A Tenant's Guide to Oregon's Residential Landlord Tenant Act
Landlord-tenant law can be highly technical. Before you take any action, it is important that you speak with somebody with a solid understanding of Oregon’s Residential Landlord Tenant Act. This guide is designed to be a starting point for your questions about tenants’ rights in Oregon.
Time Limit Warning
Generally, any action arising under Oregon’s Residential Landlord Tenant Act must be commenced within 1 year. However, other time limits may apply to a dispute between a tenant and a landlord. If you believe that you have a claim against your landlord, it is best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible in order to preserve your claim.
For more detail, see ORS 12.125, ORS 90.100, et seq.
All too often, landlords fail to make necessary repairs. However, your landlord is required to maintain your home in a habitable condition at all times during your tenancy. Your home may be considered uninhabitable if it substantially lacks the following:
- Effective waterproofing and weather protection,
- Plumbing in good working order, including both hot and cold water,
- Safe drinking water,
- Adequate heating,
- Electrical wiring in good working order,
- Clean buildings and grounds free of vermin,
- Smoke alarms and, in some cases, a carbon monoxide alarm, and
- Working locks.
In addition, city housing codes may require your home to be kept in good condition. If you believe that your home substantially lacks any of the above amenities, you should first give your landlord written notice of the home’s deficiencies and request repairs. It is always a good idea to send your request with a certificate of mailing and keep a copy of your request for your own records. If your landlord does not respond to your request, and you live in the city of Portland, you can contact the Bureau of Development Services and request a building inspection. Other cities in Oregon may also offer free building inspections. If your landlord still fails to fix the problem, you should consult with an attorney.
For more detail, see ORS 90.320.
Due to our wet and mild climate, mold is common in the Pacific Northwest. You may be able to prevent mold by keeping your home ventilated and dry. In addition, many landlords require tenants to sign mold addendums that require tenants to take measures that may prevent mold from growing. However, your landlord is required to maintain your home with proper waterproofing and weatherproofing. Therefore, if you have a problem with mold you should send your landlord a written request to eradicate the mold and call a city inspector.
Perhaps most importantly, if you believe that mold is adversely affecting your health, you should see your doctor. Also, if you live in Portland, you may quality for mold relocation assistance. You can contact the City of Portland Bureau of Development for more details on the mold relocation assistance program.
Most landlords require tenants to pay a security deposit before moving into the home. A “Security deposit" is a refundable payment that encourages the tenant to live up to the terms of the rental agreement (commonly referred to as a “lease"). Importantly, a security deposit is not a fee. Generally, a landlord may claim all or part of the security deposit reasonably necessary to compensate for unpaid rent, repair damages caused by the tenant, and clean carpets. The landlord may not deduct from the tenant’s security deposit for “ordinary wear and tear" to the home. Unfortunately, the term “ordinary wear and tear" is undefined, and must be determined on a case-by-case basis.
If your landlord deducts any amount from your security deposit, your landlord must give you a written accounting of the deductions and a basis for each claim within 31 days after the tenancy ends. In addition, any portion of the security deposit not claimed must be returned to you during the same 31-day period. If your landlord fails to provide you with an accounting and remaining deposit within the 31-day period, your landlord may have to pay you twice the amount of the security deposit that you are entitled to.
The best way to protect yourself against a landlord unlawfully keeping your security deposit is to insist on conducting a detailed walkthrough of the home both at the beginning and end of your tenancy. During the walkthrough at the beginning of the tenancy, point out all the little defects and ask your landlord to make a note of them on your rental agreement.
For more detail, see ORS 90.100(39), ORS 90.300
Unlike a security deposit, a fee is a non-refundable payment. A landlord cannot charge you a fee that is not described in your rental agreement. Furthermore, a landlord may only charge you a fee for each occurrence of the following:
1) A late rent payment, 2) A dishonored check, 3) Removal or tampering with a smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector, 4) A violation of a written pet agreement, 5) The abandonment or relinquishment of a dwelling unit during a fixed-term tenancy, or 6) Noncompliance with written rules or policies.
For each of the above instances, there may be certain procedures and limits that apply to the fee. Consult with an attorney if you believe that your landlord has imposed an unreasonable fee.
If you fail to pay a fee, your landlord may not terminate your rental agreement for nonpayment of rent, but your landlord may proceed under ORS 90.392 and terminate your rental agreement for cause.
For more detail, see ORS 90.100(15), ORS 90.302
A Landlord Entering Your Home
Your landlord owns the walls, roof, floors, and materials that make up your home, but you have the right to enjoy the space your home creates without undue interference from your landlord.
Your landlord may enter your home only under certain circumstances. First, your landlord may enter your home at any time and without your consent in a case of emergency. For example, a landlord may enter your home for an emergency in order to repair a problem that, unless immediately repaired, may cause serious damage to the premises. Second, if you give your landlord a written request to repair your home, the landlord may enter to make the requested repairs without notice to or consent from you, so long as your landlord enters at a reasonable time. However, your written request for repairs may specify allowable times of entry. Third and more generally, your landlord may enter your home to make reasonable repairs with 24 hours actual notice of entry. However, under this circumstance you have the right to deny entry by attaching a written notice of denial to the door of the premises. Finally, there may be other situations in which your landlord may enter your home.
For more detail, see ORS 90.322
An eviction can be an extremely stressful time for a tenant. Finding a new place to live can often be overwhelming. However, below are a few pieces of information to remember that will better prepare you for an eviction.
First, your landlord must go to court to evict you. In other words, it is illegal for your landlord to remove your belongings, turn off utilities, or change the locks on you without first obtaining a court order.
Second, unless you have another agreement with your landlord that says otherwise, you must get an eviction notice from your landlord. If you don’t move out by the date specified in the notice, you will likely receive a summons and a complaint instructing you to go to court.
Third, a landlord can evict you for many reasons, including failing to pay rent on time, violating a pet policy contained in the rental agreement, extremely outrageous acts, or hosting an unlawful occupant. However, in some situations, a landlord may evict you without any reason. This is referred to as a no-cause eviction. If your tenancy is month-to-month, your landlord may terminate your lease so long as it provides a 30-day notice. However, if you have lived in your home for more than a year, in most circumstances your landlord must give you a 60-day notice.
The rules that govern termination notices and eviction are highly technical. Many landlords often make small mistakes that prevent them from legally terminating a lease. If you receive a notice of termination from your landlord, it is always a good idea to consult an attorney.