In the cozy, carpeted meeting room of the Sunnyside Centenary United Methodist Church last Friday night, June 22, neighborhood residents Sarina Dorie and Courtney Garrison gathered around a long table to peruse stacks of fliers. Dorie and Garrison, both tenants of the same apartment complex a few blocks from the church, picked up info on finding rent and utility assistance, searching for a new apartment, and—just in case they'll need it—a list of Portland's homeless shelters.
That's because Dorie and Garrison, along with the other residents of the 14-unit June Manor Apartments at SE 39th and Taylor, have to be out of their current homes by July 4. Without warning, they received 30-day no-cause eviction notices on June 1, and most have to move by the first week of July.
The meeting at Sunnyside—organized by Elisa Aguilera with the Community Alliance of Tenants—was a chance for June Manor residents to get advice and help as they search for new homes in a tight apartment market. Residents also crafted a letter to their landlord—and plan to send copies to city commissioners—pleading for more time.
"I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for another 30 days," Aguilera told the tenants. She pointed to apartment listings she'd brought along, as evidence of how difficult it is for the tenants to find something comparable to their inner-Southeast units, many of which rented for $500. "I could not find anything in this area," she said. The listings she did have, for farther-out neighborhoods, "are $600 or less, a little more than what you're paying now."
The residents aren't sure what's going to happen to their building—the owners haven't filed to convert it to condos (which would have required 120-days notice to the residents). If the owners plan to do a major renovation of the building, there's nothing in landlord-tenant law that requires more than what the owners have done.
"They've even stated in writing, you are not eligible for any relocation assistance or any condo conversation rights because we have not declared it as a condo conversion yet," Aguilera told the Mercury. Kicking out tenants and then later filing to convert to condos takes advantage of a loophole in current landlord-tenant law. But recently passed legislation should close the loophole: The new law says that tenants may "bring an action against a building landlord" if the landlord declares a condo conversion within a year of giving out 30-day no-cause evictions. "We're waiting for the governor to sign it," Aguilera says.
But the new law is little help to the tenants of June Manor, a 1961 apartment complex—a two-story stone and stucco building, kitty corner from the Belmont Library—that sold for $937,500 on May 18.
On May 30, tenants got a note from Peters & Company Real Estate Management, the property's former manager, notifying residents of the new ownership, and letting them know that the new owners—listed as "SE Taylor Conversion, LLC"—would be by to inspect "all the apartments" on June 1.
On June 1, tenants received two more letters: One corrected the May 30 letter, and said the "new ownership group" was Hawkeye Capital Group, LLC.
The second letter told month-to-month residents they had until July 4 to vacate. "We understand that this termination may cause a disruption in your day-to-day life, and we will do what we can to make this transition go as smoothly as possible for you," Hawkeye's manager, Chris Baird, wrote. Baird did not return a call for comment by press time.
The note sent residents into a panic. Dorie wrote a letter to Hawkeye on behalf of the other tenants, asking for more time.
"Give us a reasonable amount of time to find new living accommodations (five months), assure that you will return our security and cleaning deposits, and adhere to laws concerning low-income tenants," she requested on June 11. She says she has not gotten a response. Meanwhile, the tenants have been unsuccessful in finding out what's going to happen to the building—and whether it's truly urgent that they get out by July 4.
Some of the residents, like Dorie, haven't found a new place to stay yet. Others, like Garrison, finally found a new apartment—but had to move farther out in the city, and are paying more in rent. "My new place is affordable but a lot less convenient," she says, adding that her commute to work doubled. "And I spent the last three weeks freaking out."