The MHCO Rental Agreement - Ten Tips and Traps

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November 16, 2016
Phil Querin
MHCO Legal Counsel
Querin Law

Oregon landlord-tenant law is complicated.  And mistakes in understanding the law frequently work against landlords.  The basic rule-of-thumb to remember is that the written document which defines the landlord-tenant relationship must be complete and must be followed.  While Oregon law does contain some restrictions upon what landlords can put into their rental agreements,[1] generally, they are far better off commencing the rental relationship with a strong, clear and fair written document. MHCO has gone to great lengths in making sure that its forms meet these criteria.  What follows is a list of ten tips and traps to remember when using the MHCO Rental Agreement form.

 

  1. Make sure that the rental agreement really applies to your situation.  The MHCO rental agreement comes in two flavors: (a) The month-to-month (or “periodic”) rental agreement, and (b) the lease (or fixed term) agreement.  The difference is that the month-to-month agreement runs for the number of days in the current month.  In the absence of termination by landlord or tenant, the periodic tenancy just “rolls over” month to month.  Regardless of which agreement is used, landlords renting or leasing spaces to residents in mobile home parks may not terminate them without cause.  However, a lease for at least two years carries a distinct advantage in that the park documents, i.e. the lease agreement and the park rules, may be automatically updated at the end of each lease term.  While there are certain limitations on the landlord’s right to impose new park documents on the resident, it is clearly much easier to do under a lease than a monthly rental agreement.[2]  Also, landlords using a fixed terms lease agreement must expressly incorporate any rent increase provisions into the written agreement.  The rent increase statute, ORS 90.600, applies only to periodic (e.g. month-to-month) tenancies and not fixed term tenancies.  If the home located upon the space is a recreational vehicle rather than a manufactured home, landlords should not use the standard mobile home space rental agreement.  The reason is that the mobile home park section of the landlord-tenant law does not apply to recreational vehicles.[3]  When renting space for a recreational vehicle, landlords should use an appropriate MHCO RV rental form.

 

  1. Make sure that the rental agreement is signed by all adult tenants who will occupy the space.  This not only financially obligates them under the agreement, but it makes it easier to enforce violations against rules offenders.  Do not permit occupancy of a home until the rental agreement has been fully signed by everyone.  Trying to get signatures after-the-fact can be difficult, if not impossible.

 

  1. Make sure that the Statement of Policy, Rules, and Rental Agreement are given to the resident and properly receipted for.  Occasionally, residents deny receiving one or more of these documents.  However, the signed receipt by the resident is legal evidence of delivery of these documents.  ORS 90.510(9) provides that a signed receipt is a defense to a claim against the landlord for the failure to deliver these documents.

 

  1. Similarly, landlords should make sure that the rights they summarize in the Statement of Policy accurately reflect their rental agreement and rules.  When using the MHCO forms this is not a problem.  It could be, however, when different forms from different sources are used, and the Statement of Policy provides that the resident has (or does not have) certain rights that are inconsistent with the terms found in the rental agreement or rules. The Statement of Policy is not intended to be a binding legal document - it is supposed to merely summarize the resident’s rights and duties that are found in the rental agreement or rules.

 

  1. Landlords should be sure to fully understand their rights and responsibilities given under their rental agreement form.  Not knowing your rights can result in not enforcing violations, which can lead to a waiver of those rights.[4]

 

  1. One of the more important provisions of the rental agreement form is the one which prohibits assignment, subletting or transfer of possession of the agreement or space without the landlord’s prior written consent.  Landlords should make sure that when a resident vacates, leaving a guest or visitor at the space, immediate action is taken to either terminate the tenancy or require that the occupant promptly apply for tenancy by filling out all required documentation.  Do not accept rent from the occupant, the ex-tenant, or on the occupant’s behalf, until the issue has been thoroughly resolved.

 

  1. Be aware that the fire insurance provision in the MHCO form does not apply unless it is specifically checked:  It requires that the resident must maintain a homeowner's policy of insurance that includes coverage for fire in an amount sufficient to replace the home, and permits the landlord to request a current copy of the policy.

 

  1. Similarly, landlords should be sure to have the resident initial those portions of the rental agreement which require them to do so.  There are several such places found in the sections dealing with (a) sale of the home and (b) the resident’s legal obligations under the tenancy.  When these sections are not properly initialed, there remains an argument that it is not binding.  Although such an argument would not likely carry the day, it can be avoided entirely by simply making sure that when the agreement is signed, all internal provisions are properly completed, checked and initialed where appropriate.

 

  1. The landlord’s rights upon a resident’s resale are very important and need to be fully understood by both parties.  One such section of the resale portion of the rental agreement provides that in the event the resident (or their predecessors) has/have made any improvements or alterations to the interior or exterior of the home which did not conform to all applicable local, state and federal building codes or ordinances in existence at the time the work was performed, the landlord has the right to require, as a condition of consent to the sale, that such improvement or alteration be brought up to all applicable local, state and federal building and construction standards in existence at the time of the sale.  When homes have been substantially remodeled, especially where electrical or plumbing systems are involved, this provision may be useful for the landlord to enforce in order to make sure that the proper building codes are followed.

 

  1. Disputes are an inevitable part of being a landlord.  MHCO believes that assigning fault is less important that securing a workable resolution.  Landlords should be aware that Oregon law requires them to have an informal dispute resolution process in their rental agreement.[5]   The MHCO form provides that in the event of any dispute regarding the interpretation or enforcement of the rental agreement or the rules and regulations, either party shall have the right to have the matter handled through the alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) process set forth in the attached MHCO Addendum, which is incorporated into the agreement.  If a resident request some form of informal dispute resolution, landlords should promptly respond in doing so.
 


[1] ORS 90.245 Provides prohibits the following provisions in a rental agreement: (a) Agreement to waive or forgo rights or remedies under the landlord-tenant law; (b) Agreements authorizing any person to confess judgment on a claim arising out of the rental agreement; or (c) Agreements relieving or limiting a landlord’s liability arising as a result of his or her willful misconduct or negligence or agreements requiring the tenant to indemnify the landlord for that liability or any costs connected therewith.  Any provision prohibited in ORS 90.245 is unenforceable. If a landlord deliberately uses a rental agreement containing provisions known by the landlord to be prohibited and attempts to enforce such provisions, the tenant may recover, in addition to the actual damages, an amount up to three months’ rent.

ORS 90.135 provides that “(1)f the court, as a matter of law, finds (a) A rental agreement or any provision thereof was unconscionable when made, the court may refuse to enforce the agreement, enforce the remainder of the agreement without the unconscionable provision, or limit the application of any unconscionable provision to avoid an unconscionable result****”

[2] See, ORS 90.540, 90.545, and 90.610(3) – (8).

[3] See, ORS 90.505 and 90.100(23).

[4] See, ORS 90.415.

[5] ORS 90.610(2).

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