Oklahoma lawmakers consider bill to protect homeowners - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Oklahoma lawmakers consider bill to protect homeowners

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A judge ordered the owners of this property to surrender it to Thackerville after failing to comply with city code. (KTEN) A judge ordered the owners of this property to surrender it to Thackerville after failing to comply with city code. (KTEN)

A bill to protect citizens from having their property sold by municipal governments will be seen by the Oklahoma House of Representatives this week.

The bill could shield property owners who could otherwise lose their land for failing to keep their property clean or up to code.

Last week, a judge ordered the Debord family of Thackerville to surrender their property after failing to maintain compliance with city regulations and to pay associated fees. Two people were jailed.

Family members -- some who have volunteered at the local fire department for more than three decades -- maintained that they don't have the means to pay more than $35,000 in fines, so the city placed a lien on their property, meaning it will be auctioned off by the town.

State Sen. Frank Simpson (R-District 14) said that he and state Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-District 48) came up legislation that could protect families like the Debords after hearing about a veteran losing his property.

"It focuses on liens that have been placed on property holders for mowing some grass, and maybe some cleanup," Simpson said. "We had citizens who were forced out of their homes just to satisfy the city lien ... what we established in Senate Bill 1107 is that as long as the ad valorem taxes are being paid, the city lien will not be enforced."

But Thackerville Mayor Garvin Kirk told KTEN the town with a population of less than 500 has spent nearly $20,000 over the last five years trying to help the Debords clean up their property. That's $40 for each resident.

"If the taxpayers understood the amount of money invested in just a small family here because they chose not to follow the ordinances of the town, it would be a significant amount of money that is being thrown away each year," Kirk said.

The Simpson-Ownbey bill would have some exceptions; for example, if the safety of property owners or neighbors is at risk.

Thackerville officials maintain that the Debords' home did not meet safety regulations.

The Debords must now pay $300 a month to keep from being jailed again. There's no word on when the property will be auctioned, but whoever buys it can let the family continue to live there.

The Senate Committee on General Government recommended that an amended version of SB 1107 be approved.

Full text of Oklahoma Senate Bill 1107 as introduced

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