The tenant protection legislation championed by Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek will have unintended consequences that could harm renters, according a pair of advocates unlikely to agree on almost anything.
Tenant activist Margot Black delivered landlord lobbyist John DiLorenzo a lump of coal last year for Christmas for his "scrooge-like" behavior in opposing tenants rights.
But now both Black and DiLorenzo agree that House Bill 2004, in its current form, is likely to end the common practice of landlords' offering apartments for rent on a month-to-month basis.
That's because the bill originally aimed at ending no-cause evictions only restricts the practice for people on month-to-month leases, after the amendments passed by the Senate.
It also sets a 91-day period during which landlord will have time to switch tenants over to fixed term leases from month-to-month arrangements.
"What will happen is the month-to-month tenancy will become a thing of the past unless you have a non-business savvy landlord who isn't paying attention," says DiLorenzo, who represents the Equitable Housing PAC, the political action committee of MultiFamily NW, the association of the state's largest landlords.
"The reality is many tenants need and want the flexibility to move when they need to," says Black, of Portland Tenants United. "And those tenants will have no other option than to pay huge lease-break fees. And there is no question that the most vulnerable tenants will be the those who are disproportionately impacted by the 'unintended consequences' of this bill."
Portland Tenants United pulled their support for the legislation earlier this month, a development first reported by the Portland Mercury. But the bill continues to enjoy wide support from advocates and leading Democrats, including Kotek, who argues longer-term leases won't be a bad thing for tenants.
"The Speaker is disappointed that the Senate has had to water down the tenant protections in the bill in their effort to win support," says Lindsey O'Brien, Kotek's spokeswoman.
"However, the bill in its current form will still help protect vulnerable renters from sudden, no-cause evictions. If one consequence of the bill is that some landlords move tenants to fixed-term leases, both landlords and tenants would benefit from the increased stability and predictability of that contract. For tenants, they would also see added benefits: rent can't be increased during the fixed-term unless otherwise stated in the agreement, and the tenant can only be evicted with a 'for cause' notice."
The bill enjoys wide support from many Democrats. It has passed the House and moved out of the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday, after amendments. It does not appear that the bill so far has the votes to pass the full Senate, which is more conservative than the House.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, who ran for office on a pledge to end no cause evictions, continues to support the bill, and advocacy groups, organized by the Stable Homes coalition, are still hoping to get the bill through the Senate.
The bill would restrict "no cause" notices after the first year of tenancy for month-to-month tenants and require landlords to offer 90 days of notice for non-renewal of leases. Rent increases will be restricted to once a year.
DiLorenzo and Black aren't making common cause over the bill just yet. Black's group pushed for rent control and wants to see greater restrictions, while the existing bill, even with amendments is unpalatable to DiLorenzo.
"We needed lawmakers to have our backs this session, and HB 2004 took the same route as so many other critical progressive issues did," says Black.
"Legislators and organizations that are supposed to be progressive allies rolled over for big business and big landlords. The political establishment failed working families and it's really clear coming out of this that voters will have to decide for themselves" — either through a ballot initiative or voting the legislators out.