PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Following a KOIN 6 investigation, tenants unions in Portland are calling for a protection ordinance banning retaliation tactics from landlords of The Yards apartment complex.

In the report, KOIN 6 reporter Elise Haas details how a Portland man has taken his landlord and the property’s owner to court over what he says are unsafe living conditions at his apartment in Northwest Portland. 

The Yards tenant claims unsafe living conditions, sues for $2.5M

The Yards is a low-income housing option. It’s also marketed toward seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. Income Property Management Corporation manages the apartment complex. It’s contracted through HomeForward—the public housing authority serving Multnomah County—and is funded by tax dollars. 

Brian Jackson started with his first lawsuit against his landlord seeking a couple of months’ rent but a second lawsuit against the president of the company is seeking up to $2.5 million damages. 

Now Jackson has filed a third lawsuit against the housing authority that owns the property, seeking up to $2.5 million in damages. 

The lawsuits claim the president of the management company targeted Jackson for eviction and accuse Multnomah County’s housing authority of allowing unsafe conditions to exist. KOIN 6 News also details the crime data along health and safety reports, with issues the tenants say they’re experiencing.

The Yard tenants demand safer, healthier living conditions
Yard Apts tenants march on landlords

Now, these low-income tenants are joined by Portland Tenants United, attorneys from OlsenDaines and Margot Black, a city council candidate. They’re calling attention to what they call landlord retaliation—not just at The Yards, but beyond. They say as the current ordinance stands, the definition of retaliation is too vague to be enforceable.

PTU says it’s won several tenant protections in Portland in the last few years but landlord laws have led to new retaliatory behavior.

“Right now, it’s more difficult for a landlord to evict a tenant, it’s more difficult for a landlord to jack up the rent on a tenant; therefore, if they choose they want a tenant to leave what they do is they harass a tenant until the tenant chooses to self-evict,” said Leeor Schweitzer with PTU.

Schweitzer said the harassment has worsened in the COVID-19 climate.

PTU and Tenants Union at The Yards are pushing for a tenant protection ordinance which clearly defines retaliatory behavior and tenant harassment.

“Some of these things are already legal, some of these things are borderline legal and some of them are potentially fully legal but taken in conjunction with many other pieces and with a clear bad-faith effort to evict a tenant, should be illegal,” said Schweitzer.

Margot Black, a tenants’ rights advocate and city council candidate, wants to change the cycle.

“We know that we have this huge homelessness crisis—does anybody realize that all of the housing that we’re building that is supposed to alleviate our housing crisis—the taxpayer money is gong to an eviction mill?” asked Black.

Black believes what’s going on inside these new affordable housing complexes is nothing to be proud of.

“Meanwhile, it’s no one’s job at the city to do anything about this,” Black said.

KOIN 6 News reached out to leaders at Homeforward and IPM Tuesday morning but both declined to comment due to pending litigation.

KOIN 6 News will continue to dip deeper and bring you the latest information on this story.