Phil Querin Q&A: What Type of Fines May And May Not Be Levied By A MHC Landlord

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August 30, 2012

Question: A landlord recently issued a fine to a resident for not cleaning up his yard. The resident claimed that the landlord could not do this. What does Oregon law say regarding the types of fines a landlord may and may not levy?

Answer: The answer is found in ORS 90.302 (Fees allowed for certain landlord expenses). What follows is a brief summary: (1) A landlord may not charge a fee at the beginning of the tenancy for an anticipated expense (i.e. one that has not actually occurred). (2) A landlord may not require the payment of any fee except as provided in this statute. (3) The specific fee must be described in a written rental agreement. (4) The following list are the fees a landlord may charge: a. A late rent payment, pursuant to ORS 90.260. b. A dishonored check, pursuant to ORS 30.701 (5). [Note that the amount of the fee may not exceed the amount described in ORS 30.701 (5) plus any amount that a bank has charged the landlord for processing the dishonored check.] c. Removal or tampering with a properly functioning smoke alarm, smoke detector or carbon monoxide alarm, as provided in ORS 90.325 (2). d. The violation of a written pet agreement or rule relating to pets in a facility, pursuant to ORS 90.530. e. The abandonment or relinquishment of a home during a fixed term tenancy without cause. [Note that the fee may not exceed one and one-half times the monthly rent. A landlord may not assess a fee under this section if the abandonment or relinquishment is pursuant to ORS 90.453 (2) (Termination of tenant who is victim of domestic violence), ORS 90.472 (Termination of tenant who is called to active state service) or ORS 90.475. (Termination of tenant sue to service with Armed Forces)] f. If the landlord assesses a fee under (e) above: i. The landlord may not recover unpaid rent for any period of the fixed term tenancy beyond the date that the landlord knew or reasonably should have known of the abandonment or relinquishment; ii. The landlord may not recover damages related to the cost of renting the dwelling unit to a new tenant; and iii. ORS 90.410 (3) (Effect of tenant failure to give notice of absence) does not apply to the abandonment or relinquishment. (5) Noncompliance with written rules or policies. [Note that the fee may not exceed $50.] (6) A fee may be assessed under paragraph (5), above, only for the following types of noncompliance: a. The late payment of a utility or service charge that the tenant owes the landlord as described in ORS 90.315. b. Failure to clean up pet waste from the tenant’s space other than the home itself. c. Failure to clean up garbage, rubbish and other waste from the tenant’s space other than the home itself. d. Parking violations. e. The improper use of vehicles within the premises. (7) A landlord is not required to account to a tenant for, or return to, the tenant any fee. (8) Except where the tenant abandons or relinquishes the space during a fixed term tenancy [see (4) e above], a landlord may not charge a tenant any form of liquidated damages, however designated. [Note: A liquidated damage is a pre-fixed amount that doesn’t necessarily relate directly to the actual amount of damages suffered by the landlord] (9) Nonpayment of a fee is not grounds for termination of a rental agreement for nonpayment of rent - but is grounds for termination of a rental agreement for cause. (10) The above laws regarding fines do not apply to: a. Attorney fees; b. Applicant screening charges; or c. Charges for improvements or other actions that are requested by the tenant and are not required of the landlord by the rental agreement or by law.