New Laws, New Defenses for Tenants – Staying Ahead of the Curve

Washington Courts Launch Eviction Resolution Program

New laws in Portland and Oregon have brought big changes for landlords so the topic this month by attorney Brad Kraus urges landlords to stay ahead of the curve.

By Bradly Kraus
Attorney, Warren Allen LLP

The 2019 legislative session brought several tough changes for Portland and Oregon landlords. From rent control to the nearly complete obliteration of no-cause rights, these new laws brought challenges for landlords and decisions related to their property. The new laws also present new causes of action and/or defenses for tenants, often with punitive consequences for landlords who make the slightest misstep. While SB 608 received much of the attention of the past session, not much attention has been paid to HB 2530, scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020. This new law provides further defenses for tenants related to notices of termination under the Oregon Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ORLTA) and eviction actions.

HB 2530 amends ORS 105.113, one of the statutes related to eviction actions. It also adds to the ORLTA, although it is unclear on where it will be placed in Chapter 90. The important piece of HB 2530 is that it will require landlords to include with any notice of termination certain information related to veterans assistance. The relevant portions of the new bill state:

  1. Except as provided in subsection three of this section, a person who sends or serves a document listed in subsection two of this section shall include the following information with the document:
    1. A statement that if the recipient is a veteran of the armed forces, assistance may be available from a county veterans’ service officer or community action agency; and
    2. Contact information for a service officer appointed under ORS 408.410 for the county in which the recipient lives and contact information for a community action agency that serves the area where the recipient lives; or
    3. A statement that contact information for a local county veterans’ service officer and community action agency may be obtained by calling a 2-1-1 information service.
  2. This section applies to the following documents:
    1. A notice of termination of tenancy under any provision of ORS chapter 90;
    2. A summons in an action under ORS 105.110 for forcible entry or detainer.

New laws and also new defenses for tenants

While the above information may not seem like much, it does present new defenses for tenants in any Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) action. Oregon case law is clear that proper notice is a prerequisite to maintaining a FED action. Should any landlord fail to include the information described in Section (1)(a)-(b), they run the risk of a defective-notice defense by the tenant in any FED trial.

HB 2530 also requires that the same information be included in any summons prepared for the FED action. The failure to include that information presents the same pitfalls for landlords, and any such failure may be met with a motion to dismiss for insufficient summons by a knowledgeable tenants’ attorney. Accordingly, if landlords prepare their own summons (or have a process server do so), it is important that they vet those documents for compliance with HB 2530.

The new law is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020. While Landlords may have some notices that will expire and terminate tenancies prior to the effective date, vetting and updating your forms now will remove all doubt and/or defenses related to HB 2530, should you need to file an FED on those documents after the first of the year.

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