For many people, April 1 meant rent was due. I saw a lot confusion (including my own) yesterday on what people should do if they are unable to pay. I wrote this quick post to sort it out.*
A new, statewide eviction moratorium went into effect on April 1, 2020 and applies to both residential and commercial evictions. Governor Brown issued Executive Order 20-13, which places a statewide moratorium on residential and commercial evictions for nonpayment of rent. It remains in effect until June 30, unless the governor terminates or extends it before then. It prevents landlords from taking any action relating to eviction for nonpayment (including filing, serving, delivering or acting on any notice, order or writ of termination or the equivalent). The governor’s earlier Executive Order 20-11 also remains in effect and stops law enforcement from physically evicting residential tenants who can’t pay their rent.
The state moratorium does not mean that you do not have to pay rent. Executive Order 20-13 states that, during the moratorium, you must make partial rent payments to the extent the you are financially able to do so. The Executive Order does waive any late charges for nonpayment.
You should notify your landlord of your inability to pay the full rent as soon as you can. Under Executive Order 20-13, you must notify your landlord, “as soon as reasonably possible,” that you are or will be unable to pay the full rent when due. You do not, however, have to provide notice of inability to pay on or before the day rent is due. For your protection, provide notice in writing and keep a copy.
Under the state moratorium, only commercial tenants (non-residential) have to provide documentation of income loss due to COVID-19. Executive Order 20-13 states that, to benefit from the moratorium’s protection, a commercial tenant must provide the landlord, within 30 calendar days of unpaid rent being due, with evidence that nonpayment is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium on commercial evictions applies even if the inability to pay is only partly or indirectly due to COVID-19. Acceptable evidence includes, but is not limited to, proof of loss of income due to any governmental restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The statewide moratorium supercedes existing laws, ordinances, rules and orders that are inconsistent with it. Under Executive Order 20-13 and Oregon law (ORS 401.192), any existing laws ordinances, rules and orders no longer apply the extent they are inconsistent with the statewide moratorium.
To be on the safe side, residential tenants in Portland and Multnomah County should abide by the requirements of the local moratorium if they are able to do so. Note that the Multnomah County residential eviction moratorium (and the City of Portland moratorium, which applies the County’s moratorium to all of Portland city limits) have different provisions than Executive Order 20-13.. Sorting out which provisions of the Portland/Multnomah County moratorium are inconsistent with Executive Order 20-13 requires wading into the intricacies of state preemption law, which is beyond the basics of this post. According to this video by a tenant’s rights attorney, if you live in Portland or Multnomah County, you can benefit from the local moratorium on residential evictions if you abide by the local requirements. These requirements include that you provide documentation, on or before the date your rent is due, of your inability to pay due to COVID-19 related income loss. See Multnomah County’s eviction moratorium page, or the City of Portland Housing Bureau eviction moratorium page for more details on those requirements. In addition guidance from Legal Aid Services of Oregon includes a sample letter to send to your landlord.
It is not clear when you will owe unpaid rent following the termination of the statewide moratorium. Executive Order 20-13 states that, during the moratorium (currently in effect until June 30), you still owe rent, and you must make partial rent payments to the extent the you are financially able to do so — but it does not explicitly state when the remaining unpaid rent is due. It is best to assume it will become due when the moratorium expires.
Under the Multnomah County residential eviction moratorium (which applies to all of Portland as well), following the termination of the County’s declaration of emergency (currently in effect until April 10), you will have six months to pay what you owe. See Multnomah County’s eviction moratorium page, or the City of Portland Housing Bureau eviction moratorium page for more details.
As of this writing on the morning of April 2, it appears that none of the available government guidance is up to date. The State of Oregon’s COVID-19 resources page, Multnomah County’s eviction moratorium page, and the City of Portland Housing Bureau eviction moratorium page all do not mention the statewide moratorium created under Executive Order 20-13. I suggest checking back on those resources for more information — and post what you find out in the comments below.
Stay safe Portland! Stay well. Stay housed.
*Disclaimer: The COVID-19 situation may prompt further government action at the local, state or federal level. This information, and the resources I link to here, may become out of date. Although I am a lawyer, these resources are not legal advice. If you want legal advice, please seek out an Oregon-licensed attorney. I am not currently practicing law in Oregon, my law license there is inactive, so please do not seek out my legal advice or representation. Please do not ask me for a referral to a lawyer. If you have questions or a suggested addition, please share them in comments and I will try to address them if I can.