Ask attorney Brad is a feature with attorney Bradley S. Kraus and the question is about landlords’ rights and obligations in domestic violence situations. If you have a landlord question for Brad, please feel out the form below. He cannot answer questions from tenants.
Contrary to the narrative you often hear from our local elected officials, landlords empathize with tenants who are in bad situations. This is most true when landlords receive knowledge that their tenant has been a victim of domestic violence. Landlords want to help but may not be aware of what rights they have, what rights the tenant has, and/or what it means for the tenancy of the DV perpetrator. In each of these areas, the law provides an answer.
Within the Oregon Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, ORS 90.453 provides a detailed discussion of the rights of a DV victim to terminate their tenancy. If the tenant has been a victim of domestic violence, they must provide the landlord 14 days’ written notice requesting that they be released from the rental agreement. The notice must specify a termination date, and it must be accompanied by “verification” from the tenant regarding the domestic violence. This verification can be a copy of a court protection order, a copy of a conviction related to DV (domestic violence) against the victim, or a form statement as laid out within the statute.
If the victim provides the requisite information, the landlord must release that DV victim and any immediate family member from the rental agreement. These individuals are not liable for rent or damages to the dwelling that occurred after the termination date, nor can they be charged a fee of any kind. However, they remain liable for rent and damages that occurred prior. Assuming the DV perpetrator is a tenant in the same dwelling unit, that person remains liable for all the rent and damages to the unit as well.
A separate issue occurs when DV victim and DV perpetrator live together. Many landlords receive requests for lock changes against one tenant but are concerned about ouster claims. ORS 90.459 provides that a DV victim can request a lock change to effectively oust the perpetrator from their shared dwelling unit. However, before the landlord or tenant change the locks on that individual, the DV victim must provide the landlord with a copy of a protection order from a court that orders the perpetrator to move out of the dwelling unit. That important item can usually be found buried within the protection order. A judge will usually write the address of the premises from which the DV perpetrator must move.
Provided the landlord has received the above, a valid lock change may occur, and the DV perpetrator may be ousted from the dwelling. The landlord is under no duty to provide the DV perpetrator access to the unit or their personal property, or to provide keys to the dwelling. Once the protection order becomes a final order, the DV perpetrator’s tenancy terminates by operation of law. A final order usually results (a) if the order is not contested for a period of time, or (b) when it is contested, and the order is upheld. With the perpetrator’s tenancy terminated due to the order, their name can be removed from the rental agreement by the landlord, and no further paperwork is needed.
There are many areas where landlords and tenants disagree. However, domestic violence is not one of them. Domestic violence of any kind has no place in any relationship. Using the DV statutes in the ORLTA, I have seen landlords and tenants work together to keep victims, and the communities in which they live, safe. It proves that the landlord/tenant relationship does not have to be as contentious as our local elected officials conjure it up to be.
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 email@example.com or at 503-255-8795.