Oregon lawmakers have just passed a set of rental regulations that restrict the rights of landlords to screen tenants.
A key provision of the measure prohibits landlords from rejecting tenants for prior evictions. Landlords cannot reject an application who was evicted more than five years prior to the current application, whose eviction was dismissed, or who prevailed in the eviction case. The law does not apply to a pending eviction.
The law also restricts a landlord’s right to reject tenants based on criminal history. Information regarding a previous arrest cannot be considered unless the arrest results in a conviction. However, the law is silent as to whether that would included plea arrangements or deferred prosecutions. As with evictions, the law does not apply to pending criminal charges.
Crimes that warrant rejection of the applicant are limited to:
A drug-related crime;
A person crime;
A sex offense;
A crime involving financial fraud, including identity theft and forgery; or
Any other crime that would adversely affect the property of the landlord or a tenant or the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises of residents, the landlord or the landlord’s agent.
The new regulatory scheme includes a class of guest tenants who are referred to as “temporary occupants”. A landlord is allowed to enter into a “temporary occupancy agreement” with such persons so long as at least one tenant resides in the unit. The temporary occupant has limited rights. While landlords are allowed to screen temporary occupants, they cannot obtain a credit report or verify income.
There are a number of provisions in the new law which regulate application fees. A landlord may charge an applicant for tenant screening costs, but only if the landlord first adopts a written tenant screening criteria, and provides the tenant with:
Notice of the amount;
A copy of the landlord’s screening criteria;
A summary of the process that the landlord typically will follow,including whether the landlord uses a tenant screening company, credit reports or other public records or references;
A list of other available properties and an estimated number of applications pending for those vacancies.
Written notice of the amount of rent and deposits; and
Whether tenant is required to purchase renters insurance.
Any landlord charging an application fee is also required under this state law to abide by the provisions of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Application fees are limited to the actual costs to obtain the tenant screening reports. If no tenant screening reports are ordered, the application fee must be refunded within a reasonable period of time.
If a landlord does not comply with these rules, a penalty of $150 plus twice the amount of the application fee collected can be awarded to the tenant.
The new law contains a number of other provisions which affect the amount of notice required for legal action, limitations on withholding of security and rent deposits, and provisions concerning mandatory renters insurance.
The law is set to take effect on January 1, 2014.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.