If you have experienced harassment from you landlord, please share your story with us. (You can do this anonymously)
Why we need a Tenant Protection Ordinance
Many tenants already suffer from harassment from their landlords for a variety of reasons. Over the last few years, tenants in Portland and in Oregon have been guaranteed a number of price and stability protections, including Portland’s relocation ordinance and state legislation that banned most no-cause evictions, put a cap on rent increases, and also instituted some relocation assistance provisions. These protections are crucial for supporting stability and livability for tenants, however, they create an incentive for landlords to push tenants to “voluntarily” leave their rentals so the landlords can raise the rent more. In many cities with rent regulations, this has happened through an array of harassment strategies, and we are worried that harassment will increase in Portland. Calls we are getting from tenants indicate this may be happening already.
The Tenant Protection Ordinance, modeled off of the work of other cities, is meant to address that. It creates an explicit list of landlord actions that count as harassment, and demands a robust Rental Services Office that can support tenants to make the harassment stop and keep them in their homes.
The Tenant Protection Ordinance will define harassment, especially harassment used to force tenants out of their housing. The elements include actions that are currently legal but that are used on their own or in conjunction with other actions to harass tenants. They also include actions that are already illegal, allowing them to also be considered in an allegation of harassment.
COVID-19 and Emergency Situations
- In some emergency situations, such as the current COVID-19 crisis, tenants are granted the legal right to defer rent payments. Any of the following behavior in response to tenants exercising that right is classified as harassment.
- Repeatedly asking a tenant when they will make a payment.
- Contacting family, friends, or other associates about a tenant's financial status.
- Removing or reducing services or amenities.
- Neglecting maintenance issues.
- Locking a tenant out of their home.
- Threatening eviction once it is legal.
Quality of Housing and Services
- Getting rid of housing services in the lease or contract
- Not making timely, complete, and necessary repairs and maintenance, or providing adequate notification about non-functioning essential services.
- Failing to follow industry health standards.
- Deliberately failing to uphold covenant of peaceful and quiet enjoyment.
- Threatening or engaging in acts that interfere with a tenant’s right to use and enjoy the rental unit.
- Threatening or engaging in an act that makes the rental unit unfit for human habitation.
Invasion of Privacy
- Abusing the right of access.
- Asking about the immigration status of a tenant or anyone else living in or planning on living in the rental unit.
- Disclosing or threatening to disclose the immigration status of a tenant to immigration authorities or otherwise.
- Verbal abuse, including name-calling and profanity directed at tenants or guests.
- Physically harming a resident.
- Damaging a resident’s property.
- Harming or endangering residents’ pets or companion/service animals.
- Actions that create a reasonable fear that a tenant, their property, or their pets will be harmed.
- Communications that suggest a tenant is required to leave the unit when they are not legally required to do so.
- Slandering, libel, or otherwise sharing false information or maligning a tenant.
- Threatening eviction when there are no legal grounds for the eviction.
- Issuing an eviction or 72 hour notice on false charges.
- Not accepting payment required to be paid by the tenant that is made lawfully and using a method previously agreed upon by both parties.
Rules and Treatment
- Discriminating, as defined in federal, state, or local housing law.
- Making new rules for which the landlord cannot establish a legitimate, non-discriminatory business case.
Pre-textual evictions: suddenly enforcing many rules that were not enforced before, or enforcing only for certain tenants. This provision covers but is not limited to:
- Items placed on porches or balconies
- Noise or odor complaints, especially if it cannot be proven that they originated from another tenant or neighbor
- House guests
- Not providing reasonable documentation of a violation warning, or any violation that goes on a tenant’s record.
- Not notifying tenants of anticipated scope of work and timelines for large projects.
- Failing to provide a mitigation plan to deal with the impacts of construction that involves tenants directly in the creation of the mitigation plan.
- Failing to offer reasonable accommodation and compensation to account for construction impacts.
- Not offering contingency accommodations and compensation if the timeline of a construction project changes
Rental Service Office Expansion
The Tenant Protection Ordinance will only be effective in protecting tenants if the Rental Services Office is expanded to provide sufficient services to support tenants when they are experiencing harassment. The Rental Services Office would need to perform the following functions.
- Offer multiple ways for tenants to report harassment to the Rental Services Office, including in person, on the phone, or online, and at a variety of hours.
- Inform tenants about the ordinance and explain what kinds of behavior count as harassment.
- Offer to call landlords to tell them that a complaint has been lodged against them and inform them of the portions of the law that they may be violating.
- Provide mediation programs for landlords and tenants to resolve outstanding issues.
- Inform tenants of opportunities to get legal support.
- Maintain a rent escrow program.
- Produce documents that explain basic tenant rights and require landlords to provide these documents upon lease signing and at least once a year.
- A landlord or property manager that violates this ordinance will be assessed a fine of no more than $10,000
- If the harassment in violation of this ordinance was directed at a vulnerable tenant, that is a tenant with a disability, an elderly tenant, or a tenant receiving any government rental subsidies, the assessed fine will be no more than $15,000
- An individual tenant, a group of tenants, and the City Attorney all have grounds to pursue legal action to address a violation of this ordinance.
- A tenant or a group of tenants may also seek punitive damages in response to a violation of this ordinance.