Tenant protections holdout offers changes he could accept
SALEM — A stalemate in the Oregon Senate over a tenant protections bill could end with changes proposed by a Democratic senator who has so far opposed the legislation.
Sen. Rod Monroe of Portland, one of several landlords in the Oregon Legislature, has so far opposed House Bill 2004, despite several concessions already made to landlords.
Monroe on Tuesday, June 20, proposed amendments that he says would win his vote and those of other holdouts in the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans.
Jonathan Lockwood, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, said he couldn't comment on whether individual Republicans support the amendments.
"Senate Republicans are optimistic changes can be made that would be palatable," Lockwood said Wednesday.
The amendments would eliminate a ban on no-cause evictions and drastically narrow the circumstances under which landlords would be obligated to pay tenants relocation costs.
The amendments still would limit rent increases to one time per year and require a minimum of six month leases. Landlords would be required to notify tenants 90 days before the end of the lease whether they intend to the renew the lease and increase the rent. Tenants would have to respond 45 days before the end of the lease on whether they plan to stay or move out.
The proposed amendments are intended to prevent mass evictions, without penalizing other landlords who may use no-cause evictions in limited circumstances, Monroe said.
However, housing advocates say the proposals are a revival of ideas that were eliminated last year because they were deemed ineffective.
The existing iteration of the bill would ban no-cause evictions and require landlords to pay relocation costs of up to one month's rent when the landlord wants to move into the property, renovate it or sell it.
Landlords who own fewer than five units would be exempt from having the pay the relocation costs. A section to lift the ban on rent control in the House version of the bill was eliminated during amendments in the Senate Committee on Human Services.
Monroe's amendments would narrow the requirement to pay relocation costs to the following situation: A landlord evicts 50 percent or more of tenants in a multifamily complex exceeding five units in the first year after the landlord purchased the property. The landlord would, then, have to pay the evicted tenants the equivalent of one month's rent.
John DiLorenzo, a real estate attorney and a spokesman for More Housing Now, said the statewide landlord coalition supports Monroe's amendments.
"I think Sen. Monroe's amendments reflect the best practices of many landlords throughout the state and are designed to be targeted to the outliers, and we are fine with that," DiLorenzo said Wednesday.
John Van Landingham, a housing advocate with Lane County Legal Aid, said the amendment resembles a concept landlords suggested in 2016, when investors were purchasing buildings and evicting all of the tenants.
"Is somebody going to track when evictions pass 49 percent?" Van Landingham said. "Practically, it doesn't seem to us to work, and we certainly don't support it."
Landingham said he sees no way to target mass evictions specifically, without banning no-cause evictions.
"I am still hopeful Sen. Monroe will support House Bill 2004B," Landingham said.
Alison McIntosh of the Oregon Housing Alliance said the amendments also fail to address discriminatory or retaliatory behavior by landlords.
The amendments "address a very small slice of what people are experiencing" in the state's housing crisis, she said.
The bill has been in limbo since approved by that committee, after it became apparent the Senate lacked enough votes to pass the legislation. House Majority Leader Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who heads the Senate Rules Committee has been spearheading negotiations to modify and win votes for the bill.
Burdick, who also is a landlord, said she supports the version of the bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Human Services.
"I think other members of my caucus need to go farther than perhaps where Senator Monroe is willing to go at this point, but I am trying to reach that happy spot where it's meaningful protection but something we can get the votes for," Burdick said Wednesday.