As the Coronavirus runs rampant, residential evictions have come screeching to a halt in Oregon. Below is an explainer of emergency rules imposed both at the State level and within Multnomah County specifically, which has issued additional rules on evictions and rent payments that both landlords and tenants should be aware of. Because information regarding the pandemic changes quickly, this information is current as of March 26, 2020.

State Moratorium
Executive Order 20-11 broadly prohibits law enforcement from acting on or serving documents that relate to a residential eviction for “nonpayment” – this includes the service of an FED summons or a sheriff’s lockout under a writ of execution. Though it doesn’t necessarily stop landlords from issuing a notice of termination, it does remove the enforcement mechanisms since residential landlords cannot perform “self-help” evictions – the only way for a landlord to legally retake possession is through an FED action and pursuant to a court order. Only the sheriff’s office can legally lock a tenant out of a property.
The state-wide moratorium also applies more widely than just to tenants who fall behind on rent or other payments related to their housing, defining “nonpayment” as:

any nonpayment as described in ORS 90.392(a) or (c) [30-day notices for failure to pay rent or other fees and charges], ORS 90.394 [72- or 144-hour notice for failure to pay current months’ rent], or ORS 90.630(1)(d) or (10) [30-day notice for failure to pay rent or other fees and charges for a manufactured or floating home], or any termination without cause under ORS 90.427 [tenancy termination].

For-cause evictions not related to a failure to pay rent or other amounts due under a rental agreement may still go forward, subject to any local court or county restrictions. This moratorium is in effect for 90 days (June 20, 2020), though it can be extended or terminated early by Governor Brown.

Multnomah County Moratorium
For properties in Multnomah County, all hearings on eviction matters – regardless of the underlying cause – are postponed until at least April 30, 2020. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s office will also not enforce any writ of execution (i.e. perform a sheriff’s lockout) if: (1) the eviction was based on the nonpayment of rent and (2) if the person(s) to be removed has not found alternate housing. This pause on lockouts lasts while there is a state of emergency related to COVID-19.

Multnomah County has also enacted a six-month rent deferment for tenants affected by all of the pandemic-related closures. In order to qualify for the rent deferment, a tenant must:  

  1. have a substantial loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic;  
  2. notify their landlord in writing on or before the day that rent is due (not including any grace period) that they will not be able to make their rent payment; and  
  3. provide their landlord with documentation showing their substantial loss of income.  

Documentation showing a substantial loss of income due to COVID-19 can be (but is not limited to) a layoff notice or other notice of closure from an employer, a letter from a health care professional saying that the tenant or a family member has symptoms or should not go to work because of issues relating to the pandemic, or documentation showing that the tenant’s child’s school or daycare has closed either due to government-mandated closures or otherwise.

Tenants seeking to qualify for this deferral should keep a copy of the notice they provide their landlord. A qualified tenant cannot be charged late fees on deferred payments of rent, utilities, or other fees and cannot have their tenancy terminated for non-payment of deferred amounts until the six-month repayment period ends. This rule also applies to all properties within Portland’s legal limits, regardless of county. See City Ordinance 189890.

As with the state-wide moratorium, for-cause evictions for reasons other than non-payment may continue once the court begins scheduling hearings again; no-cause evictions are still prohibited by the state-wide moratorium while that remains in effect.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. 

– Elli Tillotson, Associate Attorney