Bradley Kraus, Attorney
Warren Allen, LLP
Every year, hot-button topics, social issues, and societal problems receive attention during the legislative process. With this comes new laws passed by the Oregon legislature directed at addressing those topics, issues, or problems. As 2019 made clear, housing in Oregon has never been a more pressing topic, and due to that, landlord/tenant law was not immune from significant legislative attention.
New landlord tenant laws
Senate Bill 608, passed earlier this year, serves as the poster child for the previous paragraph. SB 608, which amended the termination statute, caused cataclysmic changes to the rights and obligations of landlords in the state of Oregon. As we enter 2020, several other new laws became effective. While they vary in their impact, all landlords should be aware of these new changes and obligations, in order to stay ahead of the game.
House Bill 2530 was the subject of a previous article, but given its immense impact, it bears repeating here. HB 2530 imposes new obligations on landlords related to veterans’ disclosures. These disclosures must be included in every notice served pursuant to the landlord/tenant Act, and the failure to include such a disclosure likely provides a “defective notice” defense to your tenant. Similarly, these veterans’ disclosures must also be included in every summons served for eviction actions, and the failure to do so also provides a similar defense.
House Bill 2006. While most of this bill amends statutes that have no bearing on landlord/tenant law, the legislature did slightly amend the termination statute within the same. In doing so, they appear to answer a question long pondered: With regard to payment of relocation for a qualifying landlord exemption under SB 608, does a landlord’s own residence count towards the four-dwelling-unit requirement? HB 2006 added particular language indicating that private non-rental use of a dwelling doesn’t count toward the four-unit threshold in SB 608.
Senate Bill 484 amends the screening statute, ORS 90.295. It limits landlords to requiring applicants paying only a single applicant screening charge within any 60-day period, regardless of the number of rental units owned or managed by the landlord for which the applicant has applied. Further, it requires the landlord to refund an applicant-screening charge within a reasonable timeframe if the landlord (a) fills the vacant unit before screening the applicant; or (b) does not screen the applicant. However, it does provide that the landlord does not need to return the screening charge if the tenant refuses an offer from the lord to rent the dwelling unit.
Senate Bill 970 amends the evaluation of applicant statute, ORS 90.303. It now includes prohibitions against some denials based upon marijuana, no doubt in part to marijuana’s new legality in Oregon (and many other states). ORS 90.303 now states that a landlord may not consider criminal convictions or charging history for convictions based solely on the use or possession of marijuana. Additionally, when evaluating an applicant, a landlord may not consider the possession of a medical marijuana card or status as a medical marijuana patient.
Senate Bill 873 is a new tenant/consumer protection mechanism. It allows a tenant to apply to the court to set aside an eviction judgment and seal the official records related to that judgment. It requires the court to grant that motion if (a) the judgment is more than five years old and the tenant has satisfied any money award included in the judgment; (b) the judgment was by stipulation and the applicant complied with its terms (including satisfaction of any money award); or (c) the judgment was in the tenant’s favor or resulted in a dismissal of the action. The tenant is required to serve a copy of the motion upon the landlord and provides the landlord 30 days to object. If he or she does so, a hearing must be set. If no objection is filed, or if the court finds the tenant satisfies the requirements, the judgment against them is set aside.
If 2019 is any indication, 2020 will continue to see the Oregon legislature paying close attention to the relationships between landlords and tenants. As new landlord tenant laws get passed, they can provide tenants new rights, defenses, or claims against unsuspecting landlords. Staying up to speed on these new landlord tenant laws, including updating forms and practices, has never been more crucial.