The end of the grace period in March brings the biggest change for Oregon landlords – the ability to pursue debts from the Emergency Period.
By Bradley S. Kraus
Partner, Warren Allen LLP
March is upon us, and with it, a renewed sense of normalcy begins to return as of this writing. Many of the COVID-era laws have expired and were not renewed, but some remain. Last month, I discussed some changes that would come as March approached. This article is a continuation of, and expansion upon, some of those topics.
As discussed last month, the biggest change March brings is the ability to pursue debts from the Emergency Period. However, exactly what to put in those notices, given payments likely occurred from July forward, requires an understanding of how payments were applied during COVID-era protections. Those will also be going back to the old rules as of March 1.
During the COVID-era protections, payments that were received from any source on or on behalf of the tenant were required to be applied in a certain manner. First, they were applied to the current month’s rent, followed by utilities, late fees, and finally, any other claims against the tenant. It is important that landlords scrutinize their ledgers to ensure they have applied payments correctly over the past months.
As of March 1, the old application of payments method found in ORS 90.220(9) returns. That means that payments received from the tenant are now applied as follows:
(A) Outstanding rent from prior rental periods;
(B) Rent for the current rental period;
(C) Utility or service charges;
(D) Late rent payment charges; and
(E) Fees or charges owed by the tenant under ORS 90.302 or other fees or charges related to damage claims or other claims against the tenant.
The above may provide landlords with additional strategies as it relates to pursuing unpaid balances, even if the tenant tenders payment during the month of March.
Another change as of March 1 is the sunsetting of Senate Bill 282’s protections against unauthorized guests.
During the COVID-era rules, landlords were unable to enforce unauthorized-guest provisions in their rental agreements. Landlords were required to offer these guests the ability to apply to become temporary occupants, if the guests could satisfy their criminal criteria and enter into a temporary occupancy agreement. As of March 1, landlords are now free to enforce the unauthorized-occupant restrictions in their leases in the normal course. That means, assuming the landlord can prove that an unauthorized possessor is staying at the premises, a Notice of Termination For Cause may be an option.
Finally, landlords should keep in mind that eviction protections related to rent assistance remain in place throughout most of this year pursuant to Senate Bill 891.
That means that landlords must continue to serve non-payment notices with the SB 891 disclosures, which can be found in the bill itself. Any notice without these disclosures is defective. If a landlord has non-payment termination rights, even one based upon the emergency balance, a tenant’s provision of rent-assistance documentation may still require a landlord to pause termination efforts. Documentation can come in many forms, but if a tenant provides written proof—not simply verbal statements—that they have a pending application for rental assistance, landlords may not serve a non-payment notice or initiate or continue an eviction based upon non-payment.
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.
Bradley Kraus, Portland attorney