I do not have a “back-to-school” message this month, as it appears that a majority of Oregon students won’t be going back in the traditional sense. So, I will call this my “back-to-legislative-session” message instead.

To begin – thank you! Thank you to all the members of Rental Housing Alliance Oregon, as well as all the other landlords, who have taken part in the RHA and Multifamily NW surveys over the past few months. Your feedback has helped generate quantitative and qualitative data characterizing the impact of the Oregon eviction moratorium.

Unfortunately, there are still forces at work that will make the lives of small landlords even more difficult. While the state was able to allocate $55 million in emergency rental relief for those with incomes under 80% of Area Median Income (AIM), this is likely less than 20% of what is needed to make up for all the unpaid rents since April. Do not expect a bailout for landlords. It is particularly frustrating that the federal government appears to have an approach like our state: evictions should be banned, but there are no funds forthcoming to keep tenants in place.

And it is likely to get worse. Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek announced in mid-August that, “My top priority for September is making sure we can extend the eviction and foreclosure protections for another six months.” It is not yet clear what the legislation to accomplish this would include, but RHA Oregon is doing all we can to make our legislators aware that even if the eviction moratorium is extended, there are certain items that needs be addressed:

  • Even if the moratorium is extended, rent payments must begin again in October as was agreed to in HB 4213 during the July special legislative session.
  • Tenants that are unable to pay rent because of COVID-19 should have access to rental vouchers so that their landlords may pay their ongoing expenses.
  • Small landlords are disproportionately affected by the inability of tenants to pay rents. For those who own just one to four units (most of our members), rent losses can run between 25% and 100% of monthly income.
  • There must be a means test for tenants that do not pay rent, just as there was for recipients of the state’s $500 Emergency Check Program. One of the most common frustrations expressed by our members in our surveys has involved tenants that have the means to pay their rent but choose not to because of the moratorium.
  • The same exceptions for terminating lease agreements that were allowed under 2019’s SB608 legislation should be allowed now, including the termination of fixed-term agreements that have reached (or exceeded) the original termination date.
  • “Rent forgiveness,” is unconstitutional. Full stop.

The current eviction moratorium ends on September 30. All landlords who have rents owed should prepare to communicate with their tenants to arrange for repayment by March 31, 2021, as is outlined in the HB4213 legislation passed in July. I encourage you to visit the COVID-19 resources page on the RHA Oregon website for more information. Also, please watch your e-mail for up-to-date information from RHA Oregon. I anticipate that we will be calling on you to provide written testimony regarding any proposed legislation. If you are not a member of RHA Oregon, now would be a really good time to join so that your voice may be included in our lobbying efforts!

Ken Schriver
RHA Oregon President