Thousands of tenants across Oregon facing housing insecurity will lose access to a key protection against nonpayment evictions if they have not submitted documentation by the end of June.
Under Senate Bill 891, passed by lawmakers during the special session in December 2021, tenants can be protected from eviction for a "Safe Harbor" period as long as they have pending applications for rent relief from the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program or through one of 17 licensed community-action agencies statewide.
To be eligible for these protections, renters must submit to their landlords the documentation confirming they have a pending rent-assistance application by June 30 at 11:59 p.m., or they are still potentially subject to eviction for nonpayment of rent.
All Oregonians who have applied for rent assistance through OERAP or another agency will receive a "Safe Harbor" letter following their application, but will only receive the associated protections if they then submit the letter to their landlord by the deadline.
"If you need to go look through your emails, if you need to follow up with the state, if it got lost somewhere — any of those things, do that now and get it to your landlord ASAP," said Donovan Scribes, communications manager for the Community Alliance of Tenants, Oregon's oldest tenant advocacy organization.
Protections for applicants who meet the June 30 deadline for submitting paperwork will then lose Safe Harbor on Sept. 30. Scribes said there will be renters facing evictions while heading into the winter season without access to critical protections until at least after the legislative session in early 2023.
Scribes said that CAT has long advocated against including "arbitrary deadlines" in government-approved tenant protections, adding that burden is often placed on the tenants themselves to navigate the process of accessing and completing paperwork by these dates.
"It can be confusing for people who are in the housing world every day — trying to know when all the different deadlines are, and all the laws," Scribes said.
On June 25, CAT will hold a meeting open to the public where it will determine the calls to action it will voice to state lawmakers ahead of the upcoming legislative session. The organization previously helped advocate for the extension of Safe Harbor protections during the December 2021 special session.
Resources to help tenants navigate the process of applying for and obtaining rent assistance and Safe Harbor protections are available on the alliance's website here among other tools to help renters understand their rights.
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