Vista Shadow Mountain apartment residents

“The oversight we can do on complexes is very limited under The Landlord Tenant Act,” said Tulsa City Council Vice Chair Lori Decter-Wright, who represents the area where the Vista complex is located. “We’ve gone through so much deregulation over the years on this issue that preventing something like this from happening again is very difficult unless we change state law. Our power has just been scaled back and scaled back and scaled back over the years, and now we can do so little as a city to make sure these complexes don’t end up like this.”

At one of Tulsa city council’s committee meetings, Decter-Wright and Councilor Jayme Fowler said more oversight needs to happen at complexes all around Tulsa because the likelihood of there being another complex on the verge of shutting down and hundreds of people needing to move on short notice because it is deemed uninhabitable is high.

“These people are being forced to move out through no fault of their own,” Decter-Wright, who has physically helped tenants move out of Vista, said. “We’re talking about families of four and five who have lived here for years and consider this place to be their home.”

Decter-Wright said she was looking forward to a legislative roundtable where local leaders and state lawmakers sit down to address what is needed out of the legislature for current, repeat, and future issues that will require a state in change law in order to be addressed. This year, city government leaders across the state rejoiced when a bill allowing them to fund public safety costs through more than just sales tax collections was signed into law.

“We need to be able to better protect these people,” Decter-Wright said. “This will be on the top of my list when state lawmakers ask us what we need them to do next month.”

Wright said she and some of her colleagues are concerned that too many out of state landlords have purchased up Tulsa apartment complexes, are collecting rent, and not maintaining their properties as well as they could be because they have no local emotional connection to the Tulsans who lease from them. She said many of these people can easily fall through the cracks because they aren’t seen as families and people with lives of their own, but they’re seen on a spreadsheet as numbers based off how much income a complex is bringing in.

Currently, the only way for the City to step in is through working in neighborhoods and the Fire Marshall’s abilities to maintain building and fire codes as well as the power to declare a property a nuisance.

“When they were originally listed as a nuisance property before, they made the bare minimum of repairs just to be taken off the list,” Decter-Wright said. “But because they were technically in compliance with what we could enforce, there wasn’t much we could do to help the residents out from their other issues.”