Finding quality tenants is the key to running a successful rental. After all, your tenants make the difference between a profitable rental business and a nightmare of legal issues, property damage, and missing rent. The screening process helps landlords gain insight into a few critical factors about whether a person will make a responsible tenant. But a number of factors limit tenant screening in Portland, and landlords must consider them carefully or risk serious consequences.

Let’s explore some basics about screening tenants in Portland and the most important dos and don’ts to remember. 

Portland’s Tenant Screening Protections 

Like many U.S. cities, Portland has a number of federal, state, and local laws which affect landlords’ screening processes.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968

In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act to legally protect people applying for rental housing. This act created seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin or ethnic background, gender, familial status, and mental or physical disability. 

The purpose of this bill is to prevent discrimination against certain groups and ensure that all tenants have the opportunity to live in their dream homes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development administers and enforces the Fair Housing Act. 

Portland’s FAIR Ordinances

Portland City Council recently passed amendments to the city codes 30.01.086 and 30.01.087, which are collectively called the FAIR Ordinances. 

As per these ordinances, landlords must: 

  • Publish notices announcing the available rental at least 72 hours before they start accepting applications.
  • Describe the factors they will consider while evaluating applicants if they charge a screening fee.
  • Process applications in order of receipt. 
  • Provide applicants with a record of the date and time they received an application within five business days of receipt. 
  • If the unit is considered an Accessible Dwelling Unit, landlords must prioritize applicants with disabled mobility.

Senate Bill 282

If a tenant application has been evicted on claims arising between April 1, 2020, and March 1, 2022, the landlords cannot consider that history in their decision not to accept a tenant. Similarly, landlords cannot base a decision on whether an applicant’s unpaid rent accrued in that same timeframe.

Senate Bill 291

State Bill 291 created new guidelines for screening fees, criteria, and requirements:

  • Screening criteria must list a tenant’s right to appeal if the landlord denies their application. It also must include applicable on-discrimination policies on a local, state, and federal level. 
  • Under SB 291, Landlords cannot consider an applicant’s previous arrest record if it resulted in a conviction for charges currently legal in Oregon. This includes a criminal conviction for possession of marijuana.
  • Landlords must deliver written notice of an application denial, citing reasons for why the tenant’s application was not accepted, within 14 days of the denial. They must also offer a series of chances for an applicant to improve their chance of success. 

These considerations provide a good place to get started. However, you should be sure to consult legal advice and do your own research to ensure that no further screening criteria apply to you.

How to Screen Portland Tenants

In line with the laws listed above, there are a few things you should do when screening Portland tenants. 

DO Research Housing Laws

Ensure that you’re complying with all housing laws when screening Portland tenants. Most Fair Housing Act violations arise in the screening process, and you don’t want to get into legal trouble. Do your research, and never cut corners. 

DO Create a Standardized Rental Application

By using a standardized form, you can consistently gather all the necessary information you need from your applicants. Provide a form to every person who wishes to apply, and ensure they complete it in full. The personalized assessment requirements, however, can make this challenging. In addition to a standardized form, you’ll need to take the time to assess each application individually and write an explanation of why you denied each tenant’s application. You must provide this Notice of Denial to an applicant within two weeks of denying their application.

DO Check Credit, Income, and Employment

When you screen a tenant, some of the most important aspects are their credit score, income, and employment history. These three factors can have a significant bearing on whether they can likely afford the cost of your rental, whether they’ve had a stable employment history you can extrapolate into a stable employment future, and whether they have any serious red flags on a credit score. Though these are far from a perfect method of determining whether someone will make a good rental candidate, they can certainly eliminate some renters who won’t be a good fit.

DO Verify Rental History

If a prospective tenant has a history of evictions or unpaid rent, that may be cause for you to deny their application. However, as mentioned above, some Portland laws restrict whether you can consider an eviction in certain time periods when renters were under pandemic-related protections.

What NOT To Do

DON’T Violate Privacy Laws 

When writing up your standardized rental application, ensure that none of your questions violate privacy or discrimination laws. For example, you should never ask about an applicant’s medical history or children. 

DON’T Base Your Decisions Off Just One Factor

A person’s credit score is an important screening factor, but they’re only a piece of the larger picture. Rather than focusing on a single aspect, be sure to weigh all the aspects of their application before making a decision.

DON’T Surpass Portland’s Screening Fee Limit

Ensure that you are following Portland’s restrictions on the screening fees you can legally charge. Landlords cannot charge more than the average actual cost of screening applicants plus a reasonable value for the time you spend processing tenant applications. 

Tenant Screening In Portland Can Be Complicated

Are you concerned about your ability to follow all the legal nuances of tenant screening in Portland? If so, working with a property management company can give you peace of mind. Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew helps screen all applicants to find you the best tenants possible while adhering to local, state, and federal requirements. You can rest easy knowing we’ll do it all by the book, and you’ll never have to worry about recurring maintenance, tenant communication, or legal issues again. To hear more, Call or text us any time at (503) 515-3170, or reach out through our website.