COVID 19 - Nonpayment of Rent In Multnomah County/City of Portland And The Rest of Oregon
EXECUTIVE RULE NO. 388 ADDENDUM
Declaration of Emergency-Additional Measures
Multnomah County/Portland. Effective immediately, Multnomah County (which includes the City of Portland) has issued a temporary moratorium on nonpayment of rent evictions caused by wage loss resulting from COVID-19.
To establish eligibility, affected tenants must:
- Demonstrate a substantial loss of income, through documentation or other objectively verifiable means, resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic (including County, State, and Federal restrictions imposed to mitigate its spread); and
- Notify their landlords on or before the day rent is duethat they are unable to pay rent due to a substantial loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Moratorium does not declare that rent is forgiven, or is not otherwise due on time. It merely imposes a hold on eviction proceedings where the nonpayment results from a verifiable and documented loss of income due to COVID 19.
For example, a restaurant service worker who no longer has a job due to closure would likely be eligible under this Moratorium if timely notification is made to the landlord.
The Executive Rule clarifies that:
- Nothing in the Moratorium relieves tenants of liability for unpaid rent;
- Any deferred rent must be paid within six months after expiration of Oregon’s Declaration of Emergency;
- No late fees may be charged for rent that has been deferred due to the Moratorium;
- Landlord may not file for eviction due to unpaid rent deferred by the Moratorium.
Multnomah County Circuit Court hearings for eviction proceedings are suspended until April 30, 2020, or later. So the question for landlords is how to proceed if there is a non-payment of rent for which the tenant has not sought, or has not qualified for, rent deferral under the Executive Rule?
Should a 72-hour notice be sent? What happens if it is not paid? Can an eviction complaint be filed, even though the FED court is closed?
These are judgment calls up to each landlord. Much depends on the tenant. Is he/she a serial late-payer, in which case, this Moratorium might come as a welcome excuse for nonpayment. In other cases, the tenant may be legitimately short of funds due to COVID-related job loss. In the former case, perhaps the 72-hour notice should be sent – after all, there is a non-curable right of termination when three such notices are sent within a rolling 12-month period. The same approach could be said about filing for eviction, even though the courts are currently closed.
For landlords of communities within Multnomah County/City of Portland, they should inform their tenants about the Moratorium, so they can apply for the Moratorium, i.e. rent deferral. Otherwise, if rent is not paid, a landlord is left to wonder about the cause. With non-communicative tenants, written notices are the only real alternative, even if landlords cannot act on them right now.
The Rest of Oregon. Subject to jurisdictional changes in other cities or counties, at the current time,there are no abate/deferral of rent laws similar to those discussed above. However, residents elsewhere are seeking rent concessions, and some landlords may be willing to voluntarily cooperate.
Accordingly, MHCO felt that the Multnomah County/Portland model had certain merits, since we felt it was better for landlords to adopt voluntary arrangements, such as partial payments consistent with ORS 90.417, versus having residents unilaterally paying reduced rent or nothing at all with no explanation. Although we do not agree with the mandatory moratorium on non-payment of rent evictions, that issue is, for now, moot, since Oregon circuit courts are closed to such proceedings.
What MHCO is Doing. We are creating two new forms to address rent deferrals. The first one is limited to communities located withinthe Multnomah County/City of Portland area (Form 13-A). The second one is similar to the first insofar as allowing deferred/partial payments, but apples to the rest of the state (Form 13-B). Both forms have certain similarities, although Form 13-B gives more latitude to negotiate with tenants over the length of the repayment period. The Multnomah County/Portland Form 13-A mandates a 6-month term.
Final Note. When using either form, it is important to remember that resident participation in both rent deferral programs is based upon several prerequisites:
- The request and documentation must occur before the applicable rental period for which the relief is sought;
- There must be evidence of actual or impending “substantial loss of income”;
- The evidence must be in the form of “documentation” or through other “objectively verifiable means”; and
- The loss of income must “result” from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Lastly, this is not to suggest that if a resident was in dire straits for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, landlords should not try to assist if possible. We’re all in this together.