The December 13th Oregon Special Legislative Session produced more funding and stronger safety nets for renters who have struggled to pay their rent during the pandemic. With eviction protections previously set to expire at the end of February 2022, Governor Kate Brown called for legislators to work towards a solution to prevent a fresh wave of evictions. During the special session, the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 891, which extended housing protections for renters. The legislature also passed Senate Bill 5561, which increased the funding for our state’s rental assistance programs. But how does this impact Oregon landlords, many of whom are still waiting to receive government compensation for missed rents?
SB 891 and SB 5561: Two Bills Which Affect Landlords
The primary outcomes of the December 13th special legislative session bolstered financial aid for renters and beefed up eviction protections. Here’s what landlords should know about the newest changes to Oregon pandemic legislation in the coming year.
More Funding For the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP)
SB 5561 included a $215 million financial package to help with the rental crisis. That funding included $100 million in financial assistance to help renters remain housed during the winter. Another $100 million will go to smaller rental assistance programs in the state, as the large-scale pandemic emergency fund transitions to more locally-delivered services. The hope is that further dispersing funding into smaller and more focused organizations can help improve the response time for aid. The past year has shown that a central program has struggled to keep up with the tide of need.
SB 5561 also set aside $10 million to compensate landlords for missed rents during the 60-day safe harbor period when tenants are safe from eviction. This aid comes from the Landlord Guarantee Program, which assists landlords whose tenants have not paid rent during the 60-day safe harbor period, starting after July of 2021.
The special legislative session bill also included $1 million in funding for fourteen Oregon cities to address housing insecurity, lack of affordable housing, and homelessness. The City of Portland already announced it would use that money to create more places for RVs to park. Lastly, the bill also included $18 million to help Afghan refugees find housing and other assistance in Oregon.
Extending Eviction Protections
The primary aim of SB 891 was to prevent Oregon tenants who have applied for rental assistance from being evicted while they wait to receive that aid. To this end, SB 891 extended the eviction safe harbor period from February 28, 2022, to October 1, 2022. The legislation protects tenants from eviction who apply for assistance and present their landlord with documentation before June 30. If a tenant’s application is canceled or denied, these protections will expire immediately. Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) must notify a landlord if their tenant’s application is rejected or canceled.
Addressing OERAP’s Failings
It’s been a difficult autumn for OERAP. In November, the program announced that its $289 million pool of federal funds had run dry. That announcement came even though many renters still have not received their promised aid. Due to an enormous backlog of applications and no money to meet the need, OERAP stopped accepting new applications while working through existing applications. In the meantime, however, tenants and landlords have been left to bite their nails.
Facing slow and uncertain government aid, many tenants feel the financial pinch more keenly. A recent U.S. Census Bureau survey showed that 67,000 Oregon households don’t feel confident they can cover next month’s bills. The director of the state’s Housing and Community Services announced that the previous funds should be dispersed by March 2022. The additional funding granted by the special legislative session will follow in June. However, due to the program’s history of delays, it’s uncertain if these deadlines will be accurate.
Renters and landlords alike faced severe challenges during the pandemic. Despite multiple programs designed to help cover rental payments missed due to COVID-19 difficulties, the road to real help has been long and fraught. Despite having taken all possible actions to get help, many renters still face delays receiving promised support. Though $289 million should have already gone out to renters prior to SB 5561, the current backlog of applications means that $119 million of that money has yet to reach them.
What Landlords Can Do Next
Managing a rental property is hardly an easy job under the best of circumstances. And COVID-19 has created an all-new playing field. It can feel like you’re walking a tricky tightrope between two equally strenuous challenges. On one side, you have the stark difficulties caused by COVID-19. The pandemic has made many previously straightforward situations far more chaotic, from tenants who can’t pay their rent to the struggle of juggling mask and occupancy regulations when touring available properties. On the other hand, there’s the frustration of navigating the ever-changing legal landscape the pandemic has created. It seems like every month, there’s a new bill or ordinance, turning the rental business into a snarl of compilations. If you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle against the struggles of being a landlord in these strange new times, a property management company may be able to help.
Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew leads the way in Portland’s rental market. During a time when understanding and compassion are more important than ever, we’re staying close to our core values of integrity and a people-first business model. We know how stressful it is to own an investment property these days. That’s why we’re always happy to sit down and talk to you about how we’re managing your rental. If you ever have questions or concerns, you won’t have to wait for days for us to respond to an email. We pride ourselves on our fast responses and quality communication. With Rent Portland Homes, you’re guaranteed professional treatment with a personal heart. If you’d like to learn more, call or text at (503) 515-3170 or reach out through our website.