Rent Repayment Period Lengthened by Oregon Legislature

The Oregon Legislature just announced a bill that would expand the grace period for missed rent until February 28, 2022.   

Currently, Oregonians are due to pay back missed rent the day after the moratorium lifts, July 1. Senate Bill 282, introduced by Portland Senator Kayse Jama, would not extend the moratorium, but instead give tenants more time to repay the money due. 

When introduced on the House floor, Eugene Representative Julie Fahey described it as a way to support landlords and tenants and give more time to those waiting for Federal aid to reach them. Oregon is currently waiting for $222.5 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to give to those in need of emergency rental assistance, but it is unclear when these funds will arrive. 

The bill also would disallow landlords to reject a rental application because of missed rent or an eviction due to the pandemic, protect a tenant’s credit scores from being impacted by missed rent due to the pandemic, and bar landlords from evicting tenants who housed people due to COVID-19 or wildfires.  

Leeor Schweitzer, an organizer with Portland Tenants United, told the Portland Mercury that the problems from the pandemic are not over. Landlords may or may not be willing to take part in the landlord compensation fund that will pay up to 80% of lost rent as long as they forgive the remaining 20%, and money set aside to be given to tenants is taking longer than expected to get to them.  

A survey conducted in fall 2020 by Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) and Portland State University (PSU) found that 35% of renters had missed and were yet to repay rent. It also found that more than half of renters were cutting back on food and medication to afford their rent. CAT Director Kim McCarty interprets this as meaning that many will not be out of debt at the end of the June moratorium. 

McCarty told the Portland Mercury that perhaps one of the reasons people were able to make rent is because they were borrowing the money, which would result in more financial instability This is why CAT and the tenants it represents wish to see the moratorium extended a year, so that the state and other agencies have time to reach tenants.  

This will not be inexpensive, as PSU’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative estimated that the response to eviction after the end of the moratorium would cost the public $3.3 billion. The National Council of State Housing Finance Agencies said in a report that the combined unpaid rent for tenants in Oregon was between $249 million and $378 million as of this January. 

McCarty and Schweitzer also told the Portland Mercury that numerous renters were saying they had been harassed by their landlords after skipped payments. 

The bill is now moving to Gov. Kate Brown for final approval.  

By: Hannah Ramsey