October Surprise!

I sincerely hope that you, your families, and your tenants safely made it through last month’s wildfire crisis and are continuing to safely navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand the exhaustion that many of you feel and look forward to sharing more relaxing times with you in the future.

It is now October first. The mornings are a bit cooler, the leaves are starting to turn, and the last of the tomatoes and peppers are coming in from the garden. Let us review some of the things that have changed for Oregon landlords since my last newsletter:

  • President Trump, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a nationwide eviction moratorium on September 4 that is in place through December 31, 2020.
  • Last week during Legislative Days, both the Oregon House and Senate Interim Committees on Housing held hearings regarding the eviction moratorium and the need for getting critical funds out to tenants and landlords who have been impacted by COVID-19. However, the legislature is not expected to meet or act on any proposals until November.
  • The City of Portland has modified its Mandatory Relocation Assistance Ordinance so that a tenant who receives a notice of any rent increase effective through March 31, 2021 may inform their landlord that they cannot afford the increase and request relocation assistance.
  • Multnomah County voted on September 24 to extend the eviction moratorium until January 8, 2021.
  • Over one million acres were burned in multiple megafires throughout the state; hundreds of homes and, most tragically, at least 10 lives were lost.

This was not a September to remember. I am not sure that October will be much better, as there is a good chance that Governor Brown will issue an Executive Order to extend the statewide eviction moratorium through at least December 31. If that happens, I guess it won’t be much of a surprise.

Rental Housing Alliance Oregon and other rental housing groups throughout the state have been sharing statistical data gathered from our monthly surveys as well as your individual stories with Governor Brown, the legislature, and others. We have emphasized that (1) the costs of the COVID-19 housing crisis should be borne by society as a whole, not solely by landlords; (2) tenants claiming inability to pay rent should be subject to a means test; (3) constantly changing regulations, often passed at the last minute before a so-called “hard date,” are creating confusion and chaos; and (4) funding, and a long-term solution, is needed now; stop kicking the can down the road.

There is reason for measured optimism: Several legislators who serve on the two Interim Committees on Housing are hearing us and have been hearing from you. Keep those calls coming, especially if you are a small landlord who has lost significant income on which you depend. It is critical that our legislators, who are also our neighbors, hear directly from you as individuals as well as from organizations like RHA Oregon.

Finally, thank you very much to all the landlords who provided information on units that may be available for housing individuals and families displaced by the wildfires. The state is now working with FEMA on a Disaster Housing strategy that will better define specific needs. Once this is in place, watch for another email.

Have a great October and enjoy those peppers and tomatoes!