Activists demonstrate against no-cause evictions outside of Multnomah County headquarters in April 2016.
Activists demonstrate against no-cause evictions outside of Multnomah County headquarters in April 2016. Dirk VanderHart

As local landlords mount a renewed legal challenge to the relocation payments Portland's requiring of landlords these days, the city's getting ready to extend the law's life-span.

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As soon as next month, the Portland Housing Bureau plans to put legislation before Portland City Council that keeps the current law alive for six months past its current scheduled sunset in October. According to PHB Policy and Equity Manager Matthew Tschabold, that extension will create breathing room as the city works toward a permanent policy—which will be up for consideration before the six months is up.

"This extension is to provide space," Tschabold told a technical advisory committee that's making recommendations on the renter relocation law, in a meeting last Friday. "We won't be waiting six months before legislation is brought to council."

The move means that tenants who are issued no-cause evictions, or who move out when their rent is hiked by 10 percent or more, can continue to expect payments of between $2,900 and $4,500 well into next year. Two Portland landlords, Phillip Owen and Michael Feves, have challenged that law in court, arguing it amounts to illegal rent control, among other things.

The pair, backed by the local landlord lobby and represented by attorney John DiLorenzo, suffered a defeat at the circuit court level, when a state tax judge ruled Portland's law passes muster. After initially saying they'd hold off on an appeal, though, the attorneys challenged the ruling last week.

"We still strongly believe the ordinance will only aggravate Portland’s housing crisis,” DiLorenzo said in a statement announcing the appeal. “The court failed to see it for what it is – disguised rent control, which violates state statutes and the Oregon Constitution.”

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In response, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who introduced the relocation payment ordinance, issued her own statement: "The ruling from Judge [Henry] Breithaupt was clear and comprehensive. It is disappointing that DiLorenzo and the landlord lobby continue to waste time and money fighting the city in its efforts to stabilize families in their homes. Their time might be better spent helping us find additional solutions to the housing crisis instead of trying to take away the only tool we have to help vulnerable people."

There's no telling how long it will take for an appeal to play out, but it's likely that by the time a ruling is issued, Portland's policy will have changed. At last week's meeting, Tschabold presented a lengthy list of potential changes to the law that the PHB is considering introducing into a permanent ordinance.

Changes the bureau appeared to be favoring (though that was subject to change), included offering relocation assistance only to tenants with rents below a certain monthly threshold, changes to how information about the law is disseminated to the public, and exemptions regulated affordable housing providers in some scenarios.

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