Oregon House Passes Bill That Would Prevent Evictions for 60 Days If Tenant Proves They’re Awaiting Rent Assistance

Landlords remain tentatively optimistic the bill may present a middle ground for both tenants on the verge of evictions and landlords who are awaiting rent.

Hazelwood (Joseph Blake Jr. )

The Oregon House on Thursday afternoon passed a bill that would extend the eviction moratorium by 60 days for tenants who provide proof to landlords that they’ve applied for and are awaiting rental assistance from the state. The bill now returns to the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 278 was amended several times in a House Rules Committee work session held Tuesday to grant more leniency to the state and community action agencies to get the relief money to landlords within the next 60 days.

Those amendments include a plan for Oregon Housing and Community Services, the state agency responsible distributing rent assistance checks to landlords, to recruit a third party to “make distributions to compensate landlords who...have delayed termination notices or eviction proceedings.” Essentially, the state is asking a third party to come in and help smooth the dispersal process going forward.

Last December, the Legislature allocated $200 million to rental assistance—$150 million of that available to landlords who applied for relief in cooperation with their tenants, and for which the landlords’ debt would be compensated 80% by the state so long as they took a 20% hit of rent forgiveness.

Another amendment to the bill offers 100% compensation of back rent due to landlords from the Landlord Compensation Fund, instead of the previously promised 80% relief, for rent relief that they requested but hadn’t received as of April 1 of this year.

The state program to dole out relief funds experienced myriad technical issues earlier this spring, causing a significant delay in how quickly landlords have seen money.

Delays have been worsened by how the state chose to disperse the funding: through community action agencies that don’t have the staff or resources to deal with that responsibility.

On Tuesday during a House Rules work session, Sybil Hebb of the Oregon Law Center noted that the community action agencies tasked with dispersing funds have been “underfunded for decades,” hence the delay.

Emblematic of that delay was an announcement by Oregon Housing and Community Services on Wednesday that the third round of the Landlord Compensation Fund was going to stay open for applicants until June 23.

“With unprecedented demand for assistance, the agency also asks landlords to be patient as community organizations distribute funds,” the release read.

OHCS noted that millions of dollars were still available from this third and final pot of funds.

Landlords remain tentatively optimistic the bill may present a middle ground for both tenants on the verge of evictions and landlords who are awaiting rent.

Deborah Imse, executive director of Multifamily NW, a landlord group, says she’s hopeful.

“This bill won’t fix the problems with accessing rental assistance, and we share the skepticism of legislators that OHCS will be able to effectively stand up a third fund to distribute assistance in only a matter of weeks, but we are truly hopeful that this proposal will provide some certainty to both renters and housing providers,” Imse said.

One property manager WW spoke to, Christian Bryant, president of IRC Enterprises and IRC Real Estate, says his company applied for the Landlord Compensation Fund in the first round of applications and still has yet to receive a dollar of back rent.

On Wednesday, prior to the House Rules Committee’s unanimous vote to pass the bill with the amendments, Bryant told WW: “It sounds like there’s talk of them possibly extending the [landlord fund] and retroactively moving it from 80% up to 100%. So if we absolutely have to extend it, then I’m at least glad to see that.”

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