Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly Plans Reforms of Renter Screening Criteria

Eudaly is seeking to standardize the way renters screen tenants for housing.

City Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Amanda Fritz (Daniel Stindt)

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who championed last year's landmark renter protections, is preparing for another round of reforms.

The new effort, which would regulate the screening criteria landlords use determine who gets housing, is in draft form and expected to go to City Council in August. Eudaly's office is pushing a requirements for landlords to take tenants on a first come, first served approach, standardizing their approach.

"There is so much subjectivity; housing access relies exclusively on landlords' feelings about a tenant," says Eudaly policy director Jamey Duhamel. "The goal is to create clear channels to access housing of choice for all renters that are consistent, fair and equitable."

But the policy goes much further than simply holding people's place in line.

Landlords will continue to be allowed to set a minimum credit score as well as to turn away anyone for whom the rent would account for more than 50 percent of income.

But for other criteria, related to three categories—credit, criminal and housing history—landlords would have to score the tenant on one of three standardized metrics if they plan to deny housing. They would also be required to provide tenants with 24 hours to document offsetting considerations.

Eudaly's office is calling it an "individualized assessment." The policy in draft form explores two versions: landlords ranking potential tenants either high, low and medium risk or using a 10-point scale for each of the categories.

Under the 10-point scale approach, any tenant who falls at 5 or above could not be denied housing on the basis of that category, under the proposal.

In the housing category, for example, a judge-ordered eviction in the last year would knock 6 points off the 10 point scale. But that could be offset with proof of 12 months of on-time rental payments in the last year, which the current draft proposes would add 2 points.

Eudaly's office plans to workshop the proposal to a swath of community and real-estate groups, including 15 presentations in May.

"This policy needs the input of the community at large, and I'm willing to spend as much time as needed with any organization that wants to engage on this policy and provide direct and honest feedback about how it would work in real life," says Duhamel.

Setting up strict screening criteria will be closely paired with an effort to reform security deposits, laying out clearly what landlords can and cannot charge to tenants for damaged apartments and appliances.

Eudaly's office elected to link the security-deposit policy and the standardized screening criteria. Her office was concerned that unless the two policies were tied together, restricting landlords on security deposits would make it harder for vulnerable tenants to find housing.

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