The Landlord Newsletter 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.
On Sunday, March 22, 2020, Governor Kate Brown issued executive order 20-11, which prohibits all law enforcement officers in Oregon from enforcing nonpayment evictions. Officers are prohibited from “serving, delivering or acting on any notice, order or writ of termination of tenancy” based on the nonpayment of rent, fees, utilities, or late charges. The order also applies to no-cause evictions. The order is effective immediately, and will remain in effect for 90 days unless extended or terminated earlier by the governor.
The order does not prohibit landlords from issuing such notices or filing eviction cases in court. However, as a practical matter, nonpayment cases could not be enforced with an actual eviction by the sheriff’s office for at least the next 90 days or longer. In addition, Oregon courts are not holding any eviction hearings whatsoever, which will likely continue through at least the end of April. Given these circumstances, the recommended practice is to hold off on issuing nonpayment eviction notices for the next several months, but consult with your attorney in making any such decision.
It is important to note that the governor’s order does not prohibit the enforcement of “for cause” eviction notices (i.e., for bad tenant behavior, condition of the rental premises, unauthorized pets or occupants, etc.). Again, though, with the courts effectively closed, no eviction cases will be processed for the foreseeable future. (Although it should be possible for attorneys to continue filing eviction cases online to have them ready when the courts start holding hearings again.)
The order does NOT relieve tenants of their duty to pay rent – it merely puts a hold on nonpayment evictions. In Multnomah County, landlords are required to offer tenants a deferred payment plan. 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 COVID-19 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 must pay accrued rent to the landlord within six months after expiration of this emergency, and the landlord cannot assess late fees.
The Multnomah County approach also makes sense for landlords throughout the state, since a wave of evictions in 3 months would not serve anyone’s interests. Various rent deferment forms are already available from several landlord trade associations. A well-drafted deferment form should protect the tenant’s continued housing, while also protecting the landlord’s right to recover rent and other charges owed. As usual, consult with an attorney on the use of any such form to make sure that it complies with Oregon law and adequately protects your interests as a landlord.