New year brings new concerns for renters, landlords

MEDFORD, Ore.- A new year, new problems.

“We do still have people being evicted right now and we do still have people receiving rent increases. ”

Despite the recent special session legislation that extends protections for renters, some feel it doesn’t do enough.

Jesse Sharpe with the southern Oregon branch of the Community Association of Tenants says they are not satisfied with the new bills. He says it doesn’t address rent increases in the time of a pandemic.

“We have no seen any legislative action or any willingness to respond to that,” Sharpe said.

The new year often marks a time when leases are renewed and rental costs go up. With so many people displaced and struggling with employment, even small increases could hit them hard.

“I think that that amount could be really drastic for people, especially if people have lost their jobs or have lost hours or are in other ways really damaged right now,” Sharpe explained. He says the association wants full rent cancellation to protect tenants and the state to find ways to compensate landlords separately.

“Oftentimes when we look at small landlords we see landlords who are willing to take a small hit to their profit margins in response to this moment, this situation.”

Recent Oregon legislation offers an 80/20 compromise with the state setting aside funds for a majority of a tenant’s rent if the landlord forgives the remaining amount.

Mark Nichols, a member of two Oregon rental associations, says the legislation won’t cut it for a number of Rogue Valley rental owners. He says most landlords are just looking to break even.

“They don’t have the luxury of forgiving 20 percent of the rent because they will start to lose money again,” Nichols said.

While a bill signed last year protects renters from extreme rent increases, Nichols says even if landlords delay increases this year, they have to make it up sometime.

“Mostly raising the rents around two point five percent a year. And that’s true whether you skip a year and the following year go 5%, or go 2.5% every year,” he explained. Nichols explained the bill also makes it difficult to temporarily decrease rent, since lowering it and then raising it again a few months later could exceed the cap enforced by said bill.

Both sides of the issue agree the housing crises will not end when the pandemic does.

“Housing providers are going to raise the rent, whether they raise it this year or raise it in the future,” Nichols said.

“The cans been kicked down the road on this rental crisis we are in,” said Sharpe.

The Community Association of Tenants says their model policies are focused on offsetting as many of the costs as possible to banks and loaners who can absorb the costs of this crisis. They say it will lighten the impact of the shutdowns on both renters and small landlords.

The recently passed legislation extends the eviction moratorium and the time to pay back rent to July 1st.

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