How important is the Rental Housing Alliance Oregon to you?

I had a disgruntled Landlord write to me this month to say he was terminating his membership because, in his opinion, we have not done enough “with the war perpetrated by Salem and Portland city council on residential property owners” and that “what this all boils down to is it requires that RHA in Oregon take a militant position in conjunction with landlords statewide”.  He concluded with this: “You see Mr. Garcia, there’s ’nothing’ to lose by being proactive, but by not doing so everything to lose…”

As a longtime landlord and professional Property Manager, and a nearly 20-year member of RHAO with 10+ years as a Director on its Board with a term as Legislative Director and now its current President for a 2nd term, I certainly share his frustration. The amount of regulations, prohibitions, and legislation that have mounted on top of Residential Property Providers in the last few years is unprecedented.

So much has happened to Tenant Landlord law that it is not only hard to keep up with, but it is even harder to navigate those simple situations that seemed so commonplace just a few years ago. Advertising. Screening. Move-in’s. Security Deposits. Move-out’s. Final accounting. Rent increases. Lease renewals. For-cause terminations. Repairs. Temporary Occupants. Today, even collecting rent is posing confusing legal challenges!

Landlords are trying to survive in a rip tide of overlapping forces.

With the Covid-19 Pandemic came multiple Eviction Moratoriums. And before we’ve been able to even absorb those impacts or comply with those imposed restrictions, a new round is headed our way (as we speak) in the current 2021 Oregon Legislative Session.

Yet even now, as we begin to readjust to these newest proposals and mandates and hurdles, many Landlords are being caught off-guard and stung by laws that came into effect 2 to 3 years ago. These were equally unprecedented, but so new that we never really got used to them before the next wave of regulations hit. Utility bill-backs, property sales, lease expirations, homeless camps, advertising and application rules, and even consequences of ice storm damages are but a few examples of issues I have heard that are currently being litigated, and that Landlords are being required to defend.

But before we get swept out to sea and drown in this swirling drama, it might be worth our time to grab a quick breath of air. Let’s get our bearings towards dry land and try to find a safe port.

Here is the new horizon: Change has occurred and will continue to evolve in Tenant-Landlord relations.

Accepting that reality is the first step. The rental market is evolving along with the economy, the pandemic, the social justice movement, the prescription drug epidemic, our court systems, the make-up of our local, state and national governments, taxes, the price of oil and timber and the calls for future sustainability. Fill in the blank if you want. Personally, I have spent hundreds of hours over the last 12 months on Zoom calls and in work groups; in testimony at House and Senate Hearings; collaborating with Landlord groups and government entities; personal conversations with Senators and Representatives and Community Action Associations. For several years I have been working to influence decisions and polices that affect Landlords as a representative on behalf of the Rental Housing Alliance Oregon in many public arenas.

Am I making any headway? I’m not sure. Am I making any waves? Maybe. Maybe not.

However, I have learned this for certain: Our voice matters. My voice matters. Your voice matters. Their voice matters. But screaming voices don’t succeed. Marches are meaningful. Riots are criminal. Self-righteous anger reveals self-defeating contempt. My dad always told me if I want to get respect, I need to give respect. It’s been said that to have successful relationships in life we ought to spend more time considering our overall responsibilities and less time focused on our individual rights.

So here is my reply to our disenchanted member: No sir, I do not believe we are at war. I do not believe in the need to become militaristic. I do believe we need to be informed. We each need to be engaged. We need to be educated and where there is an opportunity, we need to educate. The discussion over Tenants’ rights has morphed into one of Tenant Protections. Landlords’ rights must accommodate those protections while continuing to protect their economic health. Providing safe and affordable housing for Renters requires that Owners receive a safe and stable Return On Investment.

Let me add a true confession here. I was ready to quit RHA about 5 years ago too… until I realized that I need them as an organization of support a whole lot more than they need me as a self-serving landlord. I know it’s not flattering, but it’s the truth. So instead, I chose to get more involved.

In closing, last month I promised that I would teach you the words to the “Great Apartment Song”. It’s really just a melodic hymn, and I hum it to the tune of America the Beautiful. When I am in rough waters I  especially like the calm feeling I get as I hum “from sea to shining sea”.