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The rental property investment industry has gone through unprecedented turmoil with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Owners have been asked to provide residents suddenly facing income disruptions with rent forbearance while still having to cover their own expenses.
Does this mean, though, that rental property owners have no options if tenants violate other terms of their rental agreement? While enforcing a for-cause eviction notice may be difficult for now, owners should still act to preserve their rights once the emergency is over.
Government bars nonpayment evictions
Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order related to the current state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic that imposed a temporary moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent. Rental property owners also were barred from giving no-cause notices through June 30, 2020.
A subsequent executive order clarified that rental agreements could not be terminated for nonpayment, but also included language spelling out:
- A tenant is not relieved of their obligation to pay rent, utility charges, or any other service charges or fees, except for late charges or other penalties specifically waived by the order.
- A landlord may terminate a rental agreement for causes other than nonpayment.
Around the same time, Multnomah County courts postponed all eviction hearings through at least June 1 – they are not expected to reopen until Level III restrictions are lifted. This applies even to evictions for cause.
The county also passed a temporary ban on evictions for nonpayment of rent, utilities, and service fees that runs through July 9. The guidance from the county explains that after July 9, renters will have six months to repay back rent that built up during the emergency. During that six-month period, which currently expires on January 9, 2021, rental property owners cannot file for eviction based on nonpayment during the emergency period.
How to proceed on other violations
With Gov. Brown extending the emergency declaration through July 6, 2020, the end of the moratorium on evictions for nonpayment and the reopening of courts to hear for-cause eviction proceedings could be delayed.
However, these developments do not mean rental property owners should neglect to initiate proceedings against tenants who violate other provisions of the rental agreement besides nonpayment. Many violations require first and second notices prior to initiating eviction proceedings, so remain vigilant with sending notices even during the moratorium.
If you must commence eviction proceedings because of continued violations of the rental agreement, send out the eviction notice to ensure you do not miss a deadline that would otherwise preclude eviction. Just be aware that it may be months before your case could go before a judge.
Finally, remember that while you should take violations seriously, you are dealing with residents who are coping with a crisis…who may be scared…who may be dealing with job loss or caring for an ill family member. Residents may be faced with some very tough choices at this time.
If you are unsure how you should handle rental agreement violations during these trying times, talk to your illume property manager and develop guidelines for your investment property going forward.