Multnomah County officials are poised to strengthen the county's current protections for tenants unable to pay rent due to COVID-19's financial toll.
On Thursday, the county's board of commissioners will vote to rescind the county-wide eviction moratorium, passed March 19, and adopt Gov. Kate Brown's statewide eviction moratorium in its place. While both moratoriums prohibit landlords from evicting tenants unable to pay rent during the pandemic, the state's April 1 order doesn't ask tenants to give proof to landlords that their finances have been impacted by COVID-19—a requirement that Multnomah County's current order includes.
This prerequisite has led to confusion among tenants, many who've been given misleading information by their landlords about what type of evidence they need to provide to qualify for a deferred rent payment. Under the statewide order, tenants won't have to give their landlords a reason as to why they can't pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is one area where Multnomah County's original moratorium goes further than the state's. The county order grants renters six months to pay back their missed rent and utility bill payments after the local state of emergency comes to an end (last week, Multnomah County extended that date to July 9). The statewide order, meanwhile, does not include any grace period for renters to repay their deferred rent, instead suggesting that missed rent is due in one massive deposit the day that Brown lifts the state moratorium.
That's the one piece of Multnomah County's moratorium that officials want to hold onto. On Thursday, while voting to adopt the state's eviction ban, commissioners will also vote on an ordinance meant to retain the six-month repayment period for local renters.
Under the ordinance, tenants would not be obligated to enter into a payment plan with their landlord, nor would they be required to pay late fees. Landlords who refuse to comply with this order could be sued to up to three times their tenants' monthly rent, the ordinance adds.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury will present the ordinance before commissioners Thursday. In a statement to the Mercury, Kafoury said that the decision will ideally "reduce confusion among landlords and tenants... while also keeping key protections for tenants in Multnomah County.”
“People are being laid off on an almost daily basis, and the last thing we want is for households to worry about losing their homes in the middle of this pandemic," said Kafoury.
The City of Portland and Multnomah County are currently operating under the same eviction moratorium rules. According to Mayor Ted Wheeler's office, the city's moratorium will update automatically to reflect Multnomah County ordinance if it passes Thursday. City officials, meanwhile, are still waiting to hear if state legislators will consider waiving all rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 emergency. Brown has yet to announce a special legislative session to address all coronavirus-related concerns—including tenant and landlord relief.
Watch Multnomah County Board of Commissioners meeting online on Thursday at 9:30 am.