On Sept. 28, 2020, Gov. Kate Brown signed (Executive Order No. 20-56), which extended the statewide eviction moratorium (HB 4213) through Dec. 31, 2020. In order to ensure Multnomah County renters can continue relying on the same residential tenant protections contained in HB 4213 as long as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, the Board of County Commissioners adopted Ordinance No. 1287 on Sept. 24, 2020, which preserves protections in the statewide eviction moratorium for Multnomah County renters until the COVID-19 emergency declaration has been lifted. The current declaration is effective through January 8, 2021, but may be extended.
Does the residential moratorium on evictions apply to all reasons for an eviction?
No, the moratorium applies to two types of evictions. First, it prohibits landlords from evicting a tenant due to nonpayment of rent, fees or utility service charges (hereafter referred to collectively as “rent”) payable to the landlord. Nonpayment of rent does not have to be due to wage loss resulting from COVID-19. Second, it prohibits landlords from evicting a tenant without cause.
This moratorium does not apply to evictions for any other lawful purpose, but a landlord must inform their tenant of the reason for the eviction. Specifically, the notice of eviction should either identify the specific actions of the tenant that violate the rental agreement or the tenant’s obligations under state law, or it should identify another “qualifying landlord reason” for the eviction, such as the landlord’s intention to demolish, undertake significant repairs or renovations, or sell the residence.
Does this mean residential tenants are not obligated to pay rent?
No. Tenants are legally obligated to pay rent as usual. However they cannot be evicted for nonpayment during the moratorium period. Tenants will have a six-month grace period to pay back their rent owed after the moratorium is lifted.
Once the moratorium is lifted, landlords may provide tenants with written notice of their outstanding back rent. The notice may require the tenant to either (1) pay their back rent or (2) notify the landlord that they intend to utilize the repayment grace period. Tenants will have 14 days to respond to the landlord’s request. If the tenant fails to notify their landlord that they intend to utilize the repayment grace period, they may have to pay their landlord an amount equal to half of their monthly rent. However, a tenant may not be evicted for failing to respond to landlord’s request. Landlords and their residential tenants may enter into payment plans so long as both parties are willing. But there is no legal requirement that tenants enter into a payment plan.
How will residential tenants be able to ensure they will not be evicted because of COVID-19?
The protections of the statewide moratorium apply automatically. However, tenants may wish to discuss the potential of a voluntary payment plan with their landlord.
Though tenants do not need to provide landlords with proof of their income loss to be protected by the eviction moratorium, state and/or federal financial assistance programs, if made available, may require proof of loss of income related to COVID-19. That’s why it is still recommended that tenants collect and save documentation that demonstrates wage loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes items like:
- Letter from an employer citing COVID-19 as a reason for reduced work hours or termination;
- Letters from clients or customers citing COVID-19 as a reason for reducing or canceling purchase orders, requests for services-for-hire, or other profit-generating contracts;
- Letter from a school or other government-issued documentation declaring a school closure related to COVID-19; or
- Letter from a medical doctor recommending rest at home, self-quarantine, hospitalization, or similar measures for the affected tenant or a family member.
Does the moratorium protect residential tenants from utility service interruptions due to nonpayment?
The moratorium does not directly protect residents from utility service interruptions due to nonpayment. However, the Portland Water Bureau stated that it will not disconnect water service for non-payment of sewer, stormwater and water bills during the declaration of emergency. Likewise, Pacific Power, Portland General Electric (PGE) and Northwest Natural have temporarily suspended service disconnections for nonpayment and will extend their services without late fees.
What should I do if I think my landlord is violating the moratorium?
Landlords who violate any part of the eviction moratorium law can be sued by the tenant for an amount up to three times the monthly rent. If a landlord threatens to evict tenants without cause or for nonpayment of rent, applies late fees, requires agreement to a payment plan, or violates the eviction moratorium in any way, tenants should contact an attorney or community advocate like the Community Alliance of Tenants or Legal Aid Services of Oregon for help.
When will the eviction moratorium end?
On September 24, 2020, the Board of County Commissioners adopted Ordinance No. 1287 to preserve the protections of the statewide eviction moratorium for Multnomah County renters through at least January 8, 2021. Tenants may face eviction for failure to pay rent beginning the day after the moratorium is lifted. However, there will also be a six-month repayment grace period, giving tenants a period of six months after the moratorium is lifted to pay their outstanding back rent from the moratorium period. If a tenant intends to utilize the repayment grace period, they may be required to notify their landlord.