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  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 11:35 AM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
    March 01, 2023

    Looking forward to seeing our ORHA delegates live or in-person at our March meeting in Medford. Remember, it’s the delegates from each chapter that make up our board, we need each chapter to do their part to keep ORHA strong. If your chapter’s delegates are not attending, then it’s time to select new delegates!

    Without representation at each meeting, your chapter won’t have the inside info on what’s going on around the state. If you’re not up for travel, remember your delegates can always participate in the meetings online. But I recommend coming in person if you can. We don’t just work, we play too. We always go out for dinner and sometimes catch some good entertainment. It feels great to build relationships with others around the state as we work hand-in-hand to promote financial stability and generational wealth through rental property ownership.

    Under the leadership of Office Manager, Ben Seamans, and Technology Chair, Cloud Miller, the ORHA office continues to make great strides in streamlining our processes and procedures using Microsoft Teams. Remember, all chapters now have access to the amazing integrative technologies offered with this program. You can use the system to enhance your own chapter’s office procedures, including payment approvals, project tracking, teaching classes or meeting online, and much more. I’ve asked Ben to please conduct tutorials at each meeting moving forward, but remember, you can set an appointment to have a one-on-one with him for this or any other reason. Check out his office report for more information on scheduling a meeting.

    And in some of the best news coming out of the office, Ben has figured out a way to sell our manuals online using the program. Can’t wait to have you hear all about it at the March meeting. Hope to see you there!

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 10:41 AM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi
    March 01, 2023

    The COVID-19 pandemic and increasing state and local regulations are causing many rental owners who may have toyed with the idea of an exit strategy into getting more serious about selling their rentals. Some are taking the tax hit, but others are using the 1031 exchange process and buying rental properties in less restrictive areas of Oregon or in other states. If you’re a landlord who’s thinking about selling or a realtor marketing a tenant-occupied property, here’s some food for thought.

    Tenancy termination

    The passage of Senate Bill 608 in 2019 changed how rental owners could terminate tenancy. The law enshrined in ORS 90.427 does continue to allow termination of tenancy for no-cause in the first year, but after the first year, tenancy termination is limited to for-cause terminations or for one of four Qualifying Landlord Reasons. So, if the tenant is violating the rental agreement or landlord-tenant law – not paying rent, not keeping the unit in a clean condition, disturbing the peaceful enjoyment of neighbors, etc. – you may want to contact an attorney or eviction specialist to check on your options there.

    Otherwise, your only other termination option (with one exception) is to terminate for one of four allowable Qualifying Landlord Reasons (QLR), each of which require a minimum 90-day written notice.

    1. The property is being demolished or converted to a different use other than residential use within a reasonable time.
    2. The landlord intends to undertake repairs or renovations to the property within a reasonable time and the property is unsafe or unfit for occupancy or will be unsafe or unfit for occupancy during repairs or renovations.
    3. The landlord intends for the landlord or a member of the landlord’s immediate family to occupy the dwelling unit as a primary residence and the landlord does not own a comparable unit in the same building available that is available for occupancy at the time the notice is delivered.
    4. The landlord is selling the dwelling unit separately from any other unit and has accepted an offer within the past 120 days from a buyer who intends in good faith to occupy the dwelling unit as their primary residence.

    For reason number four, you cannot serve notice just because you are marketing the unit for sale. You must have an accepted offer from a buyer who intends to occupy the home as their primary residence. Also, the notice must include “written evidence of the accepted offer” to purchase the unit and be served within 120 days after accepting the offer. The sales agreement may state that the buyer intends in good faith to occupy the dwelling unit as a primary residence, but if not, a signed affidavit from the buyer can be included with a copy of the accepted offer.

    How are you to know if a buyer will want to keep the property as an investment and be willing to take on the existing tenancy, or if they want to purchase the home to occupy as their primary residence? You won’t until you get an offer, but rentals generally make ideal starter homes for first-time homebuyers.

    If a buyer is purchasing a property for a family member to live in, and the family member is not on title, they must wait until they own the property and may then serve a 90-day notice for that reason.

    ORS 90.427(1)(b) “Immediate family” means:
    (A) An adult person related by blood, adoption, marriage or domestic partnership, as defined in ORS 106.310, or as defined or described in similar law in another jurisdiction;
    (B) An unmarried parent of a joint child;
    (C) A child, grandchild, foster child, ward or guardian; or
    (D) A child, grandchild, foster child, ward or guardian of any person listed in subparagraph (A) or (B) of this paragraph.

    Once an offer is proffered and accepted, the seller can provide the tenant(s) with Notice of Termination-Qualifying Landlord Reason - ORHA form #T5, check the correct box, provide the evidence of the accepted offer to purchase, and pay the tenant the relocation expense of one-months’ periodic rent unless exempt. Owners with an ownership interest in four or fewer residential dwelling units subject to ORS Chapter 90 are exempt from the payment of relocation expenses. If required, the relocation payment must be included with the notice. It cannot be issued as a credit, and it does not matter if the tenant owes you money for something else. You must include payment with the notice.

    Relocation expenses in the city of Portland are much higher and have few allowable exemptions. The Portland relocation fee does not have to be paid right away like the state’s fee but within 45 days, and Portland landlords may reduce the Portland fee by the amount of the required state fee. Go to https://www.portland.gov/phb/rental-services/renter-relocation-assistance for more info.

    The city of Eugene is currently working to implement their own sky-high relocation payments, stay tuned: https://www.eugene-or.gov/845/Rental-Housing-Code

    Any notice of termination must be prepared and served in accordance with ORS 90.150, 90.155 & 90.160, and will remain in effect for the purchaser if the sales closes during the term of the notice. The buyer can end up with liability if the seller fails to prepare and serve the notice in accordance with the law. The tenant has the right of due process and can challenge the notice in court. If the buyer proceeds to eviction court, and they have inherited a defective or imperfectly served notice of termination, they could lose the case, maybe have a judgment rendered against them, possibly have to pay the tenant’s attorney and start over again. Who will be sued if that happens? Everyone. Get professional assistance.

    In a case where a seller believes that it is likely the property would be sold to a buyer who wants to live in the property, and will need to get a mortgage to purchase, the best strategy may be to terminate tenancy for another QLR, such as the owner intends to undertake repairs or renovations to the unit within a reasonable time and the unit will be unsafe or unfit for occupancy during repairs or renovations.

    Does your renovation qualify?

    Realtors encourage sellers to spruce up the unit prior to marketing, but how significant do the repairs or renovations need to be to claim the right to terminate for renovation? One attorney I took a class from on this subject said any renovation had better impact habitability, so check out ORS 90.320, the Habitability section of landlord-tenant law. You may be challenged and have to justify your decision to a judge, so be prepared to think about this ahead of time.

    A full interior repaint might qualify on an older home with lead-based paint that is substantially peeling, but might not, and maybe replacement of flooring, ceiling tiles or texture containing asbestos. Kitchen or bath remodels would likely render the unit uninhabitable, especially if there’s only one bathroom, but things like new windows may not. Unless there is significant rot requiring structural repair, or you are increasing or decreasing the size, new windows can be installed from the outside with little disruption. Re-wiring, re-piping, repairing significant rot in subfloors or walls, replacing kitchen cabinets or tub surrounds, tearing open walls to create an open floor plan, abating hazardous materials, these are examples of renovation work that would more than likely pass the ‘unsafe or unfit for occupancy’ threshold.

    Supporting facts

    To terminate tenancy for a QLR requires that the landlord provide “supporting facts” regarding the reason for termination. For a property sale to an owner-occ buyer, you must include, “written evidence of the accepted offer.” For the renovation option you must describe the work you intend to do that will render the unit “unsafe or unfit to occupy.” For example, in 2021, hubby and I gave notice to tenants in a property we wanted to sell that needed substantial renovation. We had dug a new well the year before, but still needed to move our pressure tank to the new well house, dig and place water lines, cap off the old water lines, and hook up to the new well. We also intended to tear out part of a wall, update the bathroom, upgrade some electrical and other plumbing, and of course, do a lot of cosmetic work. We put together a list of those items to include with our notice. In another unit, we had to tear out and rebuild the only bathroom, so even though we were also doing substantial cosmetic work, that’s what we listed as our supporting facts, because that’s what was going to render the unit uninhabitable.

    Some landlords (and one notice I saw from an attorney) quote the statute as their supporting facts, i.e., “We intend to undertake repairs or renovations to the property that will render the unit unsafe or unfit to occupy.” I always thought that would not be good enough and one of my colleagues in Salem told me about a case the landlord lost where that’s all they had written. The judge said it wasn’t enough. They needed to describe the renovations.

    If you’re hiring a contractor to perform the repairs, they can describe the renovations and you can attach a copy of their bid. If you’re doing the work yourself, describe what you’re doing that will render the unit unsafe or unfit. Even then, a tenant can sue later if they feel your level of renovation wasn’t enough to render the unit unsafe or unfit. One member had a foundation issue in an older home that required a large section of floor to be cut out, so served proper notice. But when the tenant moved and her contractor cut open the living room floor, they found that the foundation repair was less substantial than they had thought. They were able to fix it quickly and the rental owner got the unit back in shape and back on the rental market. The tenant saw that the property was being advertised for rent soon after his move out and is suing. I think she’ll be okay because the only way to determine the extent of the repair was to cut out the floor, she has her contractor to testify for her, and she gave the notice in good faith, but we’ll see what the judge says when the case is heard.

    Note:  Your insurance policy may not provide full coverage for your unit if it is vacant for more than 30 days, so contact your insurance company to learn about insurance options for vacant properties.

    The duplex rule

    Termination rules do provide a narrow exception for owners with no more than two units on the same tax lot where one unit is their primary residence. Landlords are allowed to terminate tenancy for no-cause with a 60-day written notice. Also, in these types of situations, a 30-day notice of termination is allowed if the property is to be sold and the buyer intends in good faith to occupy the tenant’s unit as their primary residence. If the buyer does not intend to occupy the tenant’s unit as their primary residence, then the tenant comes with the sale. For either reason use Notice of Termination – Two-Unit/Owner-Occupied Property – ORHA form #T7. And just like with a QLR, if you’re terminating in 30 days based on a buyer occupying the tenant’s unit as their primary residence, you need to include a copy of the accepted offer within 120 days.

    If the duplex is being held as an investment property and the seller does not live in one unit, but the buyer wants to occupy one side as their primary residence after closing, the same rules would apply as if for a single-family home. If the tenancy has been in place for more than one year on the side the buyer wants to live in, the seller would either have to issue the 90-day notice of termination for one of the four QLRs allowed by law, or sell the property as-is and the buyer can issue the notice for the QLR of wanting to live in the unit as their primary residence. Once the notice expires and the tenant vacates, the buyer can then move in.

    A problem with the statute wording

    You may notice that the statute – ORS 90.427(5)(c) – that allows a landlord to issue the 90-day notice if they are selling the property to an owner-occ buyer says, “…the landlord has accepted an offer to purchase the dwelling unit separately from any other dwelling unit from a person who intends in good faith to occupy the dwelling unit as the person’s primary residence. So, does that limit a seller’s right to terminate tenancy for buyers to occupy one or both sides of a duplex? Or a main house and an ADU?

    I don’t think so, because later in the same statute – ORS 90.427(8)(a)(C)(i) – when referring to the two-unit owner-occupied exemption it uses the same language “the dwelling unit is purchased separately from any other dwelling unit,” and because that part of the statute specifically applies to a two-unit property, attached or unattached, to my mind (not legal advice, only lay-person reasoning) it indicates you may serve a notice to terminate for buyers to live in one or both sides. I’m not aware of any case law on this subject, so if you get pushback you may want to get some qualified legal advice before proceeding.

    Getting the renter's cooperation

    I’ve always recommended to owners wanting to sell that they first offer the property to the renter. Maybe you can carry the note or maybe not, and while it is rare that an offer like this results in a successful purchase, it’s not unheard of either. If that’s not an option, sellers and their realtors should always consider ways to garner the renter’s cooperation in the process. They’re not going to be happy about the situation. Many rental owners with long-term renters have kept their rents low, and the renter is likely to experience some amount of sticker shock when they head out to shop for a new home. There is also a lack of available units, making their situation even more bleak.

    And while the pandemic seems to be abating, it’s still important to take into consideration renters’ pandemic-related worries about exposure to the virus. I’ve been recommending rental owners reach out to the renters and let them know how the process will go and what steps you will take to reduce the numbers of showings. It might look something like this:

    • The realtor will make an appointment to shoot a detailed walk-through video and take lots of pictures, taking all reasonable COVID-safe precautions by always wearing a mask and gloves, if the renter wants that. The realtor may also want to consider having a forehead thermometer with them to provide proof to the renters that they and anyone they show the property to has a normal temperature. And if you expect the unit won’t look its best, some realtors or their clients are paying to have someone come over and clean the home or spruce up the landscaping prior to shooting a video or taking pictures, even if that is the renter’s responsibility.
    • Require any interested parties to watch the video, look at the photos and do a drive-by of the unit. Then, make sure they are financially pre-qualified in some fashion to schedule a time to view the property. That will eliminate the looky-loos and reduce in-person showings to serious buyers only.
    • Provide ‘consideration’ for each showing (and maybe even for allowing the realtor in to do the video and take pictures). Consideration means money. Perhaps a credit or payment of $25 per showing or per hour for an open house. I’m not saying $25 is the magic number, just what seems about right to me. Money makes everything better; not perfect, but better.

    I also recommend working with the renters to pick one or two weekdays and one weekend day per week that works best for them and doing your best to limit showings to those two or three days, if possible. Try to understand how disruptive it would be to have strangers tromping through your home. Their home is their sanctuary, their safe place as yours is to you. You’ll have a better chance of garnering their cooperation by being sensitive to that – at least they have some assurance that for four or five days every week they will be left alone to live their lives.

    Let the renters know what the timeline is for termination so they can start planning. Let them know about the 90-day notice period so they have assurance there will be time to look for and secure new housing.

    Entry without notice to show the property

    ORS 90.322 states in part that, “A landlord and tenant may agree that the landlord or the landlord’s agent may enter the dwelling unit and the premises without notice at reasonable times for the purpose of showing the premises to a prospective buyer, provided that the agreement.

    (A) Is executed at a time when the landlord is actively engaged in attempts to sell the premises;
    (B) Is reflected in a writing separate from the rental agreement and signed by both parties; and
    (C) Is supported by separate consideration recited in the agreement.”

    So, if the renters are willing, you can enter into an agreement for property showing using, Entrance Agreement for Property Showing - ORHA form #O13. I imagine very few, if any, renters would be okay with allowing realtors or owners to show a property without notice, but it’s worth asking.

    Denial of entry

    What if, despite all your efforts to gain cooperation, the renter just won’t cooperate? While ORS 90.322 specifies that a landlord has the right of entry after providing a minimum of 24 hours’ notice, it also allows renters to issue a reasonable denial of entry, ‘“Unreasonable time” refers to a time of day, day of the week or particular time that conflicts with the tenant’s reasonable and specific plans to use the premises.’ So, if you want to enter at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, but the tenant has scheduled their child’s birthday party at that time, those are reasonable and specific plans to use the premises. The statute goes on to say that “A landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant. A tenant may not unreasonably withhold consent from the landlord to enter.” Tenants can assert denial of entry by actual notice (calling you, emailing or texting, etc.) or by posting a note on the entry and you are not allowed to enter.

    If the renters won’t cooperate regarding setting specific days for showings, you’ll have to serve a 24-Hour Notice to Enter – ORHA form #O4 each time you want to enter. If you have the right listed in your rental agreement, you may email or text your notice to enter. To bolster your case that a specific denial of entry is unreasonable, you may want to include some language like this:

    “We will take any COVID-safe precautions you request. We will only spend as little time in the unit as possible and expect the walk-through will take a maximum of 15-20 minutes. If our requested time and date for entry conflicts with your specific 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. Please contact us right away to reschedule.”

    The way to gain entry after a tenant has unreasonably denied your request is to serve a Notice of Termination with Cause – ORHA form #VT5, as allowed by ORS 90.392. I call this notice a 30/14, some folks call it a 14/30. The notice provides the renter with a minimum 14-day cure period to allow entry, or the tenancy would terminate within a minimum of 30 days. While that is a long time to wait to enter, once that notice is in place if they don’t cure you can evict. If they do initially cure the notice and let you in, but unreasonably deny entry again within six months of service of the original 30/14, the same statute allows you to serve a Repeat Violation Termination Notice – ORHA form #T1 and terminate the tenancy with 10 days’ written notice. The renter has no right to cure this notice.

    If you find yourself in this situation, remember, the denial must be unreasonable and you may have to prove that both the original denial of entry and the repeat denial were unreasonable, and that your notice(s) are perfect in every way. That’s why it’s helpful to start with a plan as I’ve outlined above so you have something to show a judge in the event you end up in eviction court. 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 their specific denial was unreasonable.

    Delayed or accelerated move out

    Just because a notice of termination is served, doesn’t mean that the timing will work out. At least half of the time, there is some delay in the move out – sometimes because the timing for a unit the renters have been approved for isn’t ready, sometimes because they have been unable to find anything. I always encourage owners to build in some sort of flexibility to the move out date. If in the end the renter needs more time, if you can, be ready to offer some sort of extension. But only agree if the renter puts their notice to vacate in writing to you and pays the prorated rent for the extra time. Use Notice of Termination from Tenant – ORHA form #T10.

    If you can’t offer more time, and the renter won’t move out, the only other option is to initiate an eviction action in court, which can take three to five weeks or more. If the termination notice is contested, the process can be delayed further, so everyone should factor that into the timing of the notice to vacate. And remember that even if you serve a 90-day notice, the tenants may instead find something quickly and provide just 30 days’ notice to vacate which could throw off the timing as well, although for buyers and sellers that may be less of a concern.

    What if the sale falls through?

    You must rescind the notice and start all over again with a new notice once you receive and accept another offer. If you were required to pay relocation expenses to the tenant, however, you don’t need to pay them again.

    When to close

    If a buyer intends to live in the property and makes an offer, most buyers will need a mortgage to purchase, have an interest rate lock that expires in 45 days, and be required to occupy the home within 30-45 days after closing. With the current volatility in interest rates, buyers who need a mortgage and the sellers hoping to sell, are having a tougher time. If the property sale closes during the notice period, the buyers will be ones tasked with handling the move out and deposit accounting. This can be a big headache if they are not landlords and/or if the seller’s property condition reports are shoddy or nonexistent.

    Even though it can impact interest rates, buyers might be well advised to wait for the tenants to move out before closing on the sale to avoid the hassles of security deposit reconciliation and maybe even eviction. And, if that’s not possible buyers may just have to suck it up and refund the entire deposit if there’s no evidence from the seller regarding condition. Just one more thing to think about and plan for.

    Cash for keys

    Cash for keys is a tried-and-true method for regaining possession of a property and nothing prohibits both parties from making a mutual termination agreement. Just make sure that the terms are clearly spelled out in writing, and that the agreement states what will happen if the tenant complies and what will happen if they don’t comply. We have a great new form Mutual Termination Agreement – Release of All Claim – ORHA form #T9. Use it to record the terms and if the tenant fails to move out, it can form the basis for an eviction. Whatever amount of money you agree to pay, you may have to provide at least part of the funds up front, so they have money to put down somewhere else. Try to negotiate paying only part of it and specify that they only get the remainder in exchange for possession of the property at the agreed upon time. That way if they don’t move out when they agree, you don’t have to pay them the rest.

    Marketing an investment property

    Termination laws do not impact property sales where the seller and buyer are both investors and the buyer won’t be living at the property, but there are still issues that can make the property easier or more challenging to market – mostly in regards to the price of rents, the quality of the tenancies, and the completeness of the seller’s documentation.

    Owners who have under-market rents will find that their properties cannot prove sufficient cash flow to meet the demands of sophisticated investors, and they won’t be able to command the same price. If you are planning to sell an investment property in the not-too-distant future, and your rents are below market, plan to increase rents within the limits imposed by ORS 90.323 until your rents are market rate so that your property can command the best sales price.

    The quality of the tenancies can help or hurt investment property sales as well. Residents who are keeping to their lease and caring for the property are a fantastic marketing asset for sellers; problem residents are not. Maybe you should think about removing your problem residents ahead of offering the property for sale. Also, the completeness of the seller’s tenancy documents can also help or hurt the sale. If there are gaps or flaws in paperwork, fix them now, or be prepared to accept a lower price as a buyer will have to agree to accept the increased liability and correct the deficiencies.

    Paperwork pitfalls

    What does good paperwork look like? The rental agreement and all addenda are complete, initialed, signed and dated by all adult occupants, the seller has adequate documentation on the condition of the units on move in, copies of work orders, accurate and complete tenant ledgers, good notes and copies of notices regarding lease violations during the tenancy, and detailed inspection reports.

    Without good paperwork, a buyer may be purchasing liability. For example, the seller is marketing their property built prior to 1978, but has no signed lead-based paint disclosure. The penalty for this violation if reported to the EPA, is $6,000. The buyer could require as part of the sale, that the seller fixes the deficiency in the paperwork so that they are not taking on that kind of liability. Or the buyer could agree to accept responsibility for fixing that problem after the sale but use that deficiency to negotiate a lower price.

    The takeaway

    A property sale with tenants in place requires better advance planning by sellers, more thorough investigation by buyers, and for realtors, it requires a higher level of due diligence than ever before. For realtors, fulfilling your fiduciary duty to your clients means educating yourselves on the mandates of ORS 90.427 and all its intricacies to provide clients with the best information possible as to the benefits, drawbacks, and possible outcomes of selling tenant-occupied rental property.

    This column offers general suggestions only and is no substitute for professional legal counsel. Please consult an attorney for advice related to your specific situation. This article and the laws referenced herein, are current to the date of publication. Laws and rules change, sometimes with lightning speed, and local law overlays may apply. Proceed with caution.
    Rev. 3/2023

  • Tuesday, February 21, 2023 1:32 PM | Maria Menguita (Administrator)

    February 21, 2023

    Chris Kornelis of the Wall Street Journal writes about the current market creating temptations to turn homes into rental properties instead of selling them. In the article, he speaks with landlords and rental industry experts from throughout the country about the biggest mistakes first-time and veteran landlords make when they get into the rental-property business. Among those interviewed, was our very own Tia Politi, ORHA Board President. She offers her insights about where many housing providers go wrong.

    "It’s also important to understand that what a property owner can charge for rent isn’t dependent upon costs—that is, there is no guarantee that a landlord will be able to charge tenants enough to cover both the monthly costs on the property and needed repairs and home improvements.

    Tia Politi, who owns multiple rental units with her husband near Eugene, Ore., and is the president of the Oregon Rental Housing Association, says first-time landlords will sometimes tell her: This is what my mortgage is and my taxes and insurance, so this is what I want you to charge for rent.

    “Well, I’m sorry. Rents are not dependent upon what your costs are,” she says. “They’re dependent on what the market will bear.”

    You can read more about on the Wall Street Journal.

  • Monday, February 06, 2023 3:33 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
    February 01, 2023

    If you are a landlord whose rents are extremely low and you were hoping to take advantage of the generous rent increase percentage we are allowed so far for 2023 (14.6%), you might want to get that notice served sooner rather than later. There is a bill in the works to reduce the allowable increase amounts, and of course it has an emergency clause attached to it, so would become law immediately upon the Governor’s signature, if it passes. While the possible reduction in allowable rent increase amounts isn’t too bad for owners whose rents are in the market range, for those of you who are playing catch up, you’ll get even further behind, so get going! You must provide at least a 90-day written notice, but nothing says you can’t give more time. If the bill passes, as it currently reads, it won’t impact notices to increase rent that have already been served, so even if you aren’t increasing until later in the year you can serve the notice now.

    The 2023 legislative session is in full swing. Please stay alert for opportunities to submit testimony. We are facing a number of disheartening bills that, if enacted, would continue to impact our members – your legislators need to hear from you, it really does make a difference!

    Looking forward to seeing all our ORHA delegates at our next meeting in Medford, March 17-18. We do have a cap on the number of attendees due to space constraints at the hotel, so chapter delegates, you need to RSVP early to get a seat. Registration info can be found in Ben Seamans Office Report. Looking forward to seeing you all there. We are looking at finding a place to have a group dinner on Friday after committee meetings, so if you want to join in, check in with me on Friday and I’ll let you know where we’re going.

  • Monday, February 06, 2023 3:11 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi
    February 01, 2023

    While listening to the radio a few weeks ago, I heard about a combination of maladaptive personality traits called “The Dark Triad.” According to the research study, people with three specific personality disorders are unusually effective at extracting nonreciprocal resource transfers from others by displaying “virtuous victimhood.” The study caught my attention because I often speak with members on the five Landlord Helplines I staff who have been ripped off or otherwise convinced to contradict their own good sense, for one of two reasons, “I was trying to be nice,” or, “I felt sorry for them.”

    Sympathetic stories can be an artful manipulation, and the soft-hearted are ripe for the picking. How often have you agreed to rent to someone despite their poor reports during the screening process based on their claims of persecution? Accept payments toward a security deposit based on their sad tale of woe? Adjust your rental payment date to accommodate their pay schedule? Lower the rent or forgive rent payments? Late fees? Noncompliance fees? Accommodate changes to the rental agreement that aren’t in your best interest? Allow a tenant to deviate from the agreement, and eventually get their way even if they asked for forgiveness, not permission? Said yes when you’d rather say no? Decline to address lease violations with your renter for fear of their reaction? If that describes you in full or in part, read on.

    What is the Dark Triad?
    The concept of the Dark Triad has been around for a while and is defined by a combination of three negative personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. I have previously written an article, Healthy Boundaries, that partly addressed the issue of boundary-setting by landlords, but not the personality traits that can help us spot manipulators. I was intrigued by how the study identified the specific behavior of virtuous victim signaling that indicate the Dark Triad. I was also interested in whether there were common personality traits that made some people more likely to succumb to the manipulation. As I’ve spoken to many landlords who have been or continue to be unresistingly drawn into the nonreciprocal resource transfer, I believe there are.

    Wikipedia defines the Triad traits, partly, as:
    Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a life-long pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, a diminished ability or unwillingness to empathize with others' feelings, and interpersonally exploitative behavior.

    Machiavellianism is a personality trait that is exemplified by manipulative or callous behavior, combined with a lack of empathy. They are not concerned about conventional morality and are much more likely to lie or cheat to achieve their goals.

    Psychopathy, sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy, is characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits.

    What I find interesting is that research shows that people with Dark Triad personalities can be quite charming, attractive, confident, and personable, so they can be hard to spot at first. There seems to be commonality about their assurance in themselves and their abilities, combined with tales of how others, fate or the universe have conspired to keep them down or have victimized them in some way. They may prey upon your religious or spiritual sensibilities.

    I assisted one family with an eviction right when the pandemic started. The tenants had preyed upon their Christian faith and talked a good game, even disclosing that husband was a felon, but they wanted to get right with God and just needed somebody to give them a second chance. It turned out how you might imagine and due to the COVID moratoria in the courts, it took about eight months to get them out. With the rental right next door, the tenants flouted their violations until the very end, leaving a huge mess and uncollectable rent and damages well over $10,000. These people victimized their landlords and perfectly describe the dark triad traits (in my nonprofessional opinion).

    During the pandemic I heard again and again how landlords reduced rent, did not raise rent, or otherwise took it upon themselves to ease their tenants’ burdens while simultaneously being abused by them in various ways. One of the common outcomes I repeatedly heard occurred when the landlord realized they were being manipulated and stopped participating; instead of the renter being grateful for what they had been given to that point, they were only angry that the landlord would not continue to give. To me this is a classic example of how the Dark Triad works to extract resources from you with no give and take, only take.

    You can read the full study at this link:  https://gwern.net/docs/psychology/personality/psychopathy/2020-ok.pdf

    Eric Dolan of Psypost.org, reviewed the study results:

    New research provides evidence that narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism — maladaptive personality traits known as the “Dark Triad” — are associated with overt displays of virtue and victimhood. The study suggests that people with dark personalities use these signals of “virtuous victimhood” to deceptively extract resources from others.

    The findings have been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

    “Fortune and human imperfection assure that at some point in life everyone will experience suffering, disadvantage, or mistreatment,” wrote the authors of the new study. “When this happens, there will be some who face their burdens in silence, treating it as a private matter they must work out for themselves, and there will others who make a public spectacle of their sufferings, label themselves as victims, and demand compensation for their pain. This latter response is what interests us.”

    In a series of studies, which included 3,536 participants in total, the researchers examined how signals of virtue and victimhood were related to Dark Triad traits and deceptive behaviors.

    The researchers first found that perceiving someone as a virtuous victim made people more likely to help them, indicating that using signals of virtue and victimhood is a valid strategy to gain resources from others. For example, participants were more willing to help a victim of a random act of violence who was described as being shot while volunteering at a charity event than a victim shot walking in front of a grocery store or a victim shot at a strip club.

    In subsequent studies, the researchers established there was a positive relationship between Dark Triad traits and emitting signals of both victimhood and virtue. Among the three Dark Triad traits, Machiavellianism — which is characterized by a willingness to be manipulative and deceitful — was the strongest predictor of virtuous victim signaling.

    In other words, people with high levels Machiavellianism were more likely to report that they have often “pointed out how I am not able to pursue my goals and dreams because of external factors,” “explained how I don’t feel accepted in the society because of my identity,” and “expressed how people like me are underrepresented in the media and leadership.” They also reported virtue signaling more often, such as buying products to communicate their positive moral characteristics.

    Importantly, this relationship held even after accounting for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Put another way, people with darker personalities were more likely to claim victimhood status regardless of their actual status in society.

    Participants who reported engaging in more virtuous victim signaling scores also tended to be more willing to purchase counterfeit goods and were more likely to cheat in a coin-flip game. Finally, participants who reported engaging in more virtuous victim signaling were more likely to exaggerate perceived mistreatment by a colleague to gain an advantage over them, an association that was mediated by the Dark Triad traits.

    “Together, our studies present converging evidence that the virtuous victimhood signal is an effective mechanism for persuading others to part with their resources in a way that benefits the signaler and that people who tend to engage in amoral social manipulation to achieve their goals are more likely to emit them,” the researchers explained.

    But the researchers “strongly caution against” interpreting the findings as suggesting that everyone who engages in virtuous victim signaling has maladaptive personality traits such as Machiavellianism.

    “Our conclusion is simply that victim signals are effective tools of social influence and maximally effective when deployed with signals of virtue. We also provide evidence supporting our proposition that for some people these signals can be deployed as a duplicitous tactic to acquire personal benefits they would otherwise not receive,” they wrote.

    The study was authored by Ekin Ok, Yi Qian, Brendan Strejcek, and Karl Aquino.

    Another review of the study published on the Psychology Today website:

    Dark triad traits appear to be advantageous in some contexts. In their recently published paper, Signaling Virtuous Victimhood as Indicators of Dark Triad Personalities, the authors suggest that Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy might be beneficial for obtaining resources. In their introduction, they acknowledge that being viewed as a victim can lead to a loss of esteem and respect. But, they continue, in modern Western societies being a victim doesn’t always lead to undesirable outcomes. Sometimes, being a victim can increase one’s social status. And justify one’s claim to material resources.

    They argue that “contemporary Western democracies have become particularly hospitable environments for victim signalers to execute a strategy of nonreciprocal resource extraction.” One reason: Strong egalitarian values lead many in the West to believe that any differences in outcomes are illegitimate. Another is that one of our key values is the alleviation of human suffering. Saying that you don’t have as much as others and that you are suffering for it, can be a shrewd way to obtain material resources.

    The researchers examine victim signaling, which they define as “a public and intentional expression of one’s disadvantages, suffering, oppression, or personal limitations.” They also examine virtue signaling, defined as “symbolic demonstrations that can lead observers to make favorable inferences about the signaler’s moral character.” They argue that signaling both victimhood and virtue would maximize one’s ability to extract resources. People feel the most sympathy for a victim who is also a good person.

    The researchers developed a Victim Signaling Scale, ranging from 1 = not at all to 5 = always. It asks how often people engage in certain activities. These include: “Disclosed that I don’t feel accepted in society because of my identity.” And “Expressed how people like me are underrepresented in the media and leadership.” They found that Victim Signaling scores highly correlated with dark triad scores (r = .35). This association held after controlling for gender, ethnicity, income, and other factors that might make people vulnerable to mistreatment.

    Participants also completed a questionnaire that measured Virtue Signaling. They rated the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with statements about moral traits like being fair, compassionate, and honest. A sample statement is “I often buy products that communicate the fact that I have these characteristics.” They also found that Virtue Signaling was significantly correlated with dark triad scores (r = .18). They replicated this association in a follow-up study. This time they used a different, more robust, dark triad scale. They then found a stronger correlation between the dark triad traits and victim signaling (r = .52). The researchers also found that victim signaling negatively correlated (r = -.38) with Honesty-Humility. This is a personality measure of sincerity, fairness, greed avoidance, and modesty. This suggests that victim signalers may be greedier and less honest than those who do not signal victimhood.

    Beyond measuring responses to questionnaires, they also had participants play a game. Basically, it was a coin flip game in which participants could win money if they won.

    Researchers rigged the game so that participants could easily cheat. Participants could claim they won even if they didn’t, and thus obtain more money. Victim signalers were more likely to cheat in this game. The researchers again found that these results held after controlling for ethnicity, gender, income, and other factors. Regardless of personal characteristics, those who scored higher on dark triad traits were more likely to be victim signalers. And may be more likely to deceive others for material gain.

    The researchers then ran a study testing whether people who score highly on victim signaling were more likely to exaggerate reports of mistreatment from a colleague to gain an advantage over them. Participants were told to imagine they worked with another intern. And that they were competing to land a job. Participants were told, “You keep noticing little things about the way the intern talks to you. You get the feeling the other intern may have no respect for your suggestions at all. To your face, the intern is friendly, but something feels off to you.” Then participants engaged in the feedback performance of the intern. Then they completed the Victim Signaling scale.

    Victim signalers were more likely to exaggerate the negative qualities of their competitor.

    They were more likely to agree that the intern “Made demeaning or derogatory remarks,” or “Put you down in front of coworkers.” Nothing in the description of their colleague indicated that they performed these actions. But victim signalers were more likely to report that they did.

    As the authors note, real victims exist. And they have no intention of deceiving or taking advantage of others. Still, alongside victims, there are social predators among us. In whatever milieu they find themselves in, they will enact the strategies that maximize the rewards of material resources, sex, or prestige. People with dark triad traits will tailor their strategies to obtain these benefits, depending on their social environments.

    Today, those with dark triad traits might find that the best way to extract rewards is by making a public spectacle of their victimhood and virtue.”


    Virtually everyone aspires to be virtuous in some way, but the results of this study indicate that when someone signals their virtuosity in combination with expressions of victimization and pressures you to feel sorry for them and give them stuff or make exceptions for them, that’s a big red flag.

    Aside from virtuous victim signaling, the study did not rate other behaviors regarding nonreciprocal resource transfers; however, there is copious data online that addresses common behaviors that manipulators display as well as personality traits that make you more likely to be manipulated.

    What behaviors do manipulators exhibit to control others?
    1. Flattery, praise, superficial charm, or feigned sympathy – at least at first.
    2. Bad mouthing other people behind their backs.
    3. Lying, denying, or shifting blame, or laying guilt trips on the victim.
    4. Playing innocent or dumb, minimizing or rationalizing their negative behaviors when confronted - laying blame anywhere but on themselves.
    5. Changing the subject. When confronted with their behaviors, manipulators will change the subject, and turn the conversation around to something you are supposedly doing wrong, never admitting their fault, or accepting responsibility.
    6. Gaslighting or psychological manipulation to make you question your perception of reality.
    7. Bullying, verbal abuse, explosive anger or other intimidation designed to establish dominance or superiority over you and create a sense of fear that trains you to “walk on eggshells” to avoid upsetting, confronting, or contradicting the manipulator.

    What personality traits make you more likely to be manipulated?
    1. People who lack self-esteem are much more likely to be manipulated. They typically display an unhealthy desire to please, are too agreeable or want to be liked above all and want to be perceived as virtuous. They always assume the best of others or give others the benefit of the doubt, whether it is deserved or rational. This includes wanting to be perceived as a savior for someone claiming to be in a bad spot, to enhance their own feelings of self-worth.
    2. People who are naïve or immature may find it hard to believe that there are devious, ruthless people out there who will take advantage of others for their own gain.
    3. People who tend to be submissive are more likely to be exploited and manipulated.
    4. People who fear any negative emotion or perceived confrontation with another, or fear expressions of anger, frustration, or disapproval are more likely to give in time after time.
    5. People who feel guilty about their success. As our society has worked toward a more egalitarian construct, people who have achieved some amount of success can be feel guilt over the fact that life opportunities and outcomes are anything but equal, leading the person to act outside their own best interests and make them vulnerable to exploitation.

    Does this describe you? If so, please understand that I’m not writing this article to say it’s bad to be helpful, kind and generous, only that you should beware of con artists. Armed with this knowledge, you can raise your awareness of how and when you are being manipulated by an applicant or tenant. Remember, this is a business relationship. Don’t let your soft heart lead you astray, and if you find yourself experiencing this situation again and again, you might want to consider hiring a property manager…

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

    Rev 2/2023

  • 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

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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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