What are the impacts of the ending of the federal eviction moratorium for tenants and landlords in Oregon?

At the end of June, the federal eviction moratorium – designed to help renters avoid losing their homes during the COVID epidemic – ended. This means that, for the first time since March 2020, Oregon renters will need to pay the next month’s rent, and continue to do so monthly to avoid being evicted. If renters owe back rent, they will need to pay that by February 28, 2022.

While the state legislature passed a safe harbor bill for renters that have applied for rental assistance and provided documentation of their landlord, this doesn’t cover those who have not applied for rental assistance. Many renters nationwide weren’t aware of rental assistance programs and are thus facing eviction. 

A challenge with rental assistance is that there is a huge discrepancy between the moratorium end date of July 1 and the ability to get funds into the hands of renters before landlords start filing for evictions. There is a huge backlog in applications not just due to tenants’ overwhelming need for help, but also technical glitches, unclear government guidance and other red tape, further complicating the ability to keep tenants housed. Thus far, only ⅓ of the available funds for rental assistance has been dispersed. Oregon residents can apply for rental assistance for future rent at OregonrentalAssistance.org.

While many are concerned that there may be a massive uptick in evictions, Ron Garcia, head of Rental Housing Alliance Oregon, is skeptical that that will happen. One reason is the safe harbor legislation passed. Another is that landlords cannot take advantage of rental assistance money if they don’t have tenants. Not everyone agrees, however. Some tenant advocates project that there could be as many as 90,000 Oregonians who will not be able to pay July rent and could be evicted.

What’s more, tenants who have diligently worked towards paying their rent may be more vulnerable to getting evicted. Many tenants have tried to pay as much as they could during the pandemic to their landlords and may have little left to pay for July rent and thus risk being evicted, whereas tenants who could have been paying, but chose not to, need only to pay July rent and be spared an eviction. This is largely due to the slapdash way the Oregon legislature dealt with the moratorium, setting and resetting deadlines every few months. It made it difficult for tenants to plan, and therefore leaves the most diligent tenants at greater risk.

This is a scenario that is a huge problem for both tenants and landlords alike. Tenants need to have housing, but landlords have been forced to fund the crisis out of their own pockets. For small mom and pop establishments, this means that they in turn are at risk of having insufficient funds to pay their own rent or mortgages. It’s a cycle that can have devastating effects for all involved, and both tenants and landlords agree that the process of getting funds into the hands of those who need it is much too slow.

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