The COVID-19 pandemic upended the lives of millions of Americans, almost overnight. Here in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown issued comprehensive stay-at-home orders that apply to most state residents. Designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, these orders have forced many local businesses to close and thrown many Oregonians out of work. In response to concerns that some newly unemployed individuals may not be able to pay rent during the pandemic shutdown, Governor Brown signed into law Executive Order 20-13 — an Oregon eviction moratorium.
Other municipal governments, including Multnomah County and The City of Portland, have passed their own eviction moratoriums in recent weeks. As a result of these legislative actions, many investment property owners have questions about how the Oregon eviction moratorium will affect them.
What the Oregon Eviction Moratorium Does
Governor Brown’s executive order bars residential evictions for nonpayment throughout the duration of the declared state of emergency. Brown’s order also prohibits law enforcement officers in Oregon from serving, delivering, or acting on any eviction notice. Multnomah County and the City of Portland both took their orders a step further. They established a six-month grace period after the emergency ends, which allows tenants to repay missed rent and avoid eviction. Once Oregon’s statewide moratorium ends, investment owners outside Multnomah County and Portland could theoretically begin the eviction process for non paying tenants. All three moratoriums bar landlords from assessing or collecting late charges or other penalties related to nonpayment.
This order applies to all rents that have accrued during the effective dates of Executive Order 20-13. Multnomah County and the City of Portland recommend that tenants who believe they’ll be unable to pay rent notify their landlords as soon as possible. They also advise tenants who can pay their rent to do so. Multnomah County’s eviction moratorium applies to all residential rental properties located within the county. The City of Portland’s moratorium applies to all rental properties within the legal limits of Portland, including those in Washington and Clackamas Counties.
These ordinances create clear penalties for landlords who don’t follow the law. Any person who violates Executive Order 20-13 could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. A landlord who fails to comply with Multnomah County’s six-month repayment grace period “shall be liable to the tenant for an amount up to 3 times the monthly rent as well as actual damages, reasonable attorney fees, and costs.”
What the Oregon Eviction Moratorium Does Not Do
These recent eviction moratoriums do not forgive rent payments, utility charges, or any other service charges or fees that are unrelated to nonpayment. They simply defer these charges until the emergency ends. Tenants are also not required to provide documentation of lost income. Previous versions of the Multnomah County and the City of Portland moratoriums required documentation. However, effective April 16th, 2020, Ordinance 1284 deferred to the statewide ordinance that does not require documentation.
Utility charges will be deferred only if they’re paid directly to the landlord. Utility charges paid to a third party are not eligible for deferment. These moratoriums also do not prevent utility shut-offs that result from nonpayment. However, many utility providers have created programs for customers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
Executive Order 20-13 — as well as the new county and city ordinances — apply only to nonpayment and no-cause evictions. However, these moratoriums do not apply to evictions for other lawful purposes. Investment owners may still have to delay these proceedings, though, as Multnomah County has postponed all landlord-tenant hearings and trials until at least June 1st.
Assistance for Rental Owners
Hopefully, most tenants in Oregon will be able to pay their rent, and relatively few will need to take advantage of rent deferrals. While some rental property owners are large, faceless corporations that can absorb some lost revenue, that isn’t the entire picture. Many investment owners are ordinary people who buy rental properties to help fund their retirement or earn some extra money. These owners could encounter real financial hardship if their tenants are unable to make rental payments for an extended period.
The Oregon and Multnomah County eviction moratoriums offer no concessions for property owners. The City of Portland has deferred 2019 business income tax payments, including the Residential Rental Program fee. Beyond that, there are federal programs some homeowners can access. For example, the recently-enacted CARES Act includes a moratorium on evictions, late fees, and other penalties, for all properties with a federally insured mortgage. Additionally, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enacted a temporary suspension on all foreclosures and evictions for single-family homes with FHA-insured mortgages. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have also suspended foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days. Homeowners must understand the details of these programs before participating.
[Update: In early 2021, the Oregon Legislature created a Landlord Compensation Fund with $150 million to pay landlords for lost rent. The first application deadline has passed, but payments will continue through at least July 2021.]
Property Managers are Invaluable During Uncertain Times
When significant changes like this happen, many self-managing investment owners have trouble keeping up. That’s understandable because government ordinances are often tricky to understand and may provide conflicting information. Unfortunately, landlords also face severe penalties for not complying with these new laws, even if unintentionally. Great property management companies follow rental laws closely and can advise their clients on how changes will impact them. That kind of service provides valuable peace-of-mind during uncertain times.
If you’d like to learn how a property management company can help you, we’d love to talk! Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew is a team of professionals who will care for your property like it was their own. We handle the details of property management, so you don’t have to. You can call or text us at (503) 515-3170 or by filling out the contact page on our website.