Written by attorney Kara L Govro

Landlord Tenant Basics in Oregon

The relationship between a landlord and a tenant can be a complicated one, so it's helpful for both parties to have a basic understanding of their rights and responsibilities before entering into an agreement. Here are a few highlights.

The Lease: The lease agreement is the basis for how your relationship works. Landlords, you should have one in writing! You can buy an Oregon-specific, basic lease agreement form at a legal supply store (like Stevens-Ness near the Multnomah County Courthouse) or have a lawyer draft one that is specific to your property or house policies.

Fees: As a general rule, a landlord may not charge tenants fees, deposits, or penalties that are not specified in the lease agreement. Late fees may not be assessed until the fifth day of the month or rental period, and they may not be unreasonable; over 10% would be too much. There are more specifics on late fees in ORS 90.260.

Moving out: Many leases of a year or more have a provision that states the lease will convert to a month-to-month agreement at the end of the term unless the tenant gives appropriate written notice. Usually this means letting your landlord know, in writing and at least 30 days before moving out, that you intend to leave. Be sure to read your entire lease for any other requirements that might be included and follow them exactly. Some landlords will take advantage of the fine print in order to get an extra month of rent from unsuspecting tenants

Your security deposit: Security deposits, while often difficult for tenants to come up with, are a necessary part of renting. That money can be used by the landlord to cover the following:

  • Unpaid rent, if, for instance, the tenant moves out in the middle of the night and still owes rent for the month (not as uncommon as it sounds).

  • Reasonable cleaning or repair costs, even if the cleaning or repair is not done. This is a sticker. Let’s say your landlord rented you a furnished apartment and you spilled red wine and spaghetti all over the couch. The landlord could charge you for the cost of cleaning the couch even if he planned to throw it away and not replace it. Also, a landlord can charge a reasonable rate per hour to clean up after you; an attorney or doctor who rents you a room cannot charge you $150 an hour to vacuum or scrub the bathroom just because they charge that much at the office.

  • Carpet cleaning ONLY IF the carpets were professionally cleaned prior to move-in. If you didn’t get shiny fresh carpets when you moved in you don’t have to pay to make them that way after you move out (assuming you have left them in approximately the same condition you found them).

Landlords have 31 days after the tenant moves out to give them a written account of what any funds were retained for, as well as a refund of the remainder. Failure to provide this within 31 days gives the tenant a right to twice the amount withheld and not accounted for. For instance, if your deposit was $300 and you did not receive an accounting or a refund within 31 days, you would be entitled to $600.

Abandoned property: Landlords may not dispose of property left behind by a tenant without first giving them written notice. If the notice is given in person the tenant then has five days to pick up his or her belonging, and if mailed, eight days. The notice must comply with ORS 90.425. This is a fairly complicated area and if a tenant leaves behind something valuable you may want to contact an attorney to make sure you take appropriate action.

Additional resources provided by the author

Oregon's Landlord Tenant laws are located in Chapter 90 of the Oregon Revised Statutes, which can be found here: The Oregon State Bar also provides a lot of great information here:

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