Oregon moves toward rent protection

Jeffery Osborns // The Torch

Oregon is experiencing an influx of people moving to the state. According to a survey conducted by United Van Lines, Oregon was the most moved-to state in the country for both 2015 and 2016. This year, Oregon scored third in the survey but nonetheless the state’s unprecedented growth is having impacts on the people that live here.

One such impact is the increasingly urgent housing crisis. The heightened demand for housing is one of the factors driving rent up across the state, and creating tension between renters and homeowners, according to an article on Oregon Public Broadcasting. Increased rates of student debt are also contributing to the higher demand for rentals in the state, as young professionals are now less likely to be homeowners, according to a study by Marketplace.

One source of growing tension between renters and homeowners is no-cause evictions, in which landlords can evict tenants on month to month leases without any legal precedent. This increase in evictions and rent inflation often affect low-income renters who tend to be more vulnerable to homelessness, according to a Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies report.

Efforts are being made by Oregon legislators to curb rising rent and eviction rates by writing laws such as House bills 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2240, all aimed at increasing renters’ rights through rent control and bans on no-cause evictions.

House Bill 2004, which explicitly bans no-cause evictions in most cases, was passed in the House of Representatives over the summer and is waiting for a vote in the State Senate this fall. Proponents of the bill say that expanding the rights of tenants will protect more vulnerable renters from being pushed into homelessness by the increased development of traditionally low rent neighborhoods, due, in part, to the rapidly increasing population of our state.

Critics argue that rent control will make homeowners less likely to rent their properties, and instead sell them, lowering the already-limited amount of available homes for rent in Oregon. They also decry bans on no-cause evictions, predicting that they will make landlords less willing to take chances on renting to people without rental history or stable incomes — often the people who need affordable housing the most.

Marc Friedman of the firm Access the Law, which provides legal counsel for Lane Community College students, said that the no-cause evictions are one of the most common suits that the firm deals with.

“Legislation will certainly make a difference,” Friedman said. “I suspect that we will not see an elimination of no-cause evictions. But if there is a change in the law, then it is more likely the legislature will extend the time for notice (like the 60 days now required for tenancies over one year) and I’d expect that landlords will seek more fixed-term leases and that conditions that violate the lease will be more explicit and expansive.”

Friedman said that currently, no- cause evictions are one of the most common housing disputes facing students, as they are the easiest for landlords to win. All they require of the landlord is to properly notify and serve the tenant, and if the tenant decides to take them to court, it is then their responsibility to prove illegal behavior.

These bills remain in the Oregon House and will likely be voted on before the State Congress’ next recess.