Mark Busch: Portland Doubles Down Against Landlords

Want access to MHCO content?

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

The City of Portland upped its economic attack on the city’s landlords last week by passing a “tenant relocation assistance” ordinance. The ordinance requires landlords in the City of Portland to pay relocation expenses to tenants evicted for no-cause, or tenants forced to relocate if a landlord raises rent 10% or more within a 12-month period. This is on top of a city ordinance passed in 2015 requiring 90-day rent increase notices (which is now also state law) and 90-day no-cause eviction notices.

Under the ordinance, landlords must pay relocation costs of $2,900 for studio apartments, $3,300 for one-bedroom units, $4,200 for two-bedroom units, and $4,500 for three-bedroom or larger units. These payments must be made not less than 45 days prior to the termination date in a no-cause eviction notice, or not more than 14 days after the tenant informs the landlord in writing of the tenant’s intent to vacate after a rent increase of 10% or more within a 12-month period.

Under pressure from some landlords, the city carved out a few minor exceptions. The ordinance does not apply to week-to-week tenancies, tenants who live in the same dwelling unit as the landlord, landlords who rent only one dwelling unit in the city, or landlords who temporarily rent out their principal residence during the landlord’s absence of not more than 3 years. 
However, the ordinance harshly applies to the large majority of landlords in the city. For instance, the ordinance applies even to existing no-cause tenancy termination notices that have already been issued by a landlord, although landlords have 30 days from the February 2nd ordinance passage date to rescind an eviction notice. Rent increase notices that have already been issued are also subject to the ordinance, although landlords can also rescind the rent increase or drop it under the 10% level within 14 days after receiving written notice from a tenant terminating the tenancy based on the rent increase.The ordinance even applies to fixed-term tenancies, forcing landlords to renew fixed-term leases or pay relocation costs, and forcing landlords to not raise rents by more than 9.9% when renewing a fixed-term lease. 

In my opinion, the city’s ordinance is as an “unlawful taking” of private property by the government, is unlawful rent control, and/or unlawfully interferes with existing private-party contracts. A lawsuit has already been filed against the ordinance, but court cases obviously take time and money to resolve. Of more concern to all Oregon landlords is whether these ideas make their way into the discussions in Salem when the legislature takes up landlord-tenant issues in the ongoing 2017 legislative session.

Community Update Topics: