For those tenants who feel they have lost their security deposit unfairly one too many times while renting, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly may soon come to the rescue.
Eudaly said she plans to tackle security-deposit reform as the next piece in her agenda to protect tenants from predatory landlords. She helped pass a new housing policy in February requiring Portland landlords to pay between $2,900 and $4,500, depending on the size of a unit, for tenants' moving costs if they are evicted without cause or if the landlord increases rent more than 10 percent in one year, forcing tenants to move.
Security deposits are collected by a landlord upon move-in to cover any cleaning or damage costs that may occur while a tenant lives at a property. They also can be used to cover unpaid rent.
Eudaly said a stakeholder committee of landlords, tenants and housing advocates has been set up to discuss three things:
• Limiting the amount of a deposit. There is no statutory limit on security deposits at a state level, though they generally are in the amount of one month's rent.
• Requiring the deposit to be held in an interest-bearing escrow account, "because right now you just give your deposit to your landlord and hope that you get it back," Eudaly said.
• Clarifying the definition of "reasonable wear and tear."
She believes, at the moment, that is not well defined. "Many tenants are losing deposit money that they're not expecting to be losing, because they're leaving their homes in the same condition (when) they moved in, or they're cleaning the carpet and they're getting charged for carpet cleaning," Eudaly said. "So, just getting some clarity around that."
One topic that won't be discussed is when a deposit is refunded, because that's governed by state law, she said.
The commissioner still supports overturning the state bans on local rent control and no-cause eviction policies. Eudaly said she supports "sitting down at the table with all interested parties and talking about how we will craft a rent-stabilization policy that works for everyone."
"I do find it highly problematic that the state is precluding cities from making those decisions for themselves," Eudaly said.
While some cities may not want to implement any regulations on the rental market, she said, "I think some cities like Portland are going to seriously look at what we can do to stem the tide of cost burdening, displacement and homelessness while not having a significant negative impact on development."