The Oregon State Bar hosted a free public seminar on July 10, 2019, addressing significant changes to landlord-tenant laws in Oregon, as passed this year by the Oregon legislature.
This presentation is designed for non-lawyers, both landlords and tenants, to explain key legal changes that affect those who live in or own Oregon rental properties.
The supporting materials can be found here:
Due to time constraints, our presenters were unable to answer some of the questions raised during the seminar. Portland lawyer Troy Pickard answers some of those questions in the follow-up video.
A transcript of this video for use with the "translate this page" feature at the top of this page is available below.
Transcript of “More Legal Q&A: An Update to Landlord/Tenant Law in Oregon”
Hello, my name is Troy Pickard and I'm a lawyer practicing landlord/tenant law in Portland. Recently, I was one of the presenters at a public seminar on changes to Oregon landlord/tenant law, and the seminar was recorded and is available on this website.
If you've watched it, you'll see that the audience had a lot of questions. Due to time constraints we were not able it get to all these questions, but in this video I will answer some of those questions. I can't answer all of them, especially because some of the questions are very specific, and we simply don't have answers for everything.
This is pretty typical with new legislation. Sometimes we won't know the answer until someone takes an issue to court for a judge to decide, and other times the legislature will weigh in to clarify things. But, for now, I can only tell you what the new laws say and perhaps give you some insight based on my experience in this area of law. Before we get to questions specific to these new laws, let's go over just a couple of nagging points that people have some confusion about.
The first is the difference between termination and eviction. People use these terms interchangeably all the time, but they do mean different things. Termination simply means the end of a rental agreement. For example, anytime a landlord goes to a tenant and issues a termination notice that's considered a termination and the same is true for any time a tenant goes to a landlord and gives their landlord a termination notice.
An eviction refers to a court process for removing a tenant who refuses to leave. If one party issues a termination notice to the other side, but then the tenant does not leave on time, a landlord may want to file an eviction case against that tenant to get the court's help in removing the tenant. So keep in mind, if you're not dealing with a court process, you're not talking about an eviction. You're talking about a termination.
Another issue that comes up a lot is the difference between a rental agreement and a lease. There is no formal difference between these things but people usually – when they say "lease" -- are referring to something in writing. There's no requirement that rental agreements all be in writing; although, it may be a very good idea. So you can have a verbal rental agreement. You can also have a written rental agreement. Both of those things could be considered a lease. I think the best practice is just to call them all rental agreements.
Now, onto the real questions.
Do these new rules apply to rental agreements that were entered into before the new laws became effective?
Remember, these new rules cover two areas: rent increase notices and termination notices. As for rent increase notices, the new law applies to any rent increase notice that was issued after February 28, 2019. As for termination notices, the rules apply to all fixed-term rental agreements that were entered into on or after February 28, 2019. And in terms of month-to-month tenancies, the rules for terminations of month-to-month tenancies apply to any termination notices that would terminate a tenancy on or after March 30th of 2019.
Does the new rent increase limit apply to increases in charges for utilities?
The State of Oregon's new limits on rent increases do not affect changes to utility charges. In fact, Oregon's landlord/tenant laws define "rent" as specifically not including utility charges. So a landlord who wants to change a utility charge can do so without running afoul of Oregon's new rent increase limits.
However, landlords should beware and tenants should be on notice that a change in the amount of utilities charge can impact the City of Portland's relocation assistance law. If you have questions about how a utility charge adjustment is affected by that Portland law, you should talk to an attorney about that specific issue.
Some of the rules depend on how many units a landlord owns. How would the tenant know that, or how could a tenant find out?
If you're a tenant and you want to find out how many rental units your landlord has an ownership interest in there is no one certain way that you can find that out. You can sleuth around on the web. You can ask neighbors. You can also call the County Assessor's Office for the county in which you live and ask them for information on what properties a particular landlord owns. But at the end of the day there is no way that a tenant can be certain as to how many units a landlord owns.
If an additional tenant is added to a rental agreement does that reset the first-year clock?
The new laws sometimes care about whether a tenant is in the first year of occupancy. That term is defined by the statute as including all periods during which any of the tenants have resided in the home for less than a year. So if tenants one and two have lived in a home for ten years, and then after that ten-year period they add tenant three onto their rental agreement, that adding of tenant three starts a new first-year of occupancy period.
When serving a 90-day termination notice, does the day service is performed count as one of the 90 days? Is there a standard way to calculate timelines like this?
When you serve a 90-day termination notice it doesn't matter what time of day you serve it at. A tenant will be entitled to the full 90-day period after the day of service. So the initial day of service does not count as one of the 90 days.
Do these new rules apply to monthly RV park rentals?
Yes. The new rules, both about rent increase notices and about terminations of tenancies, do apply to tenancies for spaces in RV parks.
Are there any other changes to landlord/tenant law that we should know about?
There are some new laws coming up to be aware of. The first is the City of Portland's FAIR ordinance, which relates to what standards a landlord can use when they are screening tenants who are applying to rent a home. That new law is specific to Portland and doesn't go into effect until March of 2020. So stay tuned for another video on the bar's website specific to that new law. That will come out in 2020 before the new law goes into effect.
Another law that's coming up and going into effect in January of 2020 is a statewide law that will allow tenants to expunge or seal the record of an eviction case in certain circumstances. You should also stay tuned for a video specific to that law. That will be on the Oregon State Bar's website soon.
I hope that these questions and answers have increased your understanding of Oregon's new landlord/tenant laws. For information on landlord/tenant law and other legal topics you can always visit the Oregon State Bar's website.