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February 2017
Okay landlords – it’s time to listen up!
 
Can you hear it? That’s the sound of the Oregon Legislature, opening up for its full session and things are getting pretty loud as the Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek proposes the most far-reaching changes to Landlord Tenant law in the state’s history.
 
Being a rental property provider, this is going to affect what you do, how you do it, and may even challenge your desire or willingness to keep on doing it. Whether you’re a seasoned investor, a new landlord (intentional or not); if you’re a large company or have a single rental; and whether you are liberal or conservative, Democrat, Independent
or Republican – the negative financial consequences of this legislative agenda are real. So pick up your bullhorn and join the din – it’s time to reach out and let your mayor, commissioner, and government officials know how you feel. This means you!
 
I know this process can be discouraging. To quote a young, new-age troubadour, singer Taylor Swift - “It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.”
 
But here’s the drift: The need for rent control and the elimination of nocause terminations are no longer just the sound bites of radical tenant groups who proclaim these are the solution to a self-described housing crises. They are the  ossible (and perhaps probable) outcome of this year’s political changes. From small town mayors to the Governor’s office, rental property owner’s rights and bank accounts are being targeted.
 
In Portland, newly elected Mayor Ted Wheeler has picked up the drum, seeking to enact mandatory inspections and oversight of applications and rental contracts, paid for by a surcharge assessed on all property owners. Welcome to the new normal.
 
For many years, the state legislature has worked on new laws through the Landlord Tenant Coalition, to help formulate and draft new housing regulations that were equitable and fair. RHAO has always been at the table, happy to participate, even though we felt like we gave up a lot of ground at times. Last year, during the “Short Session”, legislators decided to forego any efforts of the LTC. In an unprecedented move they sent onerous housing measures straight to committee and then they worked to get them passed, (like requiring landlords to pay for replacement housing when terminating tenants, and to enact inclusionary zoning - which is the first step towards rent control). Inclusionary zoning became law. Thankfully, other components were not passed. Maybe the real fallout was that the coalition (as dysfunctional as it may have been at times) has now been abandoned in the process.
 
This year, that same political body has decided to up the stakes and go for it all - with no input from either party. Is this a fair process? Not when one side’s agenda is the only one being heard!
 
Generally, when the news reports that a city or state is one of the fastest appreciating real estate markets in the country, it has been seen as good news. But when the discussion turns to rising rents, suddenly those fortunate enough to own real estate are made to be responsible to cure the social and economic problems they had no part in creating. So what if the landlord has to pay taxes, insurance and mortgages; be responsible for improvements and repairs; pay ever increasing water bills and deal with screening guidelines that seem to say that anyone who shows up deserves to be given the keys. So what if they have to pay for the cleanup of the vacating tenants, and fight the Section 8 housing authorities for reimbursements from tenants who have no other resources to pay for the damages they created, but were entitled to live there. And so what if the owner’s wages haven’t increased in the last 10 years either, to keep up with the rising costs of ownership. And so what if these are the same folks who had to pay hundreds of dollars monthly out of pocket just to keep the property from foreclosure during the last 10 years, throughout the biggest real estate crisis in the nation’s history.
 
Today, somehow those people who have worked, scraped and saved to own a piece of the once called “American Dream” have now become the responsible party - obligated to fix the problems brought on by long range planning missteps that have created a lack of good rental supply. Rental property owners are being unwittingly “drafted” into a war on poverty, and they are expected to pay for it out of their personal income, and made to feel as though it’s expected of them to do so by their elected officials!
 
If it sounds like I am being an alarmist, let me claim to be acting only as the town crier sounding the bells for protection. It is hard to win a fight that’s not fair – but one thing is for sure, it’s worth fighting for and making some noise.