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Renters Can Have Eviction Cases Cleared Under New Oregon Law

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Oregon is now one of the few states where renters can have eviction cases expunged from their records.

Oregon has long had a law that prohibited landlords from using old eviction cases as a reason to deny someone’s rental application. But Portland-based attorney Troy Pickard says past eviction cases still permanently stain a person’s housing record, even if they won the case.

“Just having these old and bad eviction cases sitting out there in the public record just didn’t make sense,” Pickard says. “If we were going to tell landlords that they weren’t allowed to consider this, then why are we allowing them to see it in the first place?”

Some landlords would still use old eviction cases as reasons for denying rental applications, Pickard says, which is what inspired him to write Senate Bill 873 last year.

“I kept hearing from tenants that would call with the problem of having old evictions that were showing up on their background checks stopping them from getting housing in the future,” Pickard says.

Pickard wrote the bill using language mirroring Oregon’s criminal expungement law, in which people can have certain arrests or convictions cleared from their records.

SB 873 sailed through the legislature last year without much pushback. It was co-sponsored by Portland Democrats Lew Frederick and Shemia Fagan. It became effective as of January 1, 2020.

Now tenants can ask the state to expunge their records of certain eviction cases, such as cases that tenants won, or cases that concluded more than five years ago.

Pickard says the law will also help people who inadvertently became part of an eviction case due to clerical errors, such as a name misspelling.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said SB 873 was sponsored by Sen. Frederick Fagan. The bill was actually co-sponsored by Senators Lew Frederick and Shemia Fagan.  JPR regrets the error.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.