Portland Landlord Challenges New City Ordinance On Rent Increases

UPDATED: "It wasn’t unexpected that we’d have a legal challenge," Saltzman says. "It’s important that we give renters more than 30 days notice."

A Portland landlord today filed a new lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court seeking to block a new city ordinance that requires a 90-day notice of rent increases of more than 5 percent.

The landlord, Melcliff Associates, is seeking an injunction against the ordinance, which city council approved on Oct. 13.

Melcliff's lawsuit says that the ordinance conflicts with state law in two ways: first, it triples the currently required notice period of 30 days; and second, it in effect imposes rent control because landlords cannot raise rents during the lengthened notice period.

Typically, cities cannot pass local laws that conflict with state laws.

John DiLorenzo, Melcliff's lawyer, raised a number of objections to the ordinance. DiLorenzo, who has previously sued the city over what he and his clients consider excessive water and sewer rate increases, notes that the city has not approved any comparable limitation in its ability to hike water and sewer costs.

And more to the point, DiLorenzo says that rent control, which has a checkered history in New York and San Francisco, is ineffective.

"Rent control is a slippery slope," DiLorenzo says. "It's a horrible policy."

Updated with a response from the city of Portland at 1:50 pm:

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who directs the Housing Bureau, says city officials haven't yet seen the lawsuit but he's familar with the argument DiLorenzo is making.

"It wasn't unexpected that we'd have a legal challenge," Saltzman says. "It's important that we give renters more than 30 days notice."

Saltzman adds that the city's attorneys were fully aware of what state law says about renters' rights.

"We acted on the advice of attorneys who said it was reasonable to extend to 90 days," he says.

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