The city of Portland moved the lawsuit seeking to block its new requirement that landlords pay moving costs of tenants evicted for "no-cause" to federal court late Thursday.
An attorney representing two landlords had originally filed the suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court, claiming the new policy unanimously approved by the City Council last Thursday violates the existing statewide ban against local rent control programs.
But because attorney John DiLorenzo also argued the requirement illegally interferes with the contact and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, the city moved the suit to the United States District Court for Oregon. It has been assigned to U.S. Judge Michael Simon.
DiLorenzo says he was caught off guard by the transfer because he was not notified by the city of it in advance. Although he can request that the suit be moved back to the circuit court, DiLorenzo says he may let it proceed in federal court. The case can probably be heard as swiftly there, says DiLorezno.
The city clashed with Simon on his demand for more updates on the progress of its police excessive force settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The new policy requires landlords to pay moving costs ranging from $2,900 to $4,500 to tenants who are evicted, or whose leases are not renewed, without a formal claim that they violated their rental agreements. It also applies to tenants who choose to move if their rents are raised more than 10 percent in 12 months. Landlords with only one unit are exempted.
The council passed the policy at a single hearing. It took effect immediately. Many smaller landlords testified against the proposal, but the council argued Portland is facing a homeless and housing crisis caused in part by no-cause evictions and rising rents.
State law prohibits cities from adopting rent control programs. An opinion issued by the Legislative Council last year said requiring landlords to pay moving costs would be legal, however. In his filing, DiLorenzo argued the requirement would effectively end no-cause evictions, creating a de facto form of rent control. He also argued it interferes with existing contracts.
The filing also said the council violated its own rules by approving "conceptual amendments" to the ordinance enacting the policy that were written after the vote by the City Attorneys Office and not specifically approved by the council.
You can read the city's motion and DiLorenzo's filing here.
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue at tinyurl.com/jnyuand.
You can read a recent Portland Tribune editorial on the issue at tinyurl.com/zpfro82.