Oregon landlord-tenant laws are changing in 2014.
Landlords and renters alike stand to benefit from the Landlord-Tenant Omnibus Bill (Senate Bill 91), which takes effect Jan. 1.
Noncompliance fees are changing and for the first time, Oregon landlords can require tenants to maintain rental insurance. It also introduces Section 8 Vouchers as a Protected Class. Renters can no longer be turned down solely due to their dependence on government assistance for housing.
The legislation still allows landlords to conduct a tenant background check for criminal records and eviction history. Landlords may consider the same criteria that apply to all other applicants.
The law also places new limits on tenant screening, limiting the scope of tenant screening and how a landlord can evaluate a rental applicant’s criminal records check.
“With Senate Bill 91, a landlord may not consider a previous arrest of the applicant, if the arrest did not result in a conviction,” said Christi Lawson, partner at Foley and Lardner LLP.
Arrests for certain charges however, may still be considered in a landlord’s decision.
“A landlord may only consider an arrest if the charges are for a drug related crime; person crime; sex offense; crime involving financial fraud, including identity theft and forgery; or any other crime if the conduct is of a nature that would adversely affect the landlord’s property, a tenant or the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises,” said Lawson.
The Landlord-Tenant Omnibus Bill also benefits prospective tenants by limiting their reportable eviction history. Beginning the first of the year, Oregon will be the first state to implement a 5-year rule about reporting eviction records.
“Beginning Jan. 1, landlords in Oregon may not consider an applicant’s previous evictions if the action was dismissed, resulted in a judgment for the applicant or is five or more years before the prospective tenant submits an application,” said Lawson.
The law affects landlords and tenants, currently residing in Oregon and also pertains to applicants moving to the state. For example, if an applicant currently resides in California and submits a rental application in Oregon, the landlord may not consider an eviction that occurred six years prior.
The changes in Oregon directly impact the tenant screening industry, which in years past has used the applicant’s current address for a tenant screening report.
“This is a big change for the tenant screening industry,” said Caryn Bennett, Contemporary Information Corporation (CIC) compliance manager and co-chair of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners’ Tenant Screening Committee.
“For a long time tenant screening included using an applicant’s current and previous addresses to run a report. Now, with the changes in Oregon, our filters and algorithms need to take into consideration where a prospective tenant is moving,” she added.
The algorithms and filters provide landlords with comprehensive tenant screening reports, allowing them to make informed rental decisions, while maintaining compliance with the latest legislative changes.
“In order to meet Oregon’s new requirement, CIC will be making some behind-the-scenes changes to our search criteria that should not impact our customers in any way,” said Chad Walters, CIC network engineer. “Clients conducting business in the state of Oregon will automatically become compliant with this new law. For clients who do not operate in Oregon, current filters will remain in place.”
With the changes in Oregon legislature, it’s important to remember that federal laws preempt Senate Bill 91.
“Tenant screening customers in Oregon and elsewhere, should also continue to comply with applicable federal laws, which may affect the customer’s ability to comply with Oregon’s new time limitations, such as screening requirements for federally subsidized housing,” said Lawson.