Originally published in the Bend Chamber Business Edition – December 21, 2016
Thanks to input from several local organization, among them the Bend Chamber of Commerce’s EVP Community Affairs Jamie Christman, the Bend City councilors decided to “soften” the controversial 90-day “no cause” eviction ordinance at their December 7 meeting. Introduced at the council work session, the new version leaves the existing 30-day “no cause” ordinance in place, with a 90-day “no cause” eviction requirement taking effect after one year of occupancy.
The current local ordinance allows landlords to evict month-to-month renters with a 30-day notice. With a “no cause” eviction, landlords do not have to specify the reason why the renters are expelled. That time frame increases to a 60-day notice once the renter has lived at the same place for more than a year. Tenants in subsidized housing are already by law given a minimum of 60-days’ notice.
These rules do not apply for so called, “for cause” evictions, which takes effect in instances when the tenants have not paid rent or damaged the property. These evictions generally take place during a shortened period.
The last few months, the councilors held discussions to increase the allotted time for a no cause eviction to 90 days, a change that originally would have taken effect as soon as the renter signed a rental agreement with the landlord.
The proposed ordinance of a 90-day eviction notice requirement came to light at the November 16 City Council meeting, when it was discussed during the councilor’s work session. Immediately after the proposed ordinance came to the forefront, opponents made clear the process moved forward without robust public input and pointed out it was also against the advice of the City’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (AHAC). Kerri Standerwick serves on the AHAC as the Bend Chamber’s representative.
Several concerns were expressed that a 90-day no cause eviction ordinance may have a chilling effect on the local rental market. The proposal appears to create unintended consequences for both tenants and landlords, which may reduce rental inventory or access to rentals for low-income families and more vulnerable tenants. With less than a 1% availability in the current rental stock, landlords may need to raise rents or ask for a larger deposit to offset the risks with a 90-day eviction process.
At the December 7 Bend City Council meeting, councilors presented two versions of the 90-day ordinance. The first version of the ordinance followed the original proposal, instituting a 90-day “no cause” eviction within the first year of occupancy. The second version stated the 90-day without cause eviction ordinance would not take effect until after the first year of occupancy.
The 90-day ordinance was further discussed at the council’s December 7 work session when Associate City Attorney, Ian Leitheiser, informed the councilors of the legal ramifications concerning “no cause” or “for cause” terminations. Leitheiser also mentioned that the State preempts local government from legislating in some areas of landlord/tenant laws, but changes that are not expressively pre-empted, and can co-exist with state laws, are generally allowed.
Council member Victor Chudowsky made a comment regarding the unprecedented deliberations regarding the 90-day proposal. He noted that the discussions were held during a work session, outside of the regular meeting. He also stated that the public had not yet had an opportunity to comment on the proposal, which could influence the outcome.
As the regular meeting got underway, the councilors returned to the first reading of the ordinance establishing additional renter protection. Before the ordinance was put to a first vote, several local organizations brought comments in front of the city councilors.
The Bend Chamber of Commerce urged the councilors to wait to institute the new 90-day ordinance until there is sufficient data to weigh the ramifications of the new ordinance in regards to the rental market. The Chamber also asked the councilors to wait until after the legislative session before deciding on the 90-day “No Cause” eviction ordinance as legislators will be having deliberations on a state ruling.
Finally, the Chamber asked the councilors to provide opportunities for a robust public input for the two ordinances, as the first record of the code language had only became public on December 1, the Thursday prior to the regular council meeting on December 7.
Tyler Neese with the Central Oregon Association of Realtors shared concerns about the ordinance and highlighted unintended consequences, as did Arleigh Santoro of the Central Oregon Rental Owners Association. Councilor Chudowski also shared an email from Kathleen Leppert, of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, stating her opposition of the proposal.
In favor of the new ordinance, Elizabeth Oshel of the Legal Aide Services of Oregon supported increasing the time for a “no cause” eviction to 90 days, as did Courtney Niebel, president of the Central Oregon Labor Chapter.
Councilor Russell suggested adding a sunset clause to the ordinance, instituting a maximum of two-year period or an effective vacancy rate of 3 percent. However, the proposal fell without a second.
After a vote to remove a procedural emergency clause from being considered, which would have made the ordinance effective immediately, the council voted 5-2 to approve the first reading of the new ordinance. Mayor Clinton and councilors Knight, Russell, Boddie, and Campbell voted in favor, while councilors Chudowski and Roats opposed.