Mark Busch: COVID-19 Update for Landlords

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This article is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice for any specific issue that might arise, since every situation is different. Always consult a knowledgeable landlord attorney with your specific legal issues.

The Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court issued a statewide Order yesterday significantly restricting court operations in all counties beginning no later than March 19, 2020. All eviction case 1st appearance hearings and all eviction trials will be automatically postponed and rescheduled by the court through at least March 27, 2020, although subject to extension even beyond that date depending on conditions at the time. For postponed trials, landlords may file a motion with the court requesting that the tenant pay rent into court pending trial, although the court will have discretion on whether to grant any such motion.

The Chief Justice’s Order does not prohibit landlords from issuing eviction notices or filing eviction cases during this period (BUT SEE Multnomah County restrictions below). However, any new eviction cases filed during this time will not be set for a 1st appearance hearing until after March 27, 2020, and likely much longer after that date.

The Order allows each county court to decide for itself which in-person services it must continue to provide to the public. This means that each court has some discretion on whether to allow in-person filings, or to continue issuing Notices of Restitution and Writs of Execution to complete the eviction process on existing eviction cases. Landlords should check with their local circuit court to see if these eviction services will be offered during the shutdown (and check with the county sheriff’s office as well).

Multnomah County today issued a temporary moratorium on all residential evictions based on the nonpayment of rent due to wage loss resulting from COVID-19. To be eligible, an affected tenant must be able to demonstrate with documentation or other objectively verifiable means a “substantial loss of income” resulting from the pandemic and/or government restrictions. The tenant must notify the landlord with this information on or before the day that rent is due to be eligible for rent deferment. The tenant is not relieved from paying rent, but must pay accrued rent to the landlord within six months after expiration of this emergency (and landlords cannot assess late fees).

The Multnomah County moratorium does NOT prohibit landlords from issuing or filing eviction cases on for-cause eviction notices or other lawful (non-rent related) notices during this period. However, all court hearings on eviction proceedings will be suspended until April 30th or later, and the moratorium prohibits the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office from executing on a currently-pending eviction judgments for nonpayment of rent if it would cause a person to be without housing. The Multnomah County Attorney will be drafting an ordinance that will impose retroactive fines and penalties for violation of the moratorium measures. SINCE THIS IS A FLUID SITUATION, LANDLORDS SHOULD CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL CIRCUIT COURT AND/OR ATTORNEY BEFORE PROCEEDING ON ANY EVICTION ACTION.

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