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Portland Decides Landlords Must Pay For No-Cause Evictions, Effective Immediately

Portland City Council voted unanimously to pass a bill requiring landlords to pay tenants a relocation fee when they evict them without cause or raise rents more than 10 percent.

The bill was championed by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, a renter herself, who called for an immediate rent freeze during her campaign.

"The tenants' rights movement is an unstoppable force sweeping our country," she told her supporters at a rally on the steps of City Hall Thursday before the vote.

Eudaly told the crowd that because the other City Council members and the city attorney did not support a rent freeze, she pivoted to "the next best thing: relocation assistance."

The bill takes effect immediately, requiring payments to tenants currently in the process of being evicted without cause. The order sunsets in October, unless the council votes to extend the city's housing emergency.

Portland Housing Bureau staff said the payments, which range from $2,900 to $4,500 depending on the size of the rental, are pegged to cover the average move-in costs of first and last month's rent and a security deposit.

The council voted 4-1 to create an exemption for landlords who rent out only a single unit, with Eudaly casting the no vote.

The council also created an exception for landlords moving back into their own homes after an absence of three years or less.

Supporters and opponents packed into City Hall for a hearing on the measure and more than 100 people signed up to testify.

Dozens of landlords complained they were not at the table when the bill was crafted, and many small landlords said they could not afford to bear the costs. Multifamily Northwest, an association that represents apartment owners statewide, has indicated it may sue the city in response to the measure.

The bill is the first step Eudaly and Mayor Ted Wheeler have taken to deliver on their campaign promises to increase protection for renters in Portland.

Democratic leaders in the Oregon Legislature have said they intend to take up renter protections in the current legislative session, and could lift a statewide ban on rent control and allow cities to require just cause for evictions.

Wheeler said the bill is, in effect, a stopgap measure that limits harm to renters while giving the city time to develop a more nuanced policy in response to possible changes in state law.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.