A controversial new rental regulation package was passed by Portland’s City Council. The rules include a requirement that landlords accept the first qualified applicant to apply, consider tenants with poor credit history, and allow tenants with felony convictions — including violent crimes — after seven years.
According to one city commissioner, landlords would be required to accept an applicant the day after the applicant completed a prison sentence of more than seven years.
Other provisions include a prohibition on screening all adults who will occupy a unit, capping the income to rent ratio from 2-2.5 times rent, and prohibiting landlords from requiring government-issued ID.
The first-in-time rule is similar to a measure that was recently passed in Seattle and later overturned, after a court found that the law violated landlords’ constitutional rights.
In the Portland case, landlords would need to wait 72 hours between advertising a vacancy and accepting applications before accepting the first application. Tenants with disabilities are given first priority for any units that are accessible, however, it is unclear how this preference meshes with the requirement that landlords rent to the first qualified applicant to apply.
It is also unclear how the requirement that landlords accept credit scores in the “Very Poor” range will help increase the supply of rental housing.
A proponent of the measure ties traditional tenant screening practices to racial discrimination. The Seattle first-in-time ordinance was largely criticized as working against minority and other vulnerable populations because the applicant most likely to apply first has vacation days, a smartphone, and a car.
Landlords are not forced to accept the “low-barrier” screening criteria. But those who do not will need to provide applicants with an “individual assessment” and the opportunity to file an appeal, presumably while the property remains vacant.
The plan includes the formation of a housing bureau to oversee enforcement. However, the city’s mayor warns that funding for this administrative agency may not be forthcoming. He says that he would not support the funding if the rental regulations come at the expense of public safety or affordable housing inventory.
That is a serious concern, given that local investors already have halted several multifamily projects and individual landlords are placing properties for sale. Experts are reporting investment in apartment rentals is down by 38% in Oregon after lawmakers passed a statewide rent control measure last year.
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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.