The Oregon State Legislature special session passed a $150 landlord compensation fund that provides up to 80 percent of rent due for landlords, but requires them to forgive the remaining 20 percent.
The legislature also extended the current eviction moratorium to June 30, 2021. The landlord-compensation fund money was part of the overall $800 million set aside by the special session to address several COVID-19 relief issues.
Overall, the legislature allocated $200 million in rent assistance to support tenants and landlords, which includes the $150 million for the Landlord Compensation Fund. The Oregon Housing Stability Council will be developing program materials “in the coming weeks as we prepare to launch the Landlord Compensation Fund in late January,” the council said in a release.
The landlord-compensation portion of HB 4401 says, “ The Housing and Community Services Department shall make distributions to compensate residential landlords for 80 percent of the past-due rent of qualified tenants that the landlord has not collected after April 1, 2020, if the landlord or the landlord’s designee” meets the following criteria:
- Submits an application to the department for all of the landlord’s tenants who have not paid rent and have delivered to the landlord a signed declaration under section 7 (1)(b) of this 2020 third special session act;
- Includes in the application a copy of the tenants’ declarations;
- Provides the department with a description of the unpaid rent for all current tenants;
- Agrees to forgive the remaining 20 percent of the unpaid rent due from qualified tenants that has accrued between April 1, 2020, and the date of the application, upon receiving a distribution under this subsection;
- Agrees to repay to the department any amount that was forgiven by the landlord or that was paid to the landlord under this section and the landlord later receives from the qualified tenant or on the tenant’s behalf, within the period requested by the department;
- Is not a member of the tenant’s immediate family as defined by law;
- During the pendency of the distribution application, agrees to not give a termination notice without cause or for nonpayment.
Rep. Mark Meek, D-Oregon City, echoed the testimony of many smaller landlords that they are struggling to pay their mortgages. Meek noted many landlords continue to have to pay property taxes, insurances and all the other bills related to their property, and many have now said they are at risk for losing their properties.
“Why is it that Oregon housing providers are being forced to forgo 20 percent of their revenue and waive all their rights just to access relief?” Meek said to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “No other industry has been asked to bear such a heavy burden in this pandemic.”
The bill will require tenants to sign a sworn statement in order to benefit from the new relief. It also frees up landlords to more easily evict people “for cause,” such as when they are planning to demolish a property.
For the rent-relief portion, the bill also says landlords may have to provide “any other information or materials required by the department,” which will develop an online application for landlords to apply for distributions.
Landlord compensation fund and protection for smaller landlords
The bill says the department “may establish any qualifications, priorities, restrictions or limits on the distributions made under this section, to prioritize landlords with fewer units and landlords with a higher percentage of unpaid rents.”
The restrictions and limits the department may put in place include:
- Limits per tenant, per landlord or per time period;
- The number of units a landlord must own;
- The percentage or amount of total rent unpaid.
“The department may coordinate with local housing authorities to administer this section, including through making distributions to landlords. The department or local housing authority shall mail to tenants copies of a notice of distribution to their landlords and the amount of rent forgiveness agreed to by their landlords. The department may conduct outreach to landlords and tenants, including outreach to non-English speakers.”
Rental assistance must serve financially distressed households, and payments must be made directly to the landlord.
The extension of the eviction moratorium also extended the requirements for both landlords and tenants.