Oregon’s eviction moratorium and what renters should do

MEDFORD, Ore.– It’s April 1 and people across the country are preparing to pay their rent or mortgage. But with so many people losing their jobs due to the pandemic’s economic fallout there are a lot of questions surrounding rent payments.

For many renters, the state eviction moratorium set by Governor Kate Brown has left a lot of questions. Tenant organizations are warning renters the moratorium may not be what they think and they should pay their rent if they can.

“There’s nothing in place that means you aren’t going to be evicted, get an eviction on your record,” said Jesse Sharp, an organizer with the Community Alliance of Tenants.

Tenant organizations in Oregon like CAT have been dealing with an unprecedented amount of calls asking whether they should pay their rent. According to Sharp, you should pay April’s rent if you can.

“We are doing a lot of work right now to do education along with what the evictions moratorium actually does,” said Sharp. “Which is simply, prevents the sheriff from forcing the evictions.”

Sharp says that under the moratorium tenants cannot be forcibly removed from the property if they don’t pay. They can still receive an eviction notice, however. This would go on the tenant’s record and affect whether they’ll be able to rent from other landlords or property managers in the future.

The alliance says it could see a mass influx of evictions come June 20 when the moratorium ends.

However, the Southern Oregon Rental Owners Association says its taking steps to avoid issuing a large number of evictions.

“Our good job as landlords and property managers is to work with the tenants as best as we can and we do that on a monthly basis depending upon the tenant’s situation every month,” said Claude Labaw, president of SOROA.

Made up of more than 500 rental owners, property managers, and associates, SOROA members manage over 17,000 properties between Jackson and Josephine County. Ladaw says as the coronavirus crisis has grown, members were sent a letter asking those who have the finances for it to defer rent and waive late fees.

It’s a policy Ladaw himself says he’s always been using in his practice.

“Sometimes a tenant has a problem, we work it out with them,” he said. “Take part of the rent now, take part of the rent later. They’re good tenants and we want to keep it that way.”

Ladaw says a common misconception is that all landlords and property managers have enough money that they don’t need to collect rent. Many landlords actually still have property mortgages to pay.

One possible solution sent out by the Oregon Rental Housing Association is a tenant deferment agreement. It would allow renters to defer a portion of their rent if they can’t affrod to pay. The tenant would just need to prove they lost their source of income due to the coronavirus crisis.

“If they don’t need to leave, we don’t need them in the street,” said Ladaw. “We need them in the house getting well.”

Both tenant and landlord organizations agree there’s still a lot of unknowns as things change day by day. The hope is the state can provide more guidelines and financial assistance to prevent people from losing what they have left.

If you can’t pay your rent, you can contact your landlord to discuss deferments and see what they will allow.

You can also contact the Community Alliance of Tenants to learn more about steps you can take if you’re running into trouble.

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