Senate Bill 608 passed the Oregon House of Representatives and is on its way to the Governor for signature. This bill will go into effect when signed by the Governor – which we expect to happen very soon. As you may have heard, this new law will fundamentally change Oregon Landlord Tenant Law by regulating when and how Oregon landlords can increase rents. The new law also sets limitations on when landlords can use “no-cause” evictions and requires landlords to pay relocation payments to tenants in certain circumstances. I expect materials to be made available soon by tenant-rights organizations like Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) that provide detailed information on the new law for service providers, advocates and renters in multiple languages. We will share that information as it becomes available. The highlights of the new law are as follows:
- Provides protection from no cause evictions for tenants after the first year of occupancy.
- Provides statewide protection from economic evictions by limiting rent increases to no more than seven percent plus the consumer price index percentage (typically 1-3%). It exempts regulated housing (like our affordable housing ) and new construction for the first fifteen years.
- Requires landlords to pay limited relocation payments when the landlord ends a tenancy due to certain circumstances (to renovate, move in themselves, sale of unit, etc)
First – some celebration. A collection of advocacy agencies, including Human Solutions, has been working on this type of legislation for many years. This is landmark legislation that puts Oregon ahead of most states in its regulation of the private rental housing market. Many staff and board members from Human Solutions lobbied for these kinds of protections, wrote op-eds, canvassed for legislators who supported these protections and contributed to coalitions that helped get this bill passed. It is a huge victory for renters in this state and will help us advance our mission by increasing housing security!
There are a few cautions for us to be aware of. The bill does not go as far as many in the advocacy community would have liked and leaves some renters vulnerable. Renters approaching the end of the first 12 months of occupancy should be aware that landlords can still use no-cause evictions. There are some who fear that landlords may attempt to end tenancies in the 12th month pre-emptively to retain their ability to use no-cause evictions. Many agree that the limitation on rent increases (typically around 9-10% given recent CPI data) is too high, and that some landlords will use this as a guide and raise rents the max allowed every year because they fear additional controls on rents may be coming in future years. Some have raised fears that landlords will increase rents or termination activity before the law goes into effect in the next week or two (it is awaiting the Governor’s signature). Given these and other cautions, there are a few things we should be doing right now as the law is about to take effect.
- Training: Those of us working closely with the rental housing industry will need training on the new law. We will be watching for training events, materials and online information – please share whatever you find so we can raise our collective awareness of these new protections. My sense is Rent Well and other entities will be providing detailed training and material updates soon.
- Monitoring: We should be watching for and documenting any potential behavior that appears to defy the spirit of the new law. If you hear of participants who receive eviction notices or rent increases that appear designed to skirt the purpose of the law or any escalation of rents or the use of no-cause notices before the law takes effect, please provide me with whatever detail you can so I can share with partners who will be monitoring statewide for that kind of behavior. While we may not be able to address the situation directly, our friends working closely with the legislature will want to hear about any abusive behavior and also hear whether some of these fears were indeed unfounded.
Thanks, and stay tuned for more information about this exciting change in our laws. Please let me know if you have questions or concerns.