Portland Could Pass Law Requiring Landlords to Pay Moving Costs After a "No Cause" Eviction

Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler promise to restrict no-cause evictions faces legal roadblocks, but Legislative Counsel opinion paves way for Portland protections.

Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler's campaign promise to restrict no-cause evictions of tenants faces roadblocks, including legal opinions issued this month by attorneys for the Oregon Legislature.

But the city could legally pass a law to bill landlords for tenants' moving costs stemming from evictions without cause on month-to-month leases.

That legal opinion was issued by the Legislative Counsel to House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) in July, first reported in Murmurs on Wednesday. (Here's the full opinion.)

In their budget proposal for next year, the Portland Housing Bureau has proposed setting up a registry for all landlords in the city as a precursor to mandatory inspections of properties.

"It's our duty to be more assertive," says bureau director Kurt Creager, noting the housing "needs to be decent safe and sanitary."

The registry could also lay the groundwork for changes related to protecting tenants. At this point, no one tracks "no cause" evictions, which don't necessarily go through the court.

Wheeler says he's contemplating moving forward with parts of his agenda.

"There are likely parts of my vision that we can implement now without legislative changes, and that's part of what we are evaluating during our transition," Wheeler says, noting he's pushing for the Legislature to act in 2017 so he can "implement my full vision for 'just cause.'"

John DiLorenzo, a lawyer representing large landlords, says a relocation fee could be challenged in court—and suggests he would do so.

DiLorenzo argues a relocation fees could potentially function as a ban on no cause evictions, which landlords have a right to under the law.

"At that point, does the hypothetical relocation fee become tantamount to a ban?" he says. "This is an issue that the [Legislative Counsel] opinion does not discuss and one which would certainly be raised in litigation over such a hypothetical ordinance."

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