Phil Querin Q&A: May a Landlord Unilaterally Decline to Renew a Resident’s Fixed Term Tenancy?

Want access to MHCO content?

For complete access to forms, conference presentations, community updates and MHCO columns, log in to your account or register.

July 16, 2014

Question - A resident moves out of their house but the daughter continues to pay a storage fee and signed a MHCO Storage Agreement. The home is not being occupied by anyone. All storage fees are current. However, no one is maintaining the yard or outside of the home. This is required under the Storage Agreement, and work needs to be performed immediately. The MHCO storage agreement refers to a three (3) day notice in the event of non-compliance. Does the community owner give a 3-day notice for non-compliance? If so, what happens next if there is no compliance? Does the landlord file an FED? Should the landlord stop accepting storage payment?

Answer: In a word – No. Or, to be more precise, as discussed below, if you do not renew the lease, it will automatically become a month-to-month tenancy on the same terms as the lease. In other words, your non-renewal will not result in forcing the tenant to vacate the space.

When this law was first being discussed, this issue was addressed. Prior to enactment, there was an open question whether fixed term tenancies [i.e. leases - those with definite start and ending dates] were even legal. From the tenants’ perspective, under the manufactured housing landlord-tenant laws, since a landlord cannot terminate a tenancy “without cause,” a lease that expires without renewal is the same thing i.e. termination without cause. Accordingly, ORS 90.545 was enacted, which provided protections to tenants against the possibility of unilateral nonrenewal.

Is this unfair to a landlord, such as yourself, when an applicant is approved, ostensibly based upon a satisfactory application, who then becomes the “Tenant From Hell?” Some would say that the landlord’s best protection is at the front end of the business relationship, since he/she is given a full and complete opportunity to set out all screening criteria and performing a thorough vetting of the applicant’s financial, rental, and criminal background. But once the landlord approves the applicant – presumably because he/she passed the vetting process - they have the right to remain at the space, so long as they don’t commit certain material violations, such as nonpayment of rent, breach the rules, rental agreement, state law, or commit certain actions outrageous in the extreme.

Here is how the fixed term tenancy law, found at ORS 90.545 and 90.550, works:

  • At least 60 days prior to the ending date of the lease term the landlord must provide to the tenant a proposed new lease, together with a written statement that summarizes any new or revised terms, conditions, rules or regulations.
  • The new rental agreement may include new or revised terms, conditions, rules or regulations, if:
  • They fairly implement a statute or ordinance adopted after the creation of the pre-existing lease; or
  • They are the same as those offered to new or prospective tenants at the time the new proposed lease is submitted to the tenant and for the preceding six-months prior to submission period;
  • If there have been no new or prospective tenants during the six-month period, the new lease terms must be same as are customary for the rental market; and
  • They are consistent with the rights and remedies provided to tenants under ORS Chapter 90; and
  • Do not relate to the age, size, style, construction material or year of construction of the manufactured dwelling [or floating home] contrary to ORS 90.632 (2) (Footnote 1); and
  • Do not require an alteration of the manufactured dwelling [or floating home] or alteration or new construction of an accessory building or structure.
  • The tenant may accept or reject a landlord’s proposed new rental agreement at least 30 days prior to the ending of the term by giving written notice to the landlord.
  • Note that if a landlord fails to submit a proposed new rental agreement as allowed, the tenancy renews as a month-to-month tenancy under the same terms as the prior lease, except that the landlord has the right to increase the rent unilaterally, pursuant to ORS 90.600.
  • If the tenant fails to accept or unreasonably rejects a landlord’s proposed new rental agreement, the fixed term tenancy terminates on the ending date without further notice and the landlord may take possession through the eviction process, assuming the tenant does not vacate the space and remove the home.
  • However, if the tenant surrenders possession of the space prior to the filing an eviction, he/she has the right to enter into a written storage agreement with the landlord, and then has the same rights and responsibilities of a lienholder during an abandonment, i.e. pay storage fees, maintain the space, and sell the home within six months [rather than 12 for lienholders]. See, ORS 90.675 (19).

Conclusion. My suggestion is that if your tenant is continually causing problems, paper your file thoroughly, showing the efforts you’ve made to work with that person. If there are complaints from other residents, document them. Eventually, the tenant will slip up – doing something that gives you the basis for an eviction. If he is a chronic late payer, consider using the three strikes law, found in ORS 90.630(8). Then find a good landlord attorney and discuss the best method to evict the tenant. You will then be armed with good evidence for the judge or jury to show that you walked the extra mile with this person, but they simply refused to cooperate. And remember that although there are restrictions on the contents of the new lease you offer, it may contain provisions that will give you a better foundation for the eviction. Good luck!

Footnote 1: This specific protection was important to the tenant lobby, since until it was enacted, there was an open question as to whether landlords could impose as a condition upon accepting an applicant who was purchasing an older home, that it must be removed upon subsequent resale. In addition, ORS 90.632 was enacted which permits landlords to expressly require that homes be repaired due to damage or deterioration.