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Oregon Supreme Court Ruling – Bad News/Good News

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By Bill Miner and Seth (Moe) Tangman

First, the bad news: Recent uptick in class action lawsuits puts manufactured home park landlords at risk of damages for technical statutory violations.

There has been an uptick in class action lawsuits filed by manufactured home tenants related to submeter or pro rata utility billings passed through from landlords. The recent spate of lawsuits seek damages for noncompliance with statutory invoicing requirements, irrespective of whether tenants were actually overcharged for utilities, or whether any invoicing deficiency is harmless.

ORS 90.560 et seq. governs a manufactured home park landlord’s ability to charge manufactured home tenants for utilities in the State of Oregon and sets forth procedures and billing requirements for submeter or pro rata utility billings to which landlords must comply. ORS 90.582(3)(a)&(b) states that if a landlord “fails to comply with a provision of ORS 90.560 to 90.584, the tenant may recover from the landlord the greater of: . . .One month’s rent; or . . .Twice the tenant’s actual damages, including any amount wrongfully charged to the tenant.” This penalty applies irrespective of whether a tenant actually suffered any overbilling damages or if the landlord’s failure to comply with the invoicing requirements were minimal and otherwise harmless.

Now the good news: The Oregon Supreme Court recently held that the proper measure of damages under ORS 90.582 is not one month’s rent for each violation; rather it’s the greater of one month’s rent or twice the tenant’s actual damages.

In Shephard Investment Group, LLC v. Ormandy, 371 Or 285 (2023), the Oregon Supreme Court was  asked  to  determine  the  proper  calculation  of  damages  that  may  be  awarded  to  a  tenant,  following  multiple instances  of  landlord  noncompliance  with  certain  utility  billing  requirements  that  repeated  each  month,  over  a  series of months. ORS 90.315 governs the inclusion of utility or public service charges such as for sewer or water service, in non-manufactured home park rental agreements. ORS 90.562 (which applies to manufactured home park tenancies) is substantially similar to ORS 90.315.

Both statutes require  landlords  to  “disclose  to  the  tenant in writing at or before the commencement of the tenancy any utility or service that the tenant pays directly to a utility or service provider that benefits, directly, the landlord or other tenants.” Both statutes state that a landlord “may require a tenant to pay to the landlord a utility or service charge or a public service charge that has been billed by a utility or service provider to the landlord”, also known as “pass-through” billing. However, the statutes condition pass-through billing upon a number of procedural requirements, such  as  billing  the  tenant  within  30  days,  setting  out  the  utility  or service  charge  separately  from  rent,  and  providing copies of the service provider’s bill or an opportunity to inspect it to a tenant. If a landlord engages in pass-through billing for public service charges without having met all of the conditions  of  the statutes,  a  tenant  may  recover  “an  amount  equal  to  one  month’s  periodic  rent  or  twice  the  amount  wrongfully  charged  to  the  tenant,  whichever  is  greater.” 

In this case, the landlord  brought  an eviction action  against the tenant to  recover  possession  of  the landlord’s premises. In response, the tenant alleged a counterclaim that landlord  had  failed  to  comply  with  certain  utility  billing  requirements  found  in  ORS  90.315(4)(b).  Specifically, the tenant alleged that, over the previous  year,  landlord  had  failed  to  (1)  timely  bill  him  in  writing for each month’s utility charges, as required under ORS  90.315(4)(b)(A);  and  (2)  provide  him  with  an  explanation  of  the  “pass  through  charges”  in  either  the  written  rental  agreement  or  separate  billings,  as  required  under  ORS  90.315(4)(b)(B). The  trial  court  agreed  with  tenant,  concluding  that  landlord  had  committed  12  separate  violations—one  per  month  - over  the  12  months within the one-year statute of limitations that governs  landlord-tenant actions. The trial court  awarded  tenant  statutory  damages  in  an  amount  equal  to  12  months  of  rent

The landlord appealed and the  Court  of  Appeals  reversed,  concluding  that  the  plain  text  of  ORS 90.315(4)(f)  showed the legislature had not intended for each landlord billing violation  to  be  subject  to  a  separate  sanction.

The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed with a thorough analysis, one that you may want to read, if you are so inclined. The crux of the Supreme Court’s logic is that while there may be substantive violations that are ongoing (i.e. not having specific language in a rental agreement and not placing particular language on a utility bill each month), the fact that they are ongoing is more procedural. The allegations complained of in this particular case were procedural, thus the Supreme Court held that the proper measure of damages is not one month’s rent for each violation, but there is one violation that is ongoing.

While this is a good case to address these types of claims, manufactured home park owners would be wise to reach out to their legal advisors who are well versed in manufactured home park law to review their billing practices to ensure that they are complying with the law.


Bill Miner, Partner-In-Charge Davis Wright Tremaine.  Experience includes defending and prosecuting business torts; breach of contract claims; disputes between and among members of limited liability companies; residential and commercial real estate matters, including landlord-tenant, title, lien, and timber trespass disputes; and probate and trust cases.

Moe Tangman is an attorney at Davis Wright Tramaine and applies his firsthand litigation experience to help his clients find business-oriented solutions tailored to resolve their commercial and corporate disputes. He represents clients in complex commercial litigation matters, particularly with respect to real estate, corporate governance, transactions, business tort, and contract disputes. Moe also maintains a robust class-action defense practice, with an emphasis in the data privacy and cybersecurity space.