Portland Landlords Prepared to Fight Limits on Tenant Screening

by Chris on August 27, 2018

Landlords in Portland, Oregon are gearing up for what could be a contentious battle as the city council there reportedly is poised to consider a sweeping rental reform that would limit tenant screening and security deposits.

More Housing Now!, a landlord advocacy group formed by Multifamily NW, Rental Housing Alliance Oregon, and Oregon Rental Housing Association, has launched a multimillion-dollar funding initiative designed to counter the measure and at the same time loosen regulations that make it costly and time-consuming to build new multihousing units.

A draft proposal of the new legislation includes:

A requirement that landlords evaluate tenants based on first-in-time. Landlords would need to state minimum qualifications and accept the first qualified applicant. A similar ordinance adopted in Seattle recently was found unconstitutional because it deprived landlords of the ability to speak freely with tenants and to choose renters based on nondiscriminatory factors like the willingness to sign a longer-term lease;

Restrictions against rejecting applicants with bad rental history;

A preference for tenants with disabilities over other protected groups;

An income to rent ratio of 50% or two times rent;

Landlords would not be allowed to run tenant credit checks on “coapplicants not responsible for paying rent.”

Restrictions on rejecting applicants with criminal history, including domestic violence, assault, stalking, theft and sex offenses;

Rejection based on bad credit history also would be restricted unless three or more specific factors are present, such as late payments, bankruptcy and low credit score;

The proposed rules would require landlords to develop an individualized assessment of the tenant screening results and provide that information to the applicant. The landlord would need to prove a “nexus” between the tenant’s circumstances and the rejection.

Proponents of the measure also have hinted that they will ask City Council to limit the amount a landlord can charge for security deposits, possibly to one-half of one month’s rent, and evaluate when a landlord can deduct damages from that deposit.

Although no specific legislation is pending, the landlords at More Housing Now! are anticipating the introduction of the new measures at the September Council meeting. The danger alert is real, they say, given that the city’s mayor already has indicated support for the proposals.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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