The November elections are now around the corner and landlords throughout the state of Oregon should be aware of what is at stake with each individual vote.

Let me begin with a quick recap: In 2017 HB 2004, a “rent control” bill, was introduced in the state legislature. It seems like ancient history now. There was a lot of testimony and a lot of press and a lot of drama and angst on both sides of the debate. It was a hearing packed by both property owners and tenants’ rights advocates and it got heated.  Don’t remember the details?  I found this summary from Oregon Rental Housing Association:

  • HB 2004 PROHIBITS landlords from terminating a month-to-month tenancy without cause, except under certain circumstances, with 90 days’ written notice and payment of relocation expenses that could be upwards of $5000.
  • It also REQUIRES fixed term tenancies to become month-to-month tenancies on the ending date, unless the tenant elects to renew or terminate tenancy and REQUIRES the landlord to make tenant an offer to renew fixed term tenancy.
  • Repeals the statewide prohibition on Rent Control.”

When the 2017 session ended, HB 2004 was defeated and landlords “won”, to a great wave of relief.

If you are a landlord with rentals in the City of Portland, this would all just sound like deja vu. Why? Because it passed to a large degree Citywide in April, 2017. Portland rental property owners have been dealing with the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for a couple of years now. A lawsuit that was filed in state court was defeated and is now in the appellate court waiting to be heard.

Meanwhile, the rest of the landlords throughout the state have been scratching their heads, musing that this must just be one of those “keep Portland weird” issues… After all, “everyone knows rent control doesn’t work!” Right?

It is important to point out, however, that HB 2004 did not “lose” statewide in terms of its momentum. The bill was only narrowly defeated. How narrowly? By one, single vote. It was a victory, but it did not reveal the stronger team.  (Click here to see the how representatives voted.)

If you don’t recall the rest of the story, let me share some details with you.

Sen. Rod Monroe, a landlord and Democrat for District 24, held the line. The final vote failed by his stance alone. It became a bellwether moment in his career. Subsequently, after the session ended, Senator Monroe was aggressively picketed by the group Portland Tenants United. During the hearings, they trespassed into his office at the State Capital, leaving an “eviction” notice. Later, they staged a demonstration at his church, handing out defaming literature. A few months later, they disrupted his 75th birthday party at his house with flash mobs, and tried to intimidate guests with intrusive photographing, and they even dropped off a box of wrapped dog poop at his front door. (They rang the bell and ran!) In my opinion, none of these tactics add anything productive to the efforts of working on important legislation.

Earlier this year, Senator Monroe (who was first elected as a State Representative in 1976 and has been district’s State Senator since 1980), was defeated in the State Primaries by a novice candidate who ran on an “anti-landlord” platform. Rod Monroe is finishing out his final year in office in these remaining months of 2018.

Going forward at the State Capital, the legislative math on housing rights is pretty simple: There is no longer any sure vote in the entire State of Oregon to stop a bill like HB 2004 from re-surfacing and passing, and there remains a lot of left-over dissatisfaction from the Tenants’ Rights advocates. With a presumed super majority being (re) elected in November, these groups and politicians are preparing to celebrate.

I encourage all rental property owners in our great state to know their districts and look into where their candidates stand on housing issues. If they are running for re-election, find out how they voted in 2017 on HB 2004 and vote accordingly. If they are challenging the incumbent, let them know how you feel to earn your vote.

The November elections will make up the State’s legislative session beginning in February 2019.

What’s at stake? How far will the State go on disrupting property owners’ rights? No one knows for sure, but I’m sure that if you could see the writing on the wall, it would spell RE-N-T  C-O-N-T-R-O-L.