Portland City Commissioner Seeks To Regulate Tenant Screening

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Portland City Commissioner Seeks To Regulate Tenant Screening

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is seeking to regulate tenant screening by following a similar path to Seattle’s first-in-time ordinance and require Portland landlords to take a first-come, first-served approach to tenants, according to reports.

Eudaly’s proposal is similar to one passed by the Seattle City Council, called first-in-time. That ordinance was struck down in April by King County Superior Court Judge, Suzanne Parisien, who said in her ruling that “choosing a tenant is a fundamental attribute of property ownership.”

Willamette Week first reported that  Eudaly is working on a measure to require landlords to rent to tenants on a first-come, first-served basis. 

"There is so much subjectivity. Housing access relies exclusively on landlords' feelings about a tenant," Eudaly policy director Jamey Duhamel told Willamette Week. "The goal is to create clear channels to access housing of choice for all renters that are consistent, fair and equitable."

"This policy needs the input of the community at large, and I'm willing to spend as much time as needed with any organization that wants to engage on this policy and provide direct and honest feedback about how it would work in real life," Duhamel told Willamette Week.

Tenant screening ordinance struck down in Seattle

The judge wrote in the Seattle ruling that the ordinance, called the first-in-time (FIT) law’s “few concessions to landlords do not redeem it. While landlords are permitted to set their own rental criteria …general criteria does not substitute for the discretion to choose a specific tenant.”

“Notably, the ability to negotiate for instance, - a key element of the right to freely dispose of property – is extinguished by the FIT rule. Even if landlords can impose some limits on the pool of qualified applicants, landlords and tenants still cannot bargain for an arrangement that suits their interests,” the judge wrote. She also called it “an unreasonable means of pursuing anti-discrimination.”

Duhamel said they are aware of the Seattle ruling.

"While Oregon's interpretation of the constitutional takings law is different, there is some concern that it sets a precedent here that is challenging," Duhamel told the Portland Tribune.

Duhamel said that alternatives will be discussed during a series of workshops planned on the proposal in May.

"We are currently workshopping alternatives to first-come first-serve that may accomplish the same goals, but in reality many landlords do this now anyway as best practice. We will see if something else arises," Duhamel told the newspaper.

According to northwest apartment investor blog, she plans to propose standardized tenant screening criteria based on a point system, which would score tenants based on credit, criminal, and housing history. If prospective tenants score above a 5 using the new system, landlords would be prohibited from denying their application. If they do not score above a 5, tenants would be given a 24-hour window to provide documentation of "offsetting considerations" that could potentially raise their score. Eudaly is also proposing to link the new tenant screening process with security deposit reform.

Resources:

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly Plans Reforms of Renter Screening Criteria

Washington ruling raises questions about tenant protection proposal

Seattle Law Making Landlords Accept First Qualified Tenant Struck Down

Eudaly Plans to Propose New Rules to Standardize the Renter Screening Process

 

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