PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Lawmakers in Salem are hearing a bill Monday that would restore emergency protections for tenants from the pandemic.
Simply put, Senate Bill 799 would make it harder to evict a tenant. Landlord groups say that it would make it harder to evict any tenant — not just those who haven’t or can’t pay their rent. Supporters, meanwhile, believe that it will prevent people from becoming homeless.
SB 799 would require landlords to extend the “notice to pay” window from 72 hours to three days after an eviction notice is posted. It would also increase the notice period for evictions and postpone evictions up to 60 days if a person is applying for rental assistance.
Furthermore, the bill would require a landlord to accept payment before a tenant is formally evicted.
KOIN 6 News has previously reported on several delays with Oregon’s pandemic rental assistance program — the bill would also require local governments and programs like that to inform landlords and tenants about the status of rental assistance.
Landlords say as far as nonpayment evictions the proposed bill is one thing — but they fear it will make it harder to evict someone who is a bad tenant or a bad neighbor.
“The only tool in the tool belt for a landlord is an eviction — is a for-cause termination,” Ron Garcia, the executive director for Rental House Alliance Oregon, explained. “There are very strict guidelines around it. So to create a legal maze to get through it and elongate that time period really affects the safety of the neighboring people. “
Community Alliance of Tenants Executive Director Kim McCarty says, however, that the goal is to prevent evictions and to prevent homelessness.
“We know the rate of evictions is skyrocketing,” she stated.
Before the pandemic, there were a little bit more than 1,500 evictions per month across Oregon. In October 2022, all of the pandemic protections in the state lapsed. Between then and now, McCarty’s organization has tracked that there’s been an average of 2,100 evictions each month — a 43% increase.
Yet, this bill comes as rental assistance is becoming more common. Requiring landlords to accept payments, even partial ones, is crucial to McCarty. She has helped clients who have tried to pay landlords during the court portion of an eviction process. She has seen landlords refuse payment in the courtroom.
“Or, they have accepted the money and that tenant still gets evicted,” McCarty said.
Garcia hasn’t seen that in his organization. Rental assistance is growing as a means of response to the homeless crisis and preventing people from losing housing, considering the $100 million lawmakers are debating to spend on the cause. To that end, Garcia says he sees rent assistance as means to keep a tenant.
“All my clients, all the property providers I know are happy to get a payment,” Garcia said.
Garcia does worry about the 60-day period for someone to apply and receive rental assistance. Most of his organization is made up of landlords with fewer than four properties, not corporate-sized apartment conglomerates, and he feel it will be hard for many to swing going two months without that income.
“What would you say to the owner who has tenants who aren’t paying, who don’t have any real likelihood of getting any assistance and are just using the system to stay in a house without payment?” he said.
Senator Kayse Jama (D-Portland), the chair of the Senate Committee on Housing and Development, said the hearing is the beginning of an important conversation about reforms to the eviction system and how they could prevent homelessness.
“Our goal is to run an inclusive process that leads to people staying in their homes and paying rent, while making sure Oregon attracts and retains affordable rental housing,” she said in a statement released Monday morning. “Homelessness hurts us all – from the human beings living on our streets, to families struggling to meet their basic needs, to the folks losing rental income and property value. We have to come together and leave no stone unturned in pursuit of reasonable, effective solutions.”