Gov. Brown praises extension of eviction moratorium through Sept. 30
Gov. Kate Brown praised the Legislature for extending a temporary halt to evictions of residential and commercial tenants.
Brown spoke Saturday after lawmakers passed House Bill 4213, which cleared the House on a 43-14 vote and the Senate on an 18-9 vote. The law will replace Brown's April 1 executive order, which will end Tuesday, June 30.
The moratorium now extends to Sept. 30, after which the law will give tenants six months to pay back rent owed their landlords.
"This will allow working families to stay in their apartments and homes, and small businesses to continue operating, in the midst of the pandemic," Brown told reporters.
The 3-day special session ended Friday night.
Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Democrat from Portland, gave credit to a member of Brown's staff who worked with lawmakers and others to refine the bill. The bill does not forgive back rent and that tenants still must pay landlords what they owe, although some tenant advocacy groups favored a longer grace period than six months.
But late fees cannot be charged, and the back rent cannot be reported to agencies that rate credit of tenants.
Burdick herself is a landlord.
"We have been afflicted by a plague and we are all paying the price," she said. "We all must do our share."
But Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod of Lyons, also a landlord, said the bill would lead to tenants either leaving Oregon before the end of the six-month grace period or facing massive back payments.
"I find it quite sad, because what we're doing is placing a lot of debt on people who do not necessarily have to have that debt," he said.
After the moratorium ends Sept. 30, the bill sets a grace period through March 31, 2021, for tenants to pay any rent owed. If they make partial payments, the money is applied to current rent first.
Tenants must inform landlords within two weeks whether they intend to use the grace period, either by mid-October or another date set by the landlords. If they do not, tenants can be charged a penalty equal to a half-month's rent.
Landlords can send notices to tenants about the deadlines, but they cannot send tenants eviction notices, except if tenants fail to pay rent from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
The bill does contain an exemption, sought by the Oregon Association of Realtors, for purchasers of homes they intended to be their primary residences but were still occupied by rent-paying tenants when Brown issued her April 1 order.
The bill extends the statute of limitations for landlord-tenant claims that also were frozen by Brown's order.
During House debate, Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, echoed criticisms by some witnesses during hearings by the special session committee about why lawmakers did not limit relief to tenants who lost income or jobs resulting from business shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.
That condition was included in some emergency declarations by local governments, including Multnomah County.
But Rep. Julie Fahey, a Democrat from Eugene who was the bill's manager in the House, said such declarations omitted how tenants could show proof of losses and who would settle disputes. She said courts already faced case backlogs because of limited access to public buildings.
"Many tenants were not able to provide proof because their employer would not provide documentation or because the employer had gone out of business," Fahey said.
Brown's April 1 order, which did not require tenants to show proof of lost income, superseded the local declarations.
Brown also praised legislative passage of House Bill 4204, which calls a temporary halt to foreclosure proceedings through Sept. 30 if borrowers have failed to make installment payments during the state of emergency Brown first declared on March 8. Unlike the evictions moratorium law, however, Brown can extend the foreclosure freeze by another executive order if she issues it before Sept. 1.
"People and small businesses will not lose their homes or their place of business while they are working to get back on track," Brown said Saturday.
The bill still requires borrowers to repay their loans in full, either at the end of the loan period or another date agreed upon by borrowers and lenders. It also bars late fees. The bill directs courts to dismiss foreclosure proceedings started during the pandemic period, but they can be refiled after the state of emergency ends.
"This is one piece in helping stabilize our state's economy as we work our way through this crisis," Rep. Paul Holvey, a Democrat from Eugene and the bill's floor manager, said during debate Friday.
House Bill 4204 passed on a 39-18 vote in the House and 19-8 vote in the Senate.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.