Portland landlords will be required to register the addresses of all rental properties in the new Portland rental property database beginning with the 2018 tax year, the City Council voted.
“A rental registration system will benefit current and potential tenants by giving the city access to real-time data, which will help direct policies to better address Portland’s housing crisis,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler in a press release. The program, called the Residential Rental Registration Program, also allows for routine health and safety inspections of leased properties.
“Quality data in our rental system is something that tenants and landlords have been asking for,” Wheeler told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
The program is the city’s latest effort to combat its ongoing housing crisis. The council declared an official housing emergency in October 2015 due to the low inventory of affordable housing and a corresponding rise in the homeless rate. That declaration waived parts of the city’s zoning codes, which streamlined the building permit process for more than 2,000 new housing units. A month earlier, Portland’s Community Alliance of Tenants had declared a “Renter State of Emergency” after mass evictions became rampant when lower-priced rentals were being upscaled.
Even so, the city has a way to go to even out housing availability. In a June 2018 CNBC ranking of the most expensive places to live in America, Oregon ranked sixth in the nation – and Portland was the most expensive place in Oregon, with the average for a two-bedroom apartment at about $2,500 a month. The state’s cost-of-living score received only six out of 50 possible points.
Portland rental property database – landlords must register properties by April 2019
For the new database registration, landlords must register their properties by April 2019, when they file their annual business license tax.
All landlords are affected, even those who only lease one property. The city plans to use property tax records to determine the names of residents who own more than one home and notify them of the new requirement. There is no penalty for noncompliance during the first year, but a fine of $500 will be assessed in future years.
“Most jurisdictions, including Gresham, Eugene, Seattle, and San Francisco have data and registration collection systems,” Wheeler said. “It’s time for Portland to catch up.”
No current program keeps track of the number of landlords in Portland, the exact number of units available, or where those units are located. Wheeler said the program will better help the council monitor and enact housing regulations, help low-income tenants and evaluate rent stabilization.
The inclusion of single-unit property owners in the new rental database is an accomplishment for organizations that represent Portland tenants. Single-unit owners were excluded from a temporary Renter Relocation Ordinance passed by the City Council in February 2017 that requires landlords to pay relocation assistance to tenants evicted without cause or whose rent increased 10 percent or more in a year. A study done by Portland researcher Meg Hanson showed that 24,000 landlords were exempt from that ordinance because they owned only one rental property. This accounted for more than 16 percent of the city’s rentals, the report said.
“There’s been this big piece of data that’s been missing from this very important conversation about policy,” Hanson said in an interview with the alternative weekly The Portland Mercury. “This is a huge gap and something that was really important.”
The new database registration will require an estimated 10,000 or more landlords to begin filing business taxes, something that hadn’t previously been required for those who grossed less than $50,000 a year from their rentals.
Residential Rental Registration Program Ordinance text, portlandoregon.gov, July 2018
Press release from Mayor Ted Wheeler, July 2018
Portland to Develop Database of Rental Housing Inventory, KUOW, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), July 2018
City of Portland, City Council/Wheeler Press Release, July 2018
Portland City Council Declares a Housing Emergency, OPB, Oct. 2015
A Summer of Evictions: Portland Renters are in a State of Emergency, Portland Mercury, Sept. 2015
The Most Expensive Places to Live in America, CNBC, June 2018
Portland Rental Housing Analytics Summary, Chariot Wheel Research Consultants, Jan. 2018
A New Report Suggests More than 24,000 Rental Units Aren’t Subject to Portland’s Strongest Tenant Protections, The Portland Mercury, Jan. 2018
Portland Will Require All Landlords to Register their Apartments – by Late 2020, The Oregonian/Oregon Live, July 2018