More than a year after Portland passed a law requiring landlords to pay relocation expenses to some tenants, the city's about to start collecting data on how the policy is working.
Next week, Portland City Council is scheduled to take up an ordinance that would make its mandatory rental relocation assistance policy permanent, doing away with a requirement that it be periodically extended. Elements of what a permanent policy should look like have been debated for most of the last year, and the draft [PDF] the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) has arrived on has some interesting provisions.
To recap: the policy applies to landlords who issue no-cause evictions or force tenants to move with rent hikes of 10 percent or more. In those instances, tenants can demand payments of between $2,900 and $4,500, depending on the apartment they live in.
The biggest changes in the ordinance that's coming before council next week have to do with exemptions to the relocation payment law, reporting requirements to the city, and how tenants are informed of their rights under the law.
Here's a rundown of the proposed changes:
•Landlords would be required to report to the PHB within 30 days of paying relocation assistance. That requirement would begin on May 1, and it's important because a lack of data has made it impossible to figure out how frequently relocation payments are being made, and by who. Kyle Chisek, director of bureau engagement in the mayor's office, calls this a "precursor" to the full-on rental registration system that Mayor Ted Wheeler campaigned on in 2016.
•Landlords who want to claim an exemption will have to file with the city, via an "exemption reporting form" that PHB will collect. "They need to attest what they’re saying they’re exempt for, so that later we can say, ‘No you’re on record,' and we can have financial remedies," says Chisek. While the city doesn't currently impose penalties on landlords who don't follow the law—that's up to tenants, who have to sue—Chisek says that's likely to change in the future.
•New exemptions! As we've reported, there's now support on city council to scrap a controversial exemption for small-time landlords who only rent out a single unit. And sure enough, that loophole is scrapped from the draft policy council will consider next week. But that doesn't mean there are no exemptions. Situations where landlords can dodge the relocation payment under the draft include: Week-to-week tenancies; accessory dwelling units (if they're on the property where the landlord lives); duplex units (if the owner lives in the other half of the building); units that the landlord moves out of for three years or less, or is absent due to military service; units that will be occupied by a member of the landlord's family; units "rendered uninhabitable not due to the action or inaction of a landlord or tenant (i.e.: natural disaster); and several more.
•Landlords would be required to explain a tenant's rights under the relocation assistance law whenever issuing notice they are terminating a person's lease or hiking rents.
One thing not built into the draft policy: A "hardship exemption" for landlords who would face outsized challenges in paying assistance. Both tenant advocates and landlords have said they'd support such a provision, though details haven't been hammered out.
To fund the data collection efforts built into the revamped policy, the PHB says it'll need cash. The bureau request nearly $400,000 in next year's budget to pay for two new staffers and software for a rental registration system. The plan is to create that system under the watch of a new Rental Services Commission that Wheeler created.
As we reported earlier this week, there's been a bit of tumult on that commission lately.