A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge has upheld Portland's requirements that landlords must pay relocation costs for tenants who are required to leave through no-cause evictions or who choose to move if their rent is increased more than 10 percent in one year.
Judge Henry Breithaupt ruling was released Friday, the same day the 2017 Oregon Legislature adjourned without repealing the statewide prohibition against local rent control measures.
The policy was introduced by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly shortly after she took office in January. She made the affordable housing crisis a top priority during her upstart 2016 campaign. It requires landlord to pay between $2,900 and $4,500 in relocation fees, depending on the size of the units.
"This moment is very important for the City of Portland. At a time when we can't get the support we need from our own state legislature, relocation assistance gives us a measure of hope that we can stand up and defend vulnerable tenants on a local level. With this victory, our next steps will be to focus our efforts on gathering data and refining this law so that it becomes an innovative model for securing tenant protections in Oregon and across the country," Eudaly said in a Friday statement.
Several landlords filed suit against the policy when it was unanimously adopted as an ordiance by the City Council in early February. Their attorney, John DiLorenzo, argued the requirements amount to a de facto form of rent control. He also claimed they illegally interfere with existing contracts and unlawfully allows tenants to sue landlords if they don't comply.
Breithaupt ruled against all of the claims, however.
"The Ordinance — while it applies throughout the city — will apply to any individual landlord only if conditions or contingencies are also satisfied as to that individual landlord," Breithaupt wrote.
The Portland requirement is scheduled to be reconsidered by the council when the current Housing State of Emergency it declared expires in September. Both could be renewed.
In response, DiLorenzo said, "We appreciate the time and effort which the court has put into this case but must respectfully disagree with the rationale expressed in the opinion. Whether we appeal will be dependent, in part, upon whether the City intends to renew the ordinance when it expires on its own accord. We will keep you apprised of our views on this point. On the other hand, we are grateful that the legislature was persuaded by the hundreds of property owners who made a compelling showing that rent control and general prohibition of no-cause tenancy termination rights would exacerbate the housing shortage rather than improve the situation."
You can read the ruling at tinyurl.com/yazkhnv8.