Layers of Laws: Don’t Forget about Local Rules in the Landlord/Tenant Relationship

Layers of Laws: Don’t Forget about Local Rules in the Landlord/Tenant Relationship

The laws with layers of local rules and state rules in the landlord tenant relationship can be confusing as attorney Brad Kraus explains here.

Bradley S. Kraus
Attorney at Law, Warren Allen LLP

When COVID-19 began to take hold in the spring of 2020, many rights that landlords had were put on hold by way of executive orders. The legislature took its time to craft laws which would shape the landlord/tenant relationship. Before that occurred, many local jurisdictions acted swiftly, enacting their own COVID-related local rules and prohibitions. Having multiple layers of rules and laws posed significant challenges. As we come out of COVID-19-related moratoriums, these challenges continue to exist.

Analyzing how to comply with both local rules and state rules can be challenging. Many lay people understand somewhat the concept of federal supremacy—i.e., how federal law can have supremacy over state laws that conflict with same. Thinking that a similar rule would hold true from a state/local law relationship makes sense, but it is unfortunately much more complicated. While this article won’t dive into the legal issues there, there are a couple common landlord/tenant that can differ from a local perspective and should receive your attention.

First, some localities have differing requirements regarding their leases. Portland is the obvious example, as their FAIR Ordinance imposes a variety of rules and obligations that are not found in state law. Others, like Gresham, have obligations snuck into their city codes regarding forms that should be included with the rental agreement executed by the tenant. The above examples are a reminder that the laws can and do change, so updating your landlord/tenant documents from time to time is important.

Next, it’s important to remember that prerequisites for utilizing your rights may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, while Oregon law requires landlords to pay relocation assistance to tenants for utilizing a Qualifying Landlord Exemption only if the landlords own more than four rental properties, local rules in Portland differ. The Portland jurisdiction has no safe-harbor number for small landlords. Portland does provide the ability to avoid paying Portland-specific relocation if the landlord obtains the required Relocation Assistance Exemption form prior to entering into a fixed-term tenancy with their tenant. Further, the landlord must provide that document to the tenant prior to entering into a fixed-term rental agreement with that tenant. The failure to take these steps can result in a required relocation payment to your tenant, which could have potentially been avoided.

Timelines can also differ depending on local jurisdictions. For example, under state law, landlords with tenants in their first year of occupancy are allowed to serve 30-day no-cause notices. Some local laws, as in Portland and Milwaukie, have extended these to 90 days. While the state legislature extended the first year of occupancy under Senate Bill 282 through August 31, 2021, landlords exploring their no-cause/non-renewal rights should seek counsel to ensure compliance.

The foregoing examples are a few of many. However, they illuminate the importance of both staying up to date on the laws that govern your landlord/tenant relationship and seeking counsel from someone knowledgeable in this area. With the flurry of legal changes recently, missteps can prove expensive.

About the Author:

Don’t Forget about Local Rules in the Landlord/Tenant Relationship
Bradley Kraus, Portland attorney

Brad Kraus is a partner at Warren Allen LLP. His primary practice area is landlord/tenant law, but he also assists clients with various litigation matters, probate matters, real estate disputes, and family-law matters. A native of New Ulm, Minnesota, he continues to root for Minnesota sports teams in his free time. You can reach him via email or 503-255-8795.

Fair Housing Matters – Landlord Liability for Tenant-on-Tenant Discrimination

Sign Up For Our Newsletter And Get Apartment News And Helpful, Useful Content Each Week.

* indicates required

 Senate Bill 278: Additional Tenant Protections (But Appropriate Burdens)