ORHA News

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  • Sunday, January 01, 2023 5:04 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
    January 01, 2023

    Here’s hoping this year will be better than the last three! With our office and committees settling in to their new roles and projects, the Executive Committee has decided to cancel the virtual January meeting. Because there’s nothing urgent to address, we felt the time could be better spent gearing up for the 2023 long legislative session and planning our year’s events. 

    Mark your calendars!
    I will again be leading this year’s Palooza Committee. What is that? Well, as you may or may not know, the Education Committee is also in charge of Mentoring our smaller chapters who have less than 100 members. The committee works to assist them in their growth and outreach. The Palooza is always held in May when we visit a smaller chapter’s area to have our ORHA meeting, and we help raise money and create awareness of their chapter by hosting a Property Management Seminar with all proceeds to benefit the chapter. Last year we visited beautiful Astoria and this year’s May meeting will focus on the Rental Owners Association of Douglas County (ROADC).

    For our first Palooza, Christian Bryant, Violet Wilson and myself donated our time to teach classes in an all-day seminar with all proceeds benefitting the local chapter. At that event, we held the seminar on Thursday, and held committee meetings on Friday but aligning with SOROA delegate Sandee Webb’s excellent suggestion at our last meeting, we will instead hold committee meetings virtually on Thursday, May 18th and hold the seminar on Friday May 19th followed by the board meeting on Saturday May 20th for ORHA delegates.

    Remember, travel and travel-related costs related to your business are tax-deductible and while you may not have thought of Roseburg being a travel destination, I can assure you the setting is fabulous (the Holiday Inn is right on the river with all rooms getting a fantastic view and there’s a huge outdoor hot tub right at the riverside). I hope you’ll join us in getting top notch education while enjoying some R & R in the beautiful Umpqua Valley.

    Whether you’re a private landlord or a licensed property manager or real estate broker, you will benefit from great education (CE credits are available for licensees), and networking with others in the industry. We’ll be setting up a group dinner on Friday after class for anyone who wants to join us. More info to follow!

    For 2024, we’ll be planning our Palooza Mentoring Meeting in Eastern Oregon.

    Change in venue
    At our September meeting where we set our meeting calendar for the year, delegates from our Southern areas expressed a desire for one meeting a year closer to them. So, we decided that our March meeting will be in Medford each year moving forward. Our meeting schedule for 2023:

    January 20-21, 2023 (virtual meeting) – board meeting cancelled, but committee chairs may still schedule committee meetings, so check your inbox for invites.

    March 17-18, 2023 – Medford – Hilton Garden Inn

    May 19-20, 2023 – Roseburg – Holiday Inn

    July 14-15, 2023 – Salem/Silverton – Oregon Gardens Resort

    September 15-16, 2023 – Bend – Doubletree by Hilton

    November 17-18, 2023 – Virtual meeting

    Office Manager Ben Seamans and I have been working to set permanent venues for each year to make event planning easier. Once we lost our employee who used to perform scheduling duties, it fell to us and boy it’s a challenge! To make it easier, we are working to schedule our regular venues at the same place and dates each year and reserve the same place for the following year immediately after the meeting for the current year is over. Then all we need to schedule each year is the venue for the Palooza Mentoring Meeting in May. Look for registration info from Ben prior to each meeting!

  • Sunday, January 01, 2023 4:57 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi
    January 01, 2023

    What will you resolve to change for the New Year? Lose weight? Eat better? Exercise more? Clean out your closets? How about resolving to treat your rental business more like a business?

    I once assisted a client with three evictions almost simultaneously. Due to family commitments and other life preoccupations (as well as an understandable reluctance to incur vacancies in winter), she had gotten in a bad spot with three different tenants. There were repair issues that she thought had been dealt with but according to two of the tenants, had not. Her unlicensed handyman was supposedly taking care of things, but because she lived in California, she wasn’t there to check. These issues created potential legal defenses that could have been asserted at trial (maybe successfully; maybe not). Did my friend want to go to trial to find out? Did she want to hire an attorney? Fly back from California? Possibly win, but definitely be out substantially more money?

    After successfully removing one of the tenants, and settling with the other two, we discussed the ramifications of her decisions along the way. Apparently, I made an impression on her, because she emailed me the following statement, which I am reprinting with her permission:

                “My Mantra: I will stop getting ripped off, I WILL stop getting ripped off, I will STOP getting ripped off!...People will pay fair value for the houses I am offering them to rent or they will leave as soon as is legally possible so that I can run a successful business and house people who appreciate, pay for, and take good care of what I am offering.”

    Many of you keep excellent records, screen properly, document your property’s condition, require tenants to stay current on rent, track and respond to maintenance issues, and don’t trade labor for rent. This article is not for you, but read on so you can give yourself a pat on the back, and maybe you’ll find one thing you aren’t doing quite right. This article is for those of you who say, “They seemed so great,” “My property wasn’t really ready, but the tenants said they were okay with that,” “They were in a rush to move in so I didn’t get to really screen them, or get them to sign everything,” “They’re out of work and going through a hard time right now, so I let them do some work on the property in exchange for lower rent.”

    These are all owner-created problems in the making. This year I want you to resolve to Mind Your Business. Your rental property is a business like any other, so make this your New Year’s Resolution. Resolve to:

    • Stay current on your education. Landlord-tenant law is constantly evolving and you need to stay abreast of new or changing laws at the federal, state and local level.
    • Advertise your property and screen all applicants within your obligations under the Fair Housing Act.
    • Prepare your property fully prior to move in, and thoroughly document the condition. Don’t be pressured by tenants or your own finances into rushing. Diligence now will be rewarded later.
    • Make sure you’re using current forms and using all the required forms to create a tenancy. 
    • Collect deposits (secured funds only) in full and make sure utilities are transferred before handing over keys.
    • Deal promptly with lease violations, and don’t create waiver by allowing deviation from the rental agreement. By accepting deviation from the rental agreement for three rental periods with knowledge of a breach, you could waive your lease enforcement rights.
    • Respond quickly to all reasonable and necessary maintenance requests, and ensure that the repair was effective.
    • Inspect your rentals once or twice a year.
    • Document interactions with your tenants (even just a note on a calendar).
    • Avoid trading tenant labor for rent, and if you just can’t help yourself, have them pay full rent and then bill you for their labor so there’s a clear paper trail.
    • Beware of renting to friends or family or letting either one help you manage your business. It can destroy the relationship.
    • Be firm about not accepting late or partial payments – you’re not running a bank or a charity. If you’re tempted to be swayed by excuses, refer your tenants to 211 or 211.org, a resource for tenants who are in a tight spot.
    • And finally, resolve not to get discouraged when things go wrong or you get ripped off. The rental business is a business like any other and at some point you will incur losses. If you were a contractor, you’d have to deal with customers who don’t pay. If you owned a supermarket, you’d have to deal with shoplifters. Just figure out what went wrong and do your best to prevent it in the future.

    It’s never too late to start doing things properly, and when you do success will be your reward. It may come slowly or all at once, but you’ve got to take the first step. Pick just one thing you’re not doing quite right and resolve to work on it.

    This column offers general suggestions only and is no substitute for professional legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice related to your specific situation.

  • Monday, December 12, 2022 2:49 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi
    Date: December 1, 2022

    Well, the elections didn’t go the way we had hoped, but the good news is that there is no longer a super majority in Salem. The not so good news is that we will have to fight harder for property owners’ rights in our upcoming long legislative session. As we move through the 2023 session, we need you to stay alert and respond to calls to action by our Legislative Directors. We may even need you to descend on Salem to let your voices be heard!

    Planning for elections for the 2023-25 Executive Committee is ramping up, and we were pleased to have At-Large Executive Committee member, Jill Maricich, heading up the search! Chapters will be hearing from her soon with requests for nominations.

    Related to elections, at our September board meeting, the board voted to revise our “regions” within ORHA. Klamath Falls VP Jason Brush prepared four different options and the board chose to take our regions from five to four. Regions were created previously to ensure that all area of our state have representation on the Executive Committee (EC). Our new regions are as follows: NW Region – encompassing Clatsop County ROA, Salem RHA and Linn-Benton RHA; NE Region – encompassing Mid-Columbia RHA, ROA of Northeastern Oregon, Umatilla ROA, and Treasure Valley Rental Association; Metro Region – encompassing Portland Area ROA, Central Oregon ROA and Lane ROA; and Southern Region – encompassing ROA of Douglas County, ROA of Southwestern Oregon, Southern Oregon ROA, and Klamath ROA. After our Executive Committee elections, should a region not have a representative on that committee, the board will hold a separate election for At-Large EC members to fill any unrepresented region.

    The board continues to work on refining our processes and procedures using Microsoft Teams, and to enhance our approvals process for invoices. Read Office Manager Ben Seamans’ update in his Office Report later in the newsletter. Our November and January board meetings are held virtually since the pandemic, and Teams lets us meet and record our meetings for future review.

    The Education Committee is also using Teams to teach webinars for the chapters in our Mentorship Program, and at a far lower cost than Webinar Jam. We are always looking for ways to create efficiencies and save money to put our resources to their best possible use.

    Thank you for your support and continued involvement with ORHA and your local chapters. Despite the many challenges we face, rental property ownership is still a tried-and-true way to build financial stability and generational wealth. I’m proud to be part of a far-reaching organization that supports our neighbors’ efforts to better themselves, and you should be too!

    Happy Holidays!

    Tia Politi, ORHA President

  • Monday, December 12, 2022 2:40 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Benjamyn Seamans
    Date: December 1, 2022

    During our September board meeting, we received a majority vote to implement an assigned ORHA email address to each local association. This will be a project allowing for local associations to submit their monthly membership reports digitally online, as well as being able to teach classes virtually using Microsoft Teams. Each member with access to the assigned email address will need to sign the ORHA Microsoft Email User Policy mentioned later in this article and will be required to attend an ORHA training. Training workshops have been scheduled for Wednesday 12/21/2022 from 11:00a-12:00p, Tuesday 12/27/2022 from 12:00p-1:00p, or Thursday 12/29/2022 from 1:00p-2:00p -- LOCAL ASSOCIATIONS, please encourage your office staff to join one of these workshops. A flyer with more details will be emailed to the delegates and offices no later than 12/20/2022.

    With our new professional emails in place, ORHA has drafted a Microsoft Email User Policy that was presented during the July meeting in Silverton. This policy will be executed by all ORHA email users and will help ORHA maintain quality of control, emphasizing an importance on cyber security, and association cyber safety – email Office@OregonRentalHousing.com to receive a copy of this user policy. Moving forward, please be sure to email by position (i.e. President, Vice President or Secretary) or topic (i.e. Forms, Technology, or Social Media) – not by person.

    Please be vigilant of email scams and always double check that the email address ends in @OregonRentalHousing.com. Remember, email display names can be masked and it’s extremely important that you click on the name to verify the email address is legitimate. No ORHA members will ever request money or wire transfers via email, we’ll never offer any kind of legal advice, and our email addresses will always end with our website, @OregonRentalHousing.com. Please be vigilant in verifying the source before opening attachments.

    All invoices are to be submitted to Office@OregonRentalHousing.com, they are then taken out of email for an approval process that’s tracked with the Executive Committee and more secure from Email Scams. Please do not email invoices directly to Bookkeeper or Treasurer; for cyber-security reasons, neither officials will approve or pay an invoice outside of the official approval process (starting with submitting the initial invoice to office).

    Our office is periodically checking emails and voicemails Monday through Thursday should you have any questions or concerns; however, please be advised that ORHA will not be returning calls or emails regarding landlord helpline questions or tenant questions. If you are a current member looking to contact your local association or are new member looking to join a local association, please visit www.oregonrentalhousing.com/about.

    To submit your ideas for an upcoming newsletter, please email Office@OregonRentalHousing.com by the 1st of the month.

    ** Reminder that the ORHA Monthly Membership Dues Form must be submitted by the 15th of each month **

    Benjamyn Seamans
    office@oregonrentalhousing.com | Voicemail: (541) 515-7723
  • Monday, December 12, 2022 1:50 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi 
    Date: December 01, 2022

    Inspecting your rental properties – especially the inside – can be an uncomfortable experience for all involved. Depending on the relationship and the attitude of both parties, checking out the living space of another person can range from fast, easy and casual, to time-consuming, difficult and even hostile. All endeavors large or small have their parts that are the least fun, so stop procrastinating and go inspect your property – your investment is at stake.

    With rental property the old saying, “No news is good news,” becomes, “No news is bad news.”  A resident’s failure to report issues with the unit can indicate that they don’t want you there because they’re doing something they shouldn’t, or not doing something they should. Also, you can’t rely on tenants to always report maintenance issues that can lead to property damage. Sometimes, they don’t know that something is awry.

    Getting started
    When I don’t have any red flags regarding a tenancy and just need to check the property out, I always like to call or email the resident, let them know it’s time for an inspection and ask what time would work for them in the next week or two. That gives them a sense of control, respect for their time, and breathing room to prepare. But, if I suspect something nefarious is going on, I may just offer the minimum 24-hours’ notice. When would that be the better option? Maybe you’ve received notification from police about a problem at the unit; maybe you’ve done a drive-by inspection and saw cars parked on the lawn, the blinds askew, and trash in the yard; maybe you’ve received a report from a neighbor that there are multiple animals on the premises. Whatever your reasonable suspicions, remember that it can be a Fair Housing violation to treat one tenant differently than another, so take care to apply the same rules to how much time you provide prior to entry, and base your decision on considerations other than membership in a protected class.

    Prepare the tenant for what the inspection will entail. Let them know you will need to see inside cabinets, closets and all rooms and outbuildings to check for leaks or potential maintenance issues. If you’ll need to look in the attic or under the house, let them know that too. Bring a flashlight, a ladder or step stool to see things up high, some smoke-in-a-can or a long stick to check smoke and CO alarms, and maybe a few tools in case you find a minor repair that can be addressed at that time.

    Imagine how you would feel having someone inspect your home. Would you feel like you were being judged? Maybe a bit defensive? Worried about being called on the carpet for something? Maybe grumpy about having to take the time? One way to help put your tenant at ease is to keep your focus on maintenance. The way I do that is by indicating on my notice to enter or in conversation with them that I need to do a maintenance inspection.  Once at the property I thank them for taking the time, and before starting the inspection ask the tenant how things are with the property.

    I go through all the areas of habitability and ask things like, “Is your heat system working properly?” “Do all of your doors and windows open, close and lock properly?” “Are your appliances working properly?” “Are there any leaks or drips you are aware of?” “Is your hot water system working properly?” “Are there any safety issues on the property?” “Do you have any other concerns you want to let me know about?” Starting with these types of questions sends the message that you care about their living conditions, and that your main purpose for being there is to ensure a decent, safe and habitable property, not to judge them for having dirty dishes in the sink.

    This is their home, so treat them and their property with respect. One way to do that is by asking permission throughout the inspection. “Is it okay if I look under the sink?” “Sometimes leaks show up in closets, is it okay if I look in the closet?” If you encounter a closed door, don’t just walk in, ask if it’s okay. If they say no to something, just document it and go on. You can always ask tenants to lead the way. One of my colleagues asks the tenants to open doors, cabinets, etc., which can help keep them involved and distracted from any possible negative emotions.

    What should you inspect for?
    Look for leaks at faucets and water supply lines, drain lines, and exterior spigots. Check your caulking, and look for discoloration in the vinyl around the toilets which could indicate a seeping leak at your toilet flange. Check for soft spots in bathroom floors adjacent to the toilet and tub/shower. Look for cracks in sheetrock around the chimney which could indicate a seeping leak at your flashing. Look for gaps between your gutters and the fascia which could rot not only the fascia itself, but your roof underlayment. Make sure the gutters are clear and the downspouts are draining properly. Look around exterior doors for daylight indicating that your weather stripping needs to be repaired or replaced. Look behind the washer/dryer hookups to ensure they are properly connected. Look for discoloration of the ceiling indicating a possible roof leak. Check the operation of fans in the kitchen and bathrooms. Are they clean and drawing properly? Check the heating systems and filters. Is the home being kept in a sanitary condition? Check for issues of health, safety and ingress/egress, and of course, you will be looking for violations.

    Can you take photographs of the property during an inspection? Yes, but, (and there’s always a “but”) tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy, so no snapping photos of private things. Also, tenants might not be thrilled at the prospect and get grumpy with you about it. On the other hand, how else are you supposed to document maintenance issues or lease violations? One way to be discreet about it is to use a tablet so while you are taking inspection notes on the tablet, you can also be taking pictures. You may come across some interesting personal items left in the open during inspections, but if it isn’t a lease violation, it isn’t any of your business, don’t photograph it and don’t mention it. And, no looking in personal cupboards, drawers, boxes, containers or chests.

    One of my past clients had his home up for sale and after a showing to a prospective buyer, the realtor called the owner to report some concerns, including a camera set up in the bedroom, a large mirror hung on the ceiling above the bed, and a variety of “toys” that were not for children being openly displayed. Despite the fact that it weirded everyone out, it was none of their business and not a lease violation, so prepare to see things you may have wished you didn’t, ignore it and walk on.

    Outside, make sure your foundation vents are secure, that residents haven’t piled up trash, firewood or personal property against the siding or attached things to the siding. Are they taking care of the yard? Cleaning up animal waste? Disposing of yard debris? Neglecting or causing damage to trees or shrubs? Keeping vegetation off the structures? Remember, even if you don’t have everything spelled out in your lease or addenda, or you only have a verbal agreement, ORS 90.325 spells out residents’ responsibilities to keep the property and grounds, “…as clean, sanitary and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents and vermin, as the condition of the premises permits and… use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and other facilities and appliances…”

    It can be good to have an inspection checklist and have your tenant sign it when the inspection is done to document the condition throughout the tenancy. It can also be helpful to use an inspection app such as Z Inspector, Chapps Rental Inspector, Happy Inspector, Snap Inspect, or Tap Inspect. You can also use the Unit Condition Report - ORHA Form MT1 to document the condition and help you remember what you need to look at inside, and to give you and the tenant something to sign to keep in their file. If the resident isn’t there, or you don’t care to use a form or an app, it’s a good idea to follow up with a written recap of your inspection by mail or email. Also, remember to acknowledge and thank them for the things they are doing right. A kind word can make all the difference in the relationship.

    Denial of Entry, Lease Violations & Tenant-Caused Damage
    If, during the inspection, the tenant refuses to allow entry to a portion of the premises, or you identify lease violations or tenant-caused damage, I suggest that you document it, but do not address it with the resident during the inspection. Addressing issues at the moment can lead to arguments which can quickly escalate to problems neither one of you is prepared to deal with and stop the inspection in its tracks.

    For denial of entry to all or part of the unit, remember that ORS 90.322 allows a tenant to deny entry if the landlord’s stated time and date for entry, “…conflicts with their reasonable and specific plans to use the property.” For example, on the date and time you want to enter, the renter has scheduled a gathering. In a case like that, their denial would likely be considered reasonable. While the statute says landlords have the right of entry after a minimum 24-hour notice, and says the tenant may not unreasonably deny entry, it also says that the landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant.

    Especially now, during the COVID pandemic, there are lots of reports of renters denying entry. One caller shared that every time they have tried to enter for the past six months, the tenant claims to have contracted COVID (apparently again and again). I’m also hearing about denials of entry related to possible exposure and the need to quarantine. It’s a challenging time to be a housing provider and we’re in a situation we’ve never experienced before, so remain calm and consider your options. You may want to delay for a time, but really six months??!! At some point, you may have to take decisive action and serve a notice for unreasonable denial of entry using Notice of Termination with Cause – ORHA Form VT5. The tenant has to let you in within the cure period or their tenancy will terminate. Taking a case like that to court these days can be risky. Who knows how a judge would rule? I recommend providing some flexibility, and only serve notice to terminate after two or three denials.

    You might also consider writing up something on every notice to enter – 24-Hour Notice to Enter – ORHA form O4 that you serve, “We will take all COVID-safe precautions prior to entry including double-mask and gloves and will not enter or allow anyone else to enter who has any symptoms of illness or a fever. We will have a forehead thermometer with us to provide evidence if that makes you feel more comfortable. We will only spend as little time in the unit as possible and expect the walk-through will take a maximum of 15 minutes. If the listed time and date for entry conflicts with your plans to use the property at that time, we will accommodate a different time or day within a 48-hour period following our intended date and time of entry; otherwise, please be advised that your tenancy may be terminated as allowed by law for unreasonable denial of entry under ORS 90.322.”

    Communications with the renter showing the efforts you made to address any COVID-related concerns and your attempts to be flexible and adapt to their schedule should be helpful in proving that any specific denial was unreasonable.

    What if the renter denies access to only a portion of the premises? That also constitutes unreasonable denial. I spoke with a Helpline caller recently who said on her last two inspections, there was one bedroom that the tenant would not allow her to inspect. On each occasion there was always “someone asleep in there.” Uh huh, sure. Remember, that too is a violation. To forestall this possibility, remember to let the renters know that you will need access to every part of the premises, including all rooms, closets, the garage and any outbuildings.

    During the inspection, take notes or discreet pictures of any violations, go back to your office and write up either a warning notice – Notice of Non-Compliance – ORHA form V1 or a Notice of Termination with Cause – ORHA form VT5 letting them know that they have violated their rental agreement and they need to fix the problem or move out. Sometimes a written warning notice is all that’s needed to turn things around, but unless you’re pursuing termination based on Three Strikes in a fixed-term lease, warning notices have no teeth for enforcement. That’s why in many situations it can be best to start with a for-cause notice. If they cure the violation within the cure period, calendar another inspection for four or five months down the road so that if they repeat the same or substantially the same violation, you have the option to terminate the tenancy on a Repeat Violation Termination Notice – ORHA Form T1.  

    I once discovered tenants had been smoking inside their unit. I documented the evidence, went back to the office and wrote up a notice requiring them to stop immediately, then have all the walls, ceilings and other hard surfaces thoroughly cleaned, all curtains and carpets professionally cleaned, and have the unit treated with an ozone machine. They accomplished most of this before the tenancy ended saving my owner quite a lot of money and in the end their security deposit covered the remainder of correcting the damage. They actually got a small refund.

    Sometimes allowing residents to cure violations and continue the tenancy can benefit you from a financial standpoint, and benefit the tenants who may need extra coaching in how to properly care for their unit. At that point, they are motivated to work with you so that they can keep their housing, and may do some or all of the corrective work, saving you money, and hopefully getting their tenancy back on track.

    If you have a contentious relationship with the resident, they have indicated their willingness to sue you for a perceived problem, or are prone to raging outbursts, I would have someone else join you for the inspection as a witness. Prepare yourself to maintain control of your own emotions even if subjected to verbal abuse. It doesn’t matter how the tenant behaves, you need to mind your manners. If things escalate, leave immediately and consult an attorney about your options.

    Disability-related issues
    Sometimes, lease violations are connected to a tenant’s disability. Excess personal property, or failing to maintain the unit in a decent, safe and sanitary condition, can be related to mental illness or indicate physical limitations. Remember, if you have a tenant who is a hoarder, that is considered a mental disorder and you may need to provide more time for them to correct any problems. Sometimes residents just haven’t been given good boundaries or learned reasonable expectations for order and cleanliness. You may want to start with a plan of action and see how it goes before proceeding to termination.

    I once had a family with multiple issues discovered on inspection, including stacks of tires in the yard, an unauthorized chicken coop, evidence of a large visiting dog, an unauthorized cat in the attic, failure to maintain the yard, and unsanitary conditions throughout the house. They were very nice folks, paid their rent on time and were very easy to deal with. We didn’t want to get rid of them, just get them to comply with the rental agreement, so we set up a series of 30-day benchmarks and follow-up inspections to give them time to address each area of concern. At each follow-up, we documented their success and in the end, they corrected all of the issues. They really just needed some coaching to turn things around and understand what they were required to do.

    We could have issued a for-cause notice requiring them to fix it all within two weeks or terminate the tenancy, but it wouldn’t have been reasonable or even possible for them to correct everything in that time frame. Remember, landlords have the obligation to be reasonable and act in good faith. We don’t all start out the race of life in the same position. We don’t all get born into perfect families who are functional and teach us things we need to know to get along in the world. Also, people with developmental disabilities or other cognitive issues may struggle with complying with the rental agreement and may need additional support, but they need a place to live too. You may not have thought that social service work was part of being a landlord, but it certainly can be.

    If you have a resident who is struggling in some way to comply with the terms of the rental agreement or care of the property due to a disability, you can ask if they would like a referral to a social service agency, and see if you can find them some support. I’m not indicating you should put up with tenants who are intentionally disrespecting your property or otherwise choosing to flaunt their misbehavior and have full capacity to comply. That’s very different from a resident who sincerely wants to or intends to comply, just lacks either the mental or physical capacity to do it on their own.

    It’s not up to you to set them up with social service help and they have to agree to accept it, but you can provide them with some information on available resources. We are blessed to live in a caring community that has many available social services such as Lane County Mental Health, South Lane Mental Health, Sheltercare, St. Vincent de Paul, and Catholic Community Services among others. Call 211 for referrals to services in your area. If the tenant then refuses to access the services they need, at least you know you tried.

    Tenant-caused damage or failure to report
    If you discover tenant-caused damage – depending on the severity – you may want to consider making a claim on their renter’s insurance (if they have it), or set up payment arrangements to cover the cost. You can choose to require them to repair the issue at that time, repair it yourself and bill them, or, if it’s something that isn’t impacting the livability of the unit you can always choose to delay the repair, have them pay in advance for the cost of the repair, and hold the money as an additional security deposit so the funds are available at the end of the tenancy. That can be tricky as landlords may not increase the security deposit within the first year of tenancy, except for allowing things like pets, but in a case of discovered damage, that may be seen as a separate issue.

    Remember, if you do increase the security deposit either after discovery of tenant-caused damage or later for whatever reason, it must be reasonable and you must provide the tenant with at least three months to pay. You can always provide more time for that, say, an extra $50 per month until it’s paid, but you have to allow at least the three months. If you have a low-income tenant and demand a huge deposit increase with only three months to pay, would a judge think you’re being reasonable? Probably not.

    I’ve often been asked about damage that tenants never reported and whether they can be held financially responsible. The answer is yes, but…the law presumes that landlords will be periodically inspecting their properties and so within the statutes exists a concept called, “…knew or should have known.” That means that your failure to inspect makes you responsible for any damage occurring after six months to a year of a tenant’s failure to report problems. And some problems aren’t obvious.

    So, if you haven’t inspected in seven years and find the kitchen floor rotted due to a dishwasher leak, how are you supposed to determine when the leak started and what portion of the damage can be attributed to the tenant’s failure to report? Also, if you end up in court over something like that, how do you prove to the judge just what the tenant failed to report and when? You should have known, because you should have inspected.

    Inspections can be challenging, and if you really can’t handle it, hire it out. Remember, no news is (usually) bad news.

    This column offers general suggestions only and is no substitute for professional legal counsel. Consult an attorney for advice related to your specific situation.

    Rev 6/2021

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2022 11:47 AM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
    November 1, 2022

    It’s done! The 2022-2023 Forms Manual is finally here and ready for purchase. I encourage members and nonmembers alike to purchase our latest book. It’s chock full of information and contains our new forms and updates to many other forms. As an eviction specialist and landlord helpline representative for five of our county chapters, I can tell you that when a landlord loses in eviction court it is most often because of a mistake in their notice – wrong form, miscalculation of time, imperfect service and inadequate descriptions – all of these things can and do derail an otherwise legitimate termination of tenancy.

    Managing rental property is a business like any other business and it takes keeping abreast of what we can do and how we can do it. In addition to providing many new forms and revisions to others, our Technology Chair, Cloud Miller, has grouped our forms according to category and renumbered them with the help of our programmers and Sunriver Computer Services. This invaluable guide will help you deal with tenancy issues the right way (and by the way, it’s a tax-deductible business expense).

    As we go to press with our November edition, many of our legislative races are too close to call. Here’s hoping that whatever the outcome, we regain balance in the State of Oregon. Thank you to all who contributed so generously to the ORH Key PAC. We were able to distribute more than $34,000 to candidates who support property owner rights.

    Be sure to participate in the ORHA Survey Committee’s latest survey! We’re excited to be able to track changes over time with the data we are collecting.

    Remember, November and January board meetings are virtual now, look for more information about our November Board and Committee Meetings in Office Manager Ben Seamans office report. We hope to see you there!

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2022 11:41 AM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Benjamyn Seamans
    November 1, 2022

    Hello all, our next set of meetings will be held virtually on Friday November 18, 2022, and Saturday November 19, 2022 – An email will be sent to all delegates by the end of day on Monday November 14, 2022 with the meeting link and further details. For those eligible delegates not currently attending our board meetings, I highly suggest that you start because we do often provide valuable information and insight. For those interested, there are several volunteer opportunities – Please contact Office@OregonRentalHousing.com for more information.  

    During our September board meeting, we received a majority vote to implement an assigned ORHA email address to each local association. This will be a project that we will begin to roll out towards the end of this year, and it will allow for local associations to submit their monthly membership reports digitally online, as well as being able to teach classes virtually using Microsoft Teams. When the time comes, each member with access to the assigned email address will need to sign the ORHA Microsoft Email User Policy mentioned later in this article. More information and training will be provided as it becomes available.

    With our new professional emails in place, ORHA has drafted a Microsoft Email User Policy that was presented during the July meeting in Silverton. This policy will be executed by all ORHA email users and will help ORHA maintain quality of control, emphasizing an importance on cyber security, and association cyber safety – email Office@OregonRentalHousing.com to receive a copy of this user policy. Moving forward, please be sure to email by position (i.e. President, Vice President or Secretary) or topic (i.e. Forms, Technology, or Social Media) – not by person.

    Please be vigilant of email scams and always double check that the email address ends in @OregonRentalHousing.com. Remember, email display names can be masked and it’s extremely important that you click on the name to verify the email address is legitimate. No ORHA members will ever request money or wire transfers via email, we’ll never offer any kind of legal advice, and our email addresses will always end with our website, @OregonRentalHousing.com. Please be vigilant in verifying the source before opening attachments.
    All invoices are to be submitted to Office@OregonRentalHousing.com, they are then taken out of email for an approval process that’s tracked with the Executive Committee and more secure from Email Scams. Please do not email invoices directly to Bookkeeper or Treasurer; for cyber-security reasons, neither officials will approve or pay an invoice outside of the official approval process (starting with submitting the initial invoice to office).

    Our office is periodically checking emails and voicemails Monday through Thursday should you have any questions or concerns; however, please be advised that ORHA will not be returning calls or emails regarding landlord helpline questions or tenant questions. If you are a current member looking to contact your local association or are new member looking to join a local association, please visit www.oregonrentalhousing.com/about.

    To submit your ideas for an upcoming newsletter, please email Office@OregonRentalHousing.com by the 1st of the month.

    ** Reminder that the ORHA Monthly Membership Dues Form must be submitted by the 15th of each month **

    Benjamyn Seamans
    office@oregonrentalhousing.com | Voicemail: (541) 515-7723

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2022 11:26 AM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
    November 1, 2022

    As a rental owner, most of the properties hubby and I purchased were vacant or were our primary residence before being turned into rentals. We did have instances however, when we purchased a property with a renter in place. For most private investors this will happen at some point, and certainly for property managers it happens all the time. Either way it can be a challenge. Most residents handle the transition to a new owner or manager well, others not so much. Most sellers have good renters, professional documentation, and a habitable unit, others not so much.

    Transition 101
    Just like other areas of life, courtesy and kindness go a long way to drawing people to your way of thinking. Transitions can be particularly difficult for some people and a pleasant, calm, helpful demeanor is always a good idea. I have occasionally had renters who struggled with the transition at first, but then settled down, so don’t assume that the first reaction you get will be how things go forever.

    One lady I encountered burst into tears when I showed up with transition paperwork. She thought she was being evicted and as she sobbed her heart out, it was all I could do to get her to hear me and let her know that wasn’t the case. Another tenant refused to accept the transition, refused to send us rent, and was evicted for non-payment despite my many attempts to get him to understand that we were his new managers.

    You can’t make the need for change go away, but in most cases your attitude will influence the response from your new renters, so be mindful of that and your chances of a successful transition will increase exponentially.

    I start by writing a nice letter introducing myself and letting the renters know the effective date of the change, where they should pay rent in the future, and how to make maintenance requests. For month-to-month tenancies (or tenancies with only a verbal rental agreement), I also include a new rental agreement and addenda for them to initial, sign and return.

    If the rental unit was built prior to 1978, it’s especially important that you provide the EPA booklet, “Protect Your Family from Lead in your Home.” If the renters won’t sign the Lead Based Paint Disclosure form, at least you provided the required information. I would also recommend emailing the link, so you have proof. The EPA takes this issue seriously and you could incur substantial fines for failing to provide the booklet.

    I add a paragraph that says something like, “Enclosed you will find a new rental agreement and assorted rental forms. Please contact me to let me know if you have any questions or would like to meet; otherwise, I would appreciate it if you would have all adult household members initial, sign and date the forms where indicated, and return them to me within 30 days.”

    I also say some other nice things like, “As a valued customer your satisfaction is important to me. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to improve your experience in your home, or if you have any questions or concerns about this change.” Yes, you may open yourself up to an avalanche of requests, but in my experience most reasonable folks don’t push it and you can always deny the unreasonable requests.

    Curing Waiver & Changing Terms
    I also want to address any issues of waiver that the prior owner may have created so in a month-to-month situation I include the following statement in the letter, “Please be advised that this letter shall also serve as your notice of change in terms. All the conditions, rules and regulations contained therein will take effect 33 days from the date of this letter regardless of whether or not you sign and return the documents.” (Review ORS 90.262 regarding the implementation of rule changes by housing providers.)

    This can be an effective way to reset a late fee type or amount, change your smoking policy, parking restrictions, or even require renter’s insurance (But, remember that if you are including this particular change you must include a statement as to when it is not legal to require:  if the renters’ combined household income divided by household size is at or below 50% of the median for the county of residence, or  if the dwelling unit of the tenant has been subsidized with public funds including federal or state tax credits, federal block grants authorized in the HOME Investment Partnerships Act under Title II of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act, as amended, or the Community Development Block Grant program authorized in the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, as amended, project-based federal rent subsidy payments under 42 U.S.C. 1437f and tax-exempt bonds. Visit https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/il.html#2020_query to determine the median income of your county.).

    There are many things you can’t change without the renter’s agreement. Those would be the due date for rent or maybe even a longer grace period if the prior owner had one. You also cannot implement any other “substantial modification” of the rules without the renter’s written consent. That might include things like assessing a utility fee or any other new requirement that requires the tenant to pay for something that they didn’t previously have to pay for like garbage service or take over a task like yard care that was previously included in the rental agreement.

    In my experience, 95% of renters want to be cooperative and will go ahead and sign your forms, but if they don’t at least you’ve got some parameters for the tenancy established.

    If I’m taking over a fixed-term lease, there’s nothing I can change until it expires, unless they are willing to sign a new agreement, but I still want to cure any waiver of the existing terms the prior landlord may have created, so I add a statement like, “This letter shall serve as your notice that all the terms and conditions of your current lease agreement are in full force and effect, regardless of whether or not your prior landlord enforced those rules.” I have been pleasantly surprised on many occasions though, when tenants in a lease will agree to sign new forms, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.

    Certain types of waivers may not be cure-able such as a pet by waiver or even a tenant by waiver, so you are advised to proceed with caution and not just assume that you can do or change whatever you want. (Read ORS 90.412 for the legal rendition of waiver and seek legal advice if you have any questions.)

    Property Condition
    If the former owner or manager failed to document the condition on move in, security deposit reconciliation becomes more problematic. I need to document the current condition so there’s some sort of baseline, so I include an invite to call me to set something up. If I don’t hear back in a week, I send a notice for a time during normal business hours that works for me. If they’re willing to meet in person, it can also be a good time to get forms signed and questions answered.

    When you do your initial inspection after taking over, even if you may be looking for lease violations as well as needed repairs, call it a maintenance inspection. Make sure they know you will need access to all closets, rooms, garage and even storage sheds. (If they deny access to any part of the home or grounds, remember that unreasonable denial of entry is a violation under ORS 90.322.)

    I start by asking them how things are with the property and run through a rough list of habitability items:  Do your doors and windows open, close and lock properly? Does your heating/cooling system work properly? Hot water? How about the electrical system, any issues with lights, plugs or switches? Any leaks, drips, or plumbing issues you are aware of? Do your appliances work properly? Have you tested your smoke & CO alarms recently?

    That usually puts people more at ease because the focus is on the unit and makes the walk-through less awkward for both. As you’re inspecting, document any lease violations you may see but hold off on addressing them at that moment. Long ago, I was doing a walk through with a prospective client and it was clear the tenant was smoking cigarettes in the unit and had an unauthorized cat. The owner confronted the tenant, the conversation got quite tense, and things could have really escalated. Just document what you see and let your legal notice do the talking for you.

    Illegal Provisions
    Illegal provisions in a rental agreement are another potential hassle that you may inherit from the previous owner/manager. Remember that a tenant cannot waive their rights under landlord-tenant law (even with their agreement), so if you have inherited a defective agreement, just don’t attempt to enforce those provisions. ORS 90.245 (2): “A provision prohibited by subsection (1) of this section included in a rental agreement is unenforceable. If a landlord deliberately uses a rental agreement containing provisions known by the landlord to be prohibited and attempts to enforce such provisions, the tenant may recover in addition to the actual damages of the tenant an amount up to three months’ periodic rent.”

    Some illegal provisions that have crossed my desk include usurious late fees; premature grace periods, such as three days instead of the minimum four; allowance for entry without 24 hours’ notice; and unreasonable restrictions such as, no overnight guests or no sleepovers for children. The renter has the right to use the home and property for any reasonable, legal uses and you may not unreasonably restrict their rights to do so.

    Habitability
    Habitability issues can rear their ugly head, so be careful regarding the condition of a property you purchase or take over for management. If there are substantial problems, I would decline to purchase or manage until or unless the tenants were removed so that I don’t inherit a legal claim for damages from the renter. Should you choose to take on that risk, deal promptly with all needed repairs, but especially habitability-related repairs such as lack of smoke or CO alarms, heat or hot water, doors and windows that don’t lock, rot or pest issues, safety and security, waterproofing & weatherproofing, electrical, plumbing and waste systems. Check out ORS 90.320 for a complete rendition of your obligations to provide habitable housing.

    Discrimination & Retaliation
    Encountering a challenging transition with a contentious renter makes most landlords want to just terminate tenancy, but that has been rendered significantly more challenging since the passage of Senate Bill 608. Proceed carefully. Remember that even a termination without cause in the first year of occupancy has the legal defenses of discrimination or retaliation.

    Discrimination means treating people who belong to a protected class differently than those who don’t in the buying selling or leasing of real estate and is outlined in federal law through the Fair Housing Act and in state law under ORS 90.390. Protected classes are:  Federal – race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability; State – marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Other localities in Oregon may have additional protected classes. Eugene, for example, adds protections based on – age, ethnicity, type of occupation and domestic partnership.

    Retaliation is defined in landlord-tenant law (ORS 90.385) as increasing rent, decreasing services, serving a notice of termination, or bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession after the tenant has:

    • Complained to or expressed to the landlord in writing the intent to complain to a governmental agency charged with oversight for: building, health, or safety codes; mail delivery laws and regulations; or discrimination in rental housing.
    • Or, the tenant has: made a complaint to the landlord that is related to the tenancy; formed or joined a tenants' union; testified against the landlord in any judicial, administrative or legislative proceeding; successfully defended an FED (eviction) action brought by the landlord when the notice served by the landlord was defective or imperfect, or the timing of the notice was miscalculated; or indicative of their intent to assert or invoke the protection of any right secured to tenants under any federal, state or local law.

    Exceptions to the use of the retaliation defense by a tenant include: 


    • Complaints by the tenant were unreasonable in their timing or manner
    • The violation of housing codes was caused by the tenant
    • The tenant has defaulted on rent (unless they deposit full rent into court)
    • Compliance with building codes requires the tenant to vacate

    So, maintain professional decorum with even the most cantankerous renter and terminate tenancy for cause if they violate the rental agreement. Some residents struggle with developmental disabilities, attention deficit disorder, mental illness, PTSD, health issues or family dysfunction. We don’t all get the perfect renters who communicate well, obey every rule, are fully functional, and have healthy conflict resolution skills. It’s up to you to deescalate or walk away. Deal with lease violations by serving notice, not by issuing threats or ultimatums, and if you can’t do that hire someone who can.

    Tenancy Termination
    Sometimes you not only have to handle the transition, but termination of tenancy as well. That comes with its own set of challenges as to the reason and proper service of notice, but also due to the renter’s reaction. Unless I was able to re-home a renter or they were ready to move out anyway, I never got a joyful reaction. Think about how much of a disruption it would be for you to move out of your home. Things may get hostile, or at the least the renter will be understandably upset. Be as compassionate and helpful as you can be and be prepared for some amount of anger or upset.

    Keep in mind too, that about half the time the renter may experience some delay and not be able to vacate on the termination date. Yes, you can proceed to evict, but that takes time too. I always factor extra time into my plans, and depending on the situation, am okay with extending the move out date within reason if they will put their notice in writing to me and pay rent for the extra time. Don’t accept payment of rent on an extension without notice from the tenant or you will create waiver on your notice in accordance with ORS 90.414.

    The Takeaway
    Take care with how you handle a transition with renters. Successful management is based on building relationships, and you set the tone at the first contact. Be kind but firm and you’re likely to have fewer hurdles to overcome as they get accustomed to a new way of doing things. Be prepared for some amount of obfuscation, anger or upset and always keep your cool – remember, it’s about the situation, not you personally.

    Address issues of paperwork right away and cure any waiver the former manager may have created. Get in and document the condition of the unit as soon as possible and take care of any habitability issues right away. If you’re purchasing or taking over management of an occupied rental property, you may want to require the seller to correct any deficiencies in the paperwork, terminate tenancies of questionably habitable units, or remove a problem resident ahead of you assuming legal liability.

    Buyers desperate for a deal and property managers hungry for clients sometimes don’t think these things through. They disregard performing their due diligence, resulting in unanticipated liabilities, legal bills, and intense stress. Sometimes a bargain is a bargain for a reason and is no bargain at all.

    This column offers general suggestions only and is no substitute for professional legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice related to your specific situation.

  • Sunday, October 09, 2022 1:01 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi
    October 01, 2022

    We had a busy and productive meeting in Bend last month. McMenamin’s provided great food and a lovely meeting space. Friday’s Leadership Dinner was well-attended, and the group heard updates from our committee chairs. Technology Chair Cloud Miller prepared a spectacular Teams Video taking us through the history of the ORHA Forms Store that was almost lost forever and shared his vision for the future. Next up, forms packages that will prefill all selected forms with the tenants’ information, so you don’t have to fill out each form individually!

    Education Chair Violet Wilson updated the group, taking us through the new classes in development and the progress the committee has made over the past year in supporting our smaller chapters through mentoring classes. The chapters who have benefitted from her support had rave reviews on all she has done to improve their offerings to their members as well as their bottom lines.  

    Survey Chair Alex Wilkins presented his committee’s work on the next survey coming out this month. Be sure to send it out to your members and encourage them to participate. This new survey will be similar to the first so we can compare the data over time. Can’t wait to see it!

    As chair of the Forms Committee, I reported that we were very close to putting the 2022-2023 Forms Manual to bed. Since then, it has been completed and sent to the printer. We hope by the time this newsletter comes out that the books will be ready to go. The Forms Committee’s next project is a new Law Book. We expect that will be published in late 2023 or early 2024 depending on the outcome of the next legislative session. We are planning to include other sections of law, including the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure; ORS Chapter 18 – Judgments; ORS Chapter 40 – Rules of Evidence; ORS Chapter 46 – Small Claims; ORS Chapter 96 – Fence Line Law; and a new Glossary of Legal Terms. The committee is also in the process of taking suggestions for the next Forms Manual. Please email us with any suggestions for updates to existing forms or new forms you would like to see:  ORHAFormsCommittee@oregonrentalhousing.com.

    At our Saturday board meeting, Bookkeeper Lori Black updated us on her progress cleaning up the books. In the past, some income and expenses were incorrectly categorized, and she and the Finance Committee have been hard at work with some forensic accounting. It looks better every time! At the office, Ben Seamans has helped by creating approval processes to input bills and invoices and route them to the appropriate board members for approval prior to payments being issued. With our new finance procedures in place, we are setting ourselves up for long-term fiscal stability and that feels good.

    Our November and January meetings will be held online through Microsoft Teams. Look for invites to committee meetings and the board meeting next month – hope to see you all there!

    Since being elected president, it’s been a series of dramatic changes to every aspect of what we do, but I’m very encouraged by the progress we’ve made in providing a stable foundation for the future of ORHA. Thank you for all your support!

    “When we least expect it, life sets up a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.” – Paulo Coelho

  • Sunday, October 09, 2022 12:56 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Benjamyn Seamans
    October 01, 2022

    Hello all, thank you to everyone who was able to attend our September meetings in Bend! On Friday we had a series of productive committee meetings, and we had our annual Leadership Dinner featuring some phenomenal committee reports! Saturday’s board meeting ran smoothly – A special shoutout to Cloud Miller (ORHA Technology Committee Chair) for the detailed presentation, giving the history of ORHA’s online form store. For those eligible delegates not currently attending our board meetings, I highly suggest that you start because we do often provide valuable information and insight. For those interested, there are several volunteer opportunities – Please contact Office@OregonRentalHousing.com for more information.  

    During our September board meeting, we received a majority vote to implement an assigned ORHA email address to each local association. This will be a project that we will begin to roll out towards the end of this year, and it will allow for local associations to submit their monthly membership reports digitally online, as well as being able to teach classes virtually using Microsoft Teams. When the time comes, each member with access to the assigned email address will need to sign the ORHA Microsoft Email User Policy mentioned later in this article. More information and training will be provided as it becomes available.

    Our next set of meetings will be held virtually on Friday November 18, 2022, and Saturday November 19, 2022 – An email will be sent in November with the meeting link and further details.

    With our new professional emails in place, ORHA has drafted a Microsoft Email User Policy that was presented during the July meeting in Silverton. This policy will be executed by all ORHA email users and will help ORHA maintain quality of control, emphasizing an importance on cyber security, and association cyber safety – email Office@OregonRentalHousing.com to receive a copy of this user policy. Moving forward, please be sure to email by position (i.e. President, Vice President or Secretary) or topic (i.e. Forms, Technology, or Social Media) – not by person.

    Please be vigilant of email scams and always double check that the email address ends in @OregonRentalHousing.com. Remember, email display names can be masked and it’s extremely important that you click on the name to verify the email address is legitimate. No ORHA members will ever request money or wire transfers via email, we’ll never offer any kind of legal advice, and our email addresses will always end with our website, @OregonRentalHousing.com. Please be vigilant in verifying the source before opening attachments.
    All invoices are to be submitted to Office@OregonRentalHousing.com, they are then taken out of email for an approval process that’s tracked with the Executive Committee and more secure from Email Scams. Please do not email invoices directly to Bookkeeper or Treasurer; for cyber-security reasons, neither officials will approve or pay an invoice outside of the official approval process (starting with submitting the initial invoice to office).

    Our office is periodically checking emails and voicemails Monday through Thursday should you have any questions or concerns; however, please be advised that ORHA will not be returning calls or emails regarding landlord helpline questions or tenant questions. If you are a current member looking to contact your local association or are new member looking to join a local association, please visit www.oregonrentalhousing.com/about.

    To submit your ideas for an upcoming newsletter, please email Office@OregonRentalHousing.com by the 1st of the month.

    ** Reminder that the ORHA Monthly Membership Dues Form must be submitted by the 15th of each month **

    Benjamyn Seamans
    office@oregonrentalhousing.com | Voicemail: (541) 515-7723


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Email: office@OregonRentalHousing.com 

The Oregon Rental Housing Association (ORHA) is a non-profit educational landlord association -- ORHA Board Members, Mentors, Staff, and/or other related ORHA affiliates do not give legal advice. Please be advised that any information provided  is no substitute for professional legal counsel and any advice or guidance given does not constitute legal advice.  Please consult an attorney for legal advice related to your specific situation.

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