The Legislature is days away from ending its work for 2017, and if lawmakers go home without passing House Bill 2004, they will fail to take a critical action to address our state's housing crisis. They will fail the record number of homeless students in the state. They will fail to protect families from retaliation and discrimination that can cause them to lose their homes.
During the past several weeks, the many senators and representatives who have been champions for the legislation, as well as the broad statewide grassroots coalition that supports it, have made many compromises to the bill in good faith. Yet, landlord and Sen. Rod Monroe — despite representing a district that has been at the epicenter of the housing crisis — continues to stand in opposition.
Since the beginning, well-financed property management companies, landlords, and realtors have been spreading misinformation and fear about what the bill does and does not do. They have even gone so far as to say they are speaking on behalf of tenants, and in twisted logic, they claim no-cause evictions are somehow better for tenants. The hundreds of calls to the Community Alliance of Tenants from desperate tenants who have received no-cause evictions reveals that for the lie it is. No-cause evictions disrupt and ruin lives for people who rent their homes.
The landlord lobby also claims it is too hard to evict people who are breaking the rules. This is absurd. There are nearly a dozen different statutes authorizing landlords to terminate tenancies for cause and those evictions happen quickly if the landlord follows the law. They range from 24-hours notice for drug dealing to 72-hours for non-payment of rent to 30-day terminations for breaking rules of tenancy. The law is designed to be easy to use by a landlord without an attorney.
What is really going on here? Why are landlords fighting against HB 2004 so vehemently?
What do they gain when taxpaying, rent-paying, rule-following Oregonians are evicted without rights or recourse?
What they want was all too clear in a recent Portland Tribune story ("Tenant protections bill heads to Senate with uncertain future") which reported that "some landlords have testified that they need no-cause evictions to remove 'problem' tenants in cases where they lack documentation or evidence admissible in court." In other words, they want the ultimate power to evict without revealing their reason.
This creates legal cover for discrimination and retaliation, giving landlords and property managers absolute power, and absolute impunity.
What we know from 21 years of serving tenants is that no-cause notices are being abused, with little-to-no recourse for tenants subject to the abuse.
• No-cause notices are used when landlords don't feel comfortable with the race or national origin of their tenants.
• No cause notices are used when landlords don't want children in the building.
• No-cause notices are used when landlords don't want to accommodate people with disabilities.
• No cause notices are used when tenants are elderly and landlords are afraid they might die in their building.
• No-cause notices are used when landlords don't want to deal with tenant's requests to make legally-required repairs to the property.
• No-cause notices are used when tenants ask for inspections for unsafe or unhealthy housing.
• No-cause notices are used when landlords want tenants who have more money, and can afford steep rent hikes.
• No-cause notices are used when there are disagreements between tenants. Oftentimes, after these disputes, the one evicted is the person of color, the poorer person, the one who is disabled.
And, coming full circle, no-cause notices are used when tenants are defending themselves against discrimination by their landlords or property managers.
Under current law, tenants are extremely limited in their ability to stop or remedy any of these abuses.
Lawmakers have less than a week to pass HB 2004. In a state where 40 percent of the population rents their home, we cannot wait another two years for action. Until the final gavel drops on this legislative session, we are going to continue to hold out hope that our lawmakers are committed to representing those that have elected them.