Oregon Rent Increases Will Be Capped at 7 Percent Plus Inflation, Under the Concept for a New Tenant Protections Bill

A document obtained by WW shows the outlines of the legislation for tenant protections.

(Cameron Browne)

Oregon rent increases could be capped at 7 percent, plus inflation, under landmark tenant legislation to be considered this session by the Legislature.

A document obtained by WW, which includes concepts for the legislation, also contains what may be a more significant provision: Banning no-cause eviction notices after the first year a tenant lives in a unit.

The bill, which will introduced in the Oregon Senate, is sponsored by Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham),

"[Senate President] Peter Courtney intends to sign on," says Rick Osborn, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats. "It shows a strong commitment from Senate leadership to this."

The fact the bill will start in the Senate and has leadership support is significant, because two years ago a tenant protection bill passed the state House of Representatives but died in the Senate without a vote.

WW reported earlier this week that Oregon could become the only state in the country to limit the amount landlords could raise rents. The document shows that leadership has landed on a number at which to cap rent hikes.

Related: Oregon Looks Increasingly Ready to Pass Statewide Limits on Rent Increases

The bill would not set a hard cap on how much could be charged for rent—the strictest form of rent control, made famous in cities like San Francisco. Instead, Kotek is proposing to limit increases to no more than 7 percent a year plus inflation.

It would apply to only buildings that have stood for 15 years or more.

The rent limits are considerably more than is allowed each year under the rent stabilization programs in New York City and San Francisco. Last year, New York City's landlords were allowed to increase rents by 1.5 percent for the year. In San Francisco, generally landlords are allowed to raise rents on the Bay Area's consumer price index increase.

The bill concepts also show lawmakers will preserve a landlord's right to evict tenants without a cause for the first year, but after that will require landlords to provide causes for moving a tenant out of a building—including a landlord, their family member, or a new owner moving into the building. (Relocation payments of a month's rent will be required under those circumstances, with a few exceptions.)

Any cap on rent is likely to anger landlords and developers, though on Friday real estate interests held their fire.

"This is a concept. I look forward to seeing the actual language where we work through the details on this stuff," says Shaun Jillions, a lobbyist for the realtors.

Multiple tenant groups are expected to support the bill, though Margot Black, a leading tenant advocate in Portland, offered blistering criticisms over the high cap on rent increases, the exceptions from paying relocation for landlords of four units or less, and the relatively small size of relocation payments.

"If this is the version that passes, and if Burdick is the one championing it, then I'll start my campaign to run against her the day after it passes," says Black. "I will knock on every renter's door in the district and let them know that their senator thinks they are no better than a used couch put out to the curb in the rain."

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