In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero must navigate his ship through the Strait of Messina, which separates the island of Sicily from mainland Italy. This was a hazardous undertaking: the shoals on the north side are described as a six-headed sea monster called Scylla. To the south, a naturally occurring whirlpool became associated with an equally threatening monster, Charybdis. From that Greek mythology, we still refer to the process of navigating a particularly difficult situation as being “caught between Scylla and Charybdis.” Even if you’re not familiar with that phrase, you’ve probably heard one of the more modern variations such as “caught between a rock and a hard place.”
As landlords in Oregon, it may feel like we are now in such a situation. The Oregon legislature has fast-tracked Senate Bill 608, which would establish the only state-wide rent control policy in the country. It would also restrict a landlord’s use of no-cause terminations. As I write this, indications are that both houses of legislature will pass this bill and Governor Brown will sign it into law. Because the legislation has been written with an emergency clause, the law will go into effect upon her signing; landlords and property managers will need to adjust their policies immediately. Are you ready?
I believe that RHA Oregon’s members will adapt to the new law, just as we adapted to House Bill 2639, passed in 2013, which mandated inclusion of Section 8 vouchers and other assistance as a source of income for applicants. Now, as then, RHA is providing the information our members need to understand the new rules. Two weeks ago, we e-mailed all our members a preprint of an article explaining SB 608 that appears in this issue of the UPDATE. If you attended our February dinner meeting, you heard an overview of what the new law will do and how you might be affected. Want to learn more? Our Spring curriculum has been modified to include a class on 26 March taught by attorney Jeff Bennett, who will review the ramifications of SB 608 and other ordinances such as the new registration requirement for Portland landlords. The instructors for our other spring courses, including “The Everchanging Market,” “Creating the Tenancy,” and “Managing the Tenancy,” will be incorporating up-to-date information to reflect the latest developments in state and local law. If you’re looking for a class where you can catch up on the rapidly-shifting regulatory environment around landlord-tenant law in Oregon, RHA is the place to go!
We’ve also expanded our monthly informal forums: “New Member Mentor Meetings” are now on the calendar as “Mentor Roundtables.” These sessions are great opportunities not only for new RHA members, but for longtime members and non-members to learn about best practices from some of our most experienced members as well as one another. Whether you’ve been a member for a month or a decade, I encourage you to attend these roundtables and bring a colleague. If you’re not yet a member, this is a great way to “test the waters,” and find out for yourself how valuable membership in RHA can be. If Oregon’s new laws make you feel “caught between a rock and a hard place,” remember that Odysseus did ultimately succeed in his quest to return home to Ithaca from Troy. He also had lots of help along the way. Similarly, RHA Oregon is here to provide you with the help you need to continue to provide safe, fair, and affordable housing.
Ken Schriver, RHA Oregon President