Portland “Relocation Assistance” Ordinance Requires Landlords Pay

Portland City Council Passes Ordinance Requiring Landlords to Pay Tenant’s Moving Costs

On the evening of February 2, 2017, the Portland City Council passed an ordinance that will require landlords to pay for relocation assistance to their tenants. The ordinance will enable tenants to be paid for moving costs when their landlord has either raised the rent by 10% or more or has served a “no cause” termination notice on the tenant.

The Ordinance is in response to the housing state of emergency that was declared by the city in October of 2015 and is intended to assist renters during the continued housing crisis in Portland.

The relocation assistance ordinance is considered to be the strongest renter protection Portland has ever seen with costs to landlords ranging from $2,900 to $4,500, depending on the type of dwelling unit rented.

While tenant advocates claim that the Ordinance is a necessary step in protecting renters, landlord advocates claim the Ordinance may bankrupt landlords who already face property maintenance costs and increasing property taxes.

The new Ordinance amends the “Portland Renter Additional Protections” section of city ordinance 30.01.085, which lists a landlord’s obligation when terminating a tenancy or raising the rent. In addition to requiring a landlord to deliver a written notice of termination to the tenant not less than 90 days before the termination date, the new Ordinance states that a landlord must pay the mandated relocation assistance to the tenant not less than 75 days prior to the termination date.

If a landlord chooses to raise the rent by 10% or more, in addition to providing a 90 day notice prior to the increase taking effect, the landlord must now also be ready to pay the relocation fee. The new Ordinance provides that if within 14 days after receiving the written notice the tenant provides written notice of termination to the landlord, the landlord must then pay the tenant the relocation amount within 14 days.

A landlord’s failure to comply with any of the Ordinance’s requirements could result in liability to the tenant for three months rent, actual damages, the relocation assistance amount, reasonable attorney fees, and costs.

After hearing from dozens of mom and pop landlords, the Portland City Council included at least one late amendment which will exempt landlords only managing one rental unit. Other listed exemptions to the ordinance include: week-to-week tenancies, landlords who temporarily rent out their principal residence during an absence of less than 1 year, or to tenants that occupy the same dwelling unit as the landlord. The final version of the new Ordinance has not yet been released.

Prior to the Portland City Council’s decision, attorneys representing landlords in the Portland area said they would sue if the city passed the Ordinance. During the city council hearing landlords’ complained of not being consulted in the drafting of the Ordinance as well as issues involving the vagueness of the Ordinance.

One issue that may arise is with landlords who intended to only rent a property for a fixed term tenancy and expressed as much in the rental agreement. The new Ordinance means that a landlord will have to pay a relocation fee if they choose to not renew the tenant’s lease on substantially the same terms.

The Ordinance, which was immediately enacted, will remain valid potentially as long as the city’s housing emergency continues. Currently the emergency is scheduled to lapse in October, however in the past it has been extended.

The Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant Act (“ORLTA”) and the Portland City Code (“Code”) is highly technical and landlords are well advised to consult with a real estate attorney knowledgeable about ORLTA and the Code before issuing any termination or rent increase notices.

Read the Ordinance and other relevant documents on the city of Portland’s website.

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