With the new year here, it is ringing in new changes for Oregon landlords including Senate Bill 891 which is changing of timelines related to a landlord’s ability to act.
By Bradley S. Kraus
Partner, Warren Allen LLP
Happy New Year to everyone! As we turn the page on another (and hopefully final) year of COVID-related changes, another was made last month. Oregon’s December special session ushered in another set of changes to the landlord-tenant world, this time modifying prior tenant protections with the passage of Senate Bill 891. While many of the rules remain the same, the timelines have been tweaked, meaning more potential delays for landlords.
The largest change made within SB 891 is the changing of timelines related to a landlord’s ability to act. Previously, Senate Bill 278 required a landlord to incur a 60-day stay period (90 days in certain localities) if/when a tenant provided documentation evidencing that the tenant had applied for rental assistance. Once this 60/90-day stay period was up, the landlord no longer had to wait, and could either (a) serve a non-payment notice, or (b) continue forward with an eviction action, depending on the posture of the particular non-payment situation. Those rules have now changed.
Senate Bill 891 now places a stay on the landlord’s ability to act until the tenant’s rental-assistance application is no longer pending. More specifically, if “on or before June 30, 2022,” a tenant has provided documentation to the landlord that they have applied for rental assistance, then a landlord is prohibited from:
a.) Serving a termination notice for non-payment, or
b.) Filing or continuing an eviction action based upon non-payment.
These changes once again (and unfortunately) pass the problems related to rent assistance on to landlords. Once a tenant’s application is no longer pending, the landlord thereafter has options depending on the result—either dismiss the case or, if the application was denied, proceed accordingly. But landlords continue to have obligations related to mortgage payments, taxes, etc., and while larger landlords may be able to absorb further delays, small landlords and business owners cannot.
Another important change made within SB 891 is to the disclosures required in your non-payment notices. Landlords should ensure that their forms are up to date, as old forms containing the old SB 278 disclosures are no longer valid, if served post-SB 891 enactment. Any notices served prior to SB 891, but expiring thereafter, remain valid with the old disclosures, however. The law applies to prospective notices served, not retroactively.
On a positive note, courts are becoming very flexible in dealing with SB 891 issues. At the first appearance in an FED action, many landlords are faced with allegations that they were provided documentation by tenants. Landlords may not know what they received, as they likely expect something more formal from rent-assistance agencies. Many of these documents that qualify as “documentation” look very bare-bones (and, at times, simply thrown together in a Word document). Due to the same, courts have been very willing to allow the parties more time to explore the facts and do the right thing. I anticipate this continuing as we navigate these new laws.
Non-payment cases in Oregon continue to rise in complexity. The shifting legislative and legal landscape will no doubt contain more changes in the future. For the time being, landlords are encouraged to reach out to competent counsel if they receive any documents from their tenant. While it may look like nothing, the document you have could actually be rental-assistance documentation, which could affect your rights moving forward.
About the author:
Bradley S. Kraus is an attorney 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. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 503-255-8795.