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Rules unfairly favor tenants, not landlords, in rental agreements

I have talked about it to a lot of my friends and would really like to say something about why landords charge the fees they do and check potential renters out in such detail.

The laws in Oregon are set up to bend over backwards to protect renters and squatters. If a renter feels they are being mistreated, they just need to check and see what their rights are under Oregon law. The law actually is about 95 percent for the renter — or, as we discovered, squatter — and 5 percent for the landowner.

My wife and I recently experienced this firsthand in the Coos Bay area and have decided it is not worth being a landlord.

Upon purchasing our home, we found that even if you purchase a home that has a squatter in it, you have to follow Oregon renter laws to evict the person. In our case, we purchased the home from a relative because she was 71 years old and had not been able to get a “house guest” removed from her home. She was at her wit’s end and sold the house to us at tax value since the squatter/renter had been destroying her home and possessions.

The woman and her children — the squatters — had been living in Hermiston, and her boyfriend was living in the house in Coos Bay. The squatters moved in with her boyfriend, as he gave them permission.

They were abusive to my relative when she went there to visit, and went through all her attic-stored belongings to sell what was valuable for drug purchases. They even sold her wedding rings from her first marriage to her now deceased WWII veteran husband.

When we took over the place, we were not allowed to go onto the property until the current resident had a court-ordered eviction. We had to hire a property management company to follow all the procedures to get the woman and the other druggies removed. From September 2013 until Jan. 10, 2014, she remained in the home, selling everything she could. If we attempted to claim the property, the police would take it into custody until one of us proved we were the rightful owners. Keep in mind, the woman only brought her clothes into the home and three children. Everything else belonged to the relative we purchased the home from.

In January, we came with property management representatives to take possession of our property and discovered the woman loading everything she could onto pickups and flatbeds to haul it off. She told the legal people that she was told she could take what she wanted. Our relative had sold it all to us as a package deal since she was so distraught.

The house was in real bad shape. Every door was broken and had to be replaced. The kitchen stove was destroyed. The walls and refrigerator were written on and a mess. The house had to be gutted, but first garbage had to be removed. It took three $750 dumpsters. We were already out $250 for the property management company and $300 for court fees and costs. So, before we could start any repair on the building, we had to spend $2,800.

Both bathrooms were destroyed. They had leaked so badly, the main floor had to be replaced in the family bathroom after I fell through. The toilets had been used and plugged up, so they were filled to the brim with bodily wastes. We were told later by neighbors that the squatters were digging holes in the back yard to use for toilets. When the master bathroom shower was removed to be replaced, urine came down on the plumber as he unhooked pipes under the house. There was dried dog feces in the piles of clothes in the bedrooms. We found a rats’ nest under the kitchen cabinet.

The place was a health hazard.

To date, we have had to tear out and replace 85 percent of the walls and 75 percent of the ceilings, scrape the floor down to bare wood and replace some boards that were rotted, replace all light fixtures and doors, and replace screens — at least the windows were intact. We have spent a total of $50,000 and figure there is another $20,000 to go.

This is why landlords must check potential tenants out and try to give themselves some security that they will be able to cover the costs involved in being a property owner. Even with checks, sometimes the landlord ends up spending more than they make renting homes. In our case, the woman never paid one cent in rent for five years prior to us taking the place over, and never paid us a penny, either. She turned a lovely home into a money pit and sold everything she could to support her drug habit. She gave her children to friends or relatives and spent every penny she got from the state on herself and her druggy friends. She was receiving some rental assistance as well as welfare and food stamps. I even tried to report the abuse on the system and was told there wasn’t much they could do to her.

Upon sharing our story with friends, we were told of situations where landlords had tried to help evicted renters by lying to potential landlords. They told them these were good renters just to get them out of their property. They also paid the first month’s rent to a new place for them to leave. Thus, making any inquiries with previous landlords an untrustworthy exercise.

Such is the plight of a landlord. Perhaps renters will understand what faces landlords and why they have to screen people in every way possible.

By the way, I am living on a pension and Social Security with my wife, and this has been a very hard financial burden to bear. I wanted to help my relative out of a bad situation and about did myself in financially. It seems to me that the laws are way too lenient for the renters/squatters and allows some of the worst leeches on society to live free and easy, while hardworking, taxpaying Americans are footing the bill and paying the price. Something is wrong. It isn’t fair to good renters, either, because soon no one will want to have rental homes. It just doesn’t pay.

Clifford Howard lives in St. Helens.