New rental law signed by Governor focuses on renter protection


Gov. Kate Brown recently pushed Oregon to the heart of the national housing debate by signing the nation’s first statewide rent control measure late last month. Brown signed Senate Bill 608, which caps the amount a landlord can raise the rent on a particular rental location to 7 percent per year, plus the amount of any increase in the cost of living.

The law also limits rent increases for residential tenancies to one per year and bars no-cause evictions for tenants with one year of occupancy. The bill was passed as an emergency measure, allowing for its immediate implementation.

“This is a groundbreaking piece of legislation as we are the first state in the nation to enact this level of protection for our renters,” Brown said Thursday. “The bill is a critical tool for stabilizing the rental market throughout the state of Oregon. It will provide immediate relief to Oregonians struggling to keep up with rising rents in a tight rental market. But it doesn’t work on its own. It’s going to take much more work to ensure every Oregonian has access to housing choices that will ensure that they and their families can thrive.”

Consumer advocates and housing alliances across the state supported the bill, which was motivated by the dramatically increasing rental costs in Oregon, coupled with the slow pace in constructing affordable housing units.

Patty Wentz is with Stable Homes for Oregon Families and she believes the law will make a major difference in the lives of those at the edges of society.

“Passage of SB 608 shows that lawmakers recognize that renters across Oregon have liter-ally been left out in the cold during the housing crisis, especially in the rural parts of our state,” Wentz said. “Now fewer children will be showing up at school after spending the night in a shelter, a car or a tent. Fewer people will face the silent discrimination and retaliation of no cause evictions. Fewer seniors will skip their medications because they had to make a choice between paying for rent or a prescription.”

The American Community Survey estimates there are approximately 1,445,275 tenants in Oregon living in just more than 600,000 units, most of which will be covered by the new legislation.

Oregon’s Democratic caucus said of the passage, “The bill would protect Oregon’s renters by ensuring they won’t face enormous, unforeseen rent increases or be kicked out of their homes after they’ve been in their homes for at least a year. Safe and stable housing is a central requirement for healthy families to thrive and for children to excel in school.”

SB 608 was passed by a vote of 17 to 11, with all 10 Republicans in the Senate opposing the bill’s passage. Scappoose Sen. Betsy Johnson was the lone democrat to vote no on SB 608.

 In the House, SB 608 passed 35 to 25, with one of the three Democratic no votes coming from District 9 Rep. Caddy McKeown.

According to Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, there are some unexpected and troubling repercussions from the current housing situation that directly impacts some of the state’s youngest citizens. She said these issues will be reduced with the implementation of SB 608.

“When you have 22,000 kids who experienced homelessness last year, we have to take action now to protect families,” she said. “SB 608 is a reasonable approach that prevents both economic and no-cause evictions and I look forward to giving Oregon renting families peace of mind for the first time.”

A statement provided to the press by the Oregon House Republican Office makes the group’s position on SB 608 clear.

“Oregon is piling on regulation upon regulation which is essentially causing the problem, so the response to failed regulation from this chamber is to add more regulation,” said Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend). “And when that doesn’t work the response is going to be, we didn’t go far enough, we need even more regulation on the housing industry. I think the most likely outcome of this bill is negative consequences for the very people the proponents of this bill want to help.”

There are some aspects of the law which answer concerns expressed by the Oregon Land-lords Association and others with specific issues regarding the procedures for termination of a lease agreement which were included in the final version of SB 608. According to the bill:

  •  Landlords could end rental agreements once they have given a written 90-day notice to the tenant and they are exempt if they manage four or fewer units.
  •  Allow landlords to terminate tenancy with 90 days’ written notice and payment of one month’s rent under certain conditions.
  •  Exempts landlord managing four or fewer units from payment of one month’s rent.

The complete text of SB 608 can be viewed at www.oregonlegislature.gov.

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