• Tuesday, February 08, 2022 11:05 AM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Benjamyn Seamans, ORHA Office Manager
    February 8, 2022

    Hello all, February is off to a quick start and the ORHA office has been busy, busy, busy! With that being said, the office is finally catching up and getting back on track. Cheers to a great start in 2022 and I look forward to working with each and every one of you throughout this year.

    Following up from our January 2022 board meeting, the office has reached out to a handful of small local associations who qualify for our Mentorship Program to assist in scheduling and hosting educational webinars for their association. If your association qualifies for the program, please feel free to view our list of available classes and reach out to office@oregonrentalhousing.com to schedule your class today!

    As Tia mentioned in her Forms Committee Report, we have transitioned to a drop-ship company for our Local Forms Store Orders. Please continue to place your Local Forms Store Orders on Wild Apricot through your association log-in. Additionally, it is important to note that the ORHA office email is only being monitored Monday through Thursday – If an order is placed over the weekend (Friday through Sunday), it will be addressed the following business day. Patience from your association is much appreciated as we work through this new drop-ship process, if you experience any issues, please kindly reach out to both office@oregonrentalhousing.com and orhapres@gmail.com.

    The conference room and hotel room block have been scheduled for our March 18th and 19th meetings – delegates, stay tuned for an email from office@oregonrentalhousing.com in the next coming weeks with a link and instructions to book your hotel room.

    New Forms Discount Codes have been issued to all the associations for our ORHA Forms Store – if you have not already been notified of your associations new code, please reach out to their member helpline directly.

    Lastly, as mentioned at our January 2022 board meeting, the Oregon Rental Housing Association has updated their 2022 ORHA Membership Reporting Process as follows:

    1. Locals will complete the revised ORHA Monthly Membership Dues Form and will email a scanned copy of the report to office@oregonrentalhousing.com and orhabookkeeper@gmail.com
    2. ORHA Bookkeeper will Invoice your association or you may mail your check to ORHA Bookkeeper Lori Black at 1320 Hwy 99 N - Cottage Grove, OR  97424
    3. If invoiced, you can proceed with an electronic payment or a check deposited to US Bank and a receipt emailed to office@oregonrentalhousing.com and orhabookkeeper@gmail.com

    This process is posted on the updated ORHA Monthly Membership Dues Form and has been emailed out to all associations.

    Note: if your association has already sent in their January dues to the Keizer, OR P.O. Box, your association may start the new process for their February Dues in March 2022.

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

    Thank you all for everything, I appreciate this opportunity and am thrilled to be involved in this process.

    Benjamyn Seamans, ORHA Office Manager

  • Tuesday, February 08, 2022 10:25 AM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
    February, 2022

    This month begins our short legislative session. After two solid years of constantly changing rules, we’re anticipating a bit of a breather this year which means we can focus on some very exciting races coming up in November that will impact how the 2023 long legislative session goes. We’ll be focusing on those crucial races after this short session, so stay tuned.

    We are very excited to announce that Vice President Ben Seamans has agreed to take on a big chunk of the work that it takes to run our now-virtual office. Ben, Technology Chair Cloud Miller, Violet Wilson, Kathleen Ashley and I (but mostly Cloud) had been taking on a lot of tasks that used to be performed by an employee when we had an office, and Ben agreed to step in and provide us the stability we need in this position. Having a younger, tech-savvy person involved has been a great blessing. Ben is working as an independent contractor in accordance with our Reimbursement Policy and we are very impressed at his professionalism and ability to take us into the future. Cloud has been training him diligently and it’s just great to have a central person coordinating our efforts, including creating our newsletter, sending out eblasts, responding to emails, directing correspondence to the correct person, tracking membership reports, and so much more.

    About membership reporting, check out our new procedures. Treasurer Jill Maricich, Ben and the rest of the Executive Committee have weighed in and created a new streamlined reporting, invoicing and payment system that should make life easier for everyone. Ben’s office update in this month’s publication includes a run-down of the new procedures.

    I am also pleased to let you know that we have hired a bookkeeper, Lori Black Consulting, in Cottage Grove, who has taken over many of the accounting activities of ORHA. With the loss of an employee to handle accounts payable and receivable, reconciliation, and record-keeping, it was too much for a volunteer and made sense to have a third set of eyes on everything we do to ensure accuracy and transparency. So far, so good. Under the direction of the Finance Committee (Jill Maricich and Dennis Chappa), Lori is diving right in and has been a great addition to the work we do.

    The Bylaws Committee met regularly for more than a year updating our bylaws and policies which were approved by the board at our January meeting. Thanks to Ben Seamans for his dedicated leadership on that project, and Cloud Miller for making the bylaws pretty. Among Cloud’s many talents, he is an excellent designer. Local chapters can expect a copy soon.

    ORHA has experienced some seismic transitions over the past seven months, but we’ve overcome every hurdle - what a great feeling. It is incredibly rewarding to work with an active group of high-caliber volunteers. Keep up the good work, everyone. What you do matters!

  • Tuesday, February 08, 2022 10:14 AM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi, ORHA Forms Committee Chair
    February, 2022

    As I reported in last month’s President’s Message, we are transitioning to a drop-ship company, Moonlight BPO, to print and ship our legal forms. Like any transition, there have been bumps in the road! Thank you for your patience as we smooth out the bumpy parts. Also, we have discontinued offering our free application on the forms store due to some major changes in law related to resident screening. Some of our other forms have been slightly improved, others significantly improved, but some must be purged and not used anymore. The following table shows which forms have been changed, but are still useful, which forms should be purged, and which forms have stayed the same. This table will be updated and re-published as we continue with our major revisions.

    On that subject, we are nearing the end of this round of forms changes and will then be shifting our focus to creation and publication of our new Forms Manual 2022.

    Folks are also asking about a new Law Book. Our current version is 2020, and because of the pandemic, in 2021, we only had a few permanent changes to landlord-tenant law related to screening, so we are going to see what this short session brings. At this time, the plan is to continue selling 2020 Law Books, but provide a free insert to explain the permanent changes. If the short session creates significant law changes, we may reconsider, but at this time, the plan is to produce a new Law Book after the 2023 long session.

  • Tuesday, February 08, 2022 9:45 AM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
    February, 2022

    Non-Tenant Guests

    February 28, 2022, marks the end of some of our pandemic-related restrictions. Remember under the mandates of SB 282, housing providers were required to allow a “non-tenant guest” to reside in the dwelling unit as a temporary occupant (TO) if they passed screening (except for income and credit) and signed a temporary occupant agreement. By statute, the agreement could not end prior to February 28, 2022. So, if you are in this situation and have an agreement that is expiring, you have some decisions to make.

    If the agreement has no end date, then you may only terminate the TO for a material violation of the rental agreement and the TO has no right to cure. If the agreement had an end date, then you may either terminate the TO’s occupancy rights as of the end date of the agreement, or you may extend it, or perhaps even offer an opportunity for the TO to pass the remainder of your screening criteria and be added to the rental agreement if you wish.

    If you do require the TO to vacate the premises at the end date of the agreement (or for a material violation of the rental agreement) and they refuse to vacate, ORS 90.275 allows you to serve a Notice of Termination with Cause – ORHA form #38, to the lawful tenant(s) requiring that they remove the now-unauthorized occupant within the minimum 14-day cure period or vacate the premises upon the expiration of the notice. If the tenant vacates, but the TO does not, the TO is considered a squatter and their right to occupy may be terminated using a 24-Hour Notice for an Unlawful Occupant – ORHA form #39.

    The provision in SB 282 that allowed you to accept rent from the TO without creating a tenancy will also sunset on February 28th, so if you have been accepting rent from them you must stop doing that or you could create a tenancy with the TO.

    Collecting on Emergency Period debt

    The end of February marks the end of the Protected Period (April 1, 2020 – February 28, 2022) for Emergency Period (April 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021) debt. On or after March 1, 2022, you may pursue your current or former residents for this debt. If the debtor is a current resident, however, you may not pursue the debt (yet) if they have provided you with written documentation of application for rent assistance in accordance with SB 891.

    Documentation verifying the submission of an application for emergency rental assistance can be provided by any reasonable method, including by sending a copy or photograph of the documentation to you by electronic mail or text message.

    Residents who provide the required evidence are entitled to a Safe Harbor period through September 30, 2022, during which you may not take any action against them or serve any notices related to nonpayment. Nonpayment does not include payments owed by a tenant for damages to the premises.

    If the resident has not provided you with documentation, you might opt to serve a for-cause termination notice to force the issue, but through June 30, 2022, you must include the IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS TO PROTECTION FROM EVICTION (available on the website). Just like with current rent or debt, if the resident provides you with written evidence of application for rent assistance, they are entitled to the full benefit of the Safe Harbor period. The resident has until the first appearance in eviction court to provide you with that written evidence.

    Through June 30, 2022, the IMPORTANT NOTICE is required to be served with any termination notice for nonpayment of rent (which includes things like fees and utilities, but not damages to the rental unit). Just like with rent and moneys owing since July 2021, if the resident provides you with documentation of their application for rent assistance, they are protected from any eviction action for nonpayment (except for damage to the premises) until you are notified of application approval or denial or through September 30, 2022.

    If you receive notice that the tenant’s application has been approved, pop the champagne cork, you’ll get reimbursed! If you receive notice that the tenant’s application has been denied you may serve another notice to collect the debt without the obligation to include another IMPORTANT NOTICE.

    Landlord Guarantee Program

    You will also be able to seek compensation from the Landlord Guarantee Program administered by Home Forward but it will only cover the timeframe of the Safe Harbor period, not anything prior or later. I’ve talked to many folks on the helpline saying that their residents said they had applied, but that’s not enough. They must provide you with written evidence or you won’t be able to access the program for reimbursement. You may only be reimbursed beginning on the date the resident gave you the written documentation of the application for rent assistance (not the date they applied) through the earlier of:

    1. The date that you regain possession of the dwelling unit.
    2. The date that the court enters a judgment for possession of the dwelling unit.
    3. The date that you are notified that the application has been approved – in which case you will likely be fully reimbursed and won’t need to apply to the program.
    4. The date that you are notified of application denial.
    5. September 30, 2022.

    Housing providers may seek compensation not only for rent, but also for any eligible non-payment charges that accrued during the Safe Harbor period. Eligible non-payment charges include rent, late charges, utility or service charges, or any other fee as described in the rental agreement or allowed by or ORS 90.140, 90.302, 90.315, 90.392, 90.394, 90.560 to 90.584 or 90.630.

    Collecting from past residents

    You may recall that for residents whose tenancies terminated during the Protected Period (April 1, 2020 – February 28, 2022), the statute of limitations was tolled. That means you have through February 28, 2023, to initiate legal action to recover any nonpayment balance (and they have that right as well). It might not hurt to make one last effort to get them to sign a Promissory Note – ORHA form #50, and agree to reasonable payment arrangements, but you can also sue in Small Claims Court, or hire a collection agency to pursue the debt on your behalf. I’m often asked if it’s worth it and like most things, it depends. One benefit of getting a civil judgment of more than $3,000 (exclusive of costs) is that the judgment will create a lien on real property (land or buildings) owned by the defendant. It only applies in the county in which the judgment was rendered unless you file the lien in other counties in accordance with ORS 18.152.

    A colleague in another county had a small claims judgment against a former resident for around $8,000 and the resident inherited property. They hadn’t paid the property taxes for three years and the county was preparing to foreclose but found her lien. They contacted her and told her if she paid the back taxes, the property was hers. The home was a tear-down, but the land value well exceeded the debt. So yes, it can be very well worth it!

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

  • Wednesday, December 15, 2021 3:38 PM | Benjamyn Seamans (Administrator)

    By: Mark L. Busch, P.C. Attorney at Law
    December 15th, 2021

    In a special session, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 891 that extends nonpayment eviction protections for tenants. Tenants are now granted a “safe harbor” from nonpayment evictions as long as they have applied for rental assistance and provided proof to their landlord that they have applied.

    The safe harbor protection lasts until the tenant’s application is no longer pending (i.e., the rental assistance has been paid out or denied). This eliminates the current 60-day or 90-day postponement periods, and instead grants protection until as long as September 30, 2022 if a tenant’s application is still pending with a state or local rental assistance agency. Under SB 891, tenants can apply for rental assistance until June 30, 2022 to qualify for the safe harbor protection. (Note: Rental assistance agencies are supposed to notify both the landlord and tenant if the tenant’s application is no longer pending.)

    A companion bill (SB 5561) allocates $100 million in additional funds for rental assistance, as well as $10 million to a landlord guarantee fund. Landlords who have not been paid rental assistance can directly apply for rental compensation after certain dates have passed related to a particular tenancy for which the landlord has not been paid. The guarantee fund is administered online by Home Forward.

    Practically speaking, SB 891 means that landlords: (1) Cannot issue nonpayment notices if they know that a tenant has applied for rental assistance; (2) cannot file or continue to pursue a nonpayment eviction case in court if a tenant has applied for rental assistance; (3) must request that the court postpone any pending nonpayment eviction cases until the tenant’s rental assistance application is no longer pending; (4) continue using 10-day rent nonpayment forms until September 30, 2022; and, (5) UPDATE YOUR CURRENT 10-DAY FORMS since new language must be added to the form explaining these protections to tenants.

    If a nonpayment eviction court case is postponed, it must remain postponed until the tenant’s rental assistance application has been either approved and paid, or denied. Reinstated court cases will be reset for a new first appearance hearing and will then proceed as usual. Finally, it appears that tenants can reapply for additional rental assistance through June 30, 2022 for new amounts that become due, so be sure to consult with your attorney before proceeding with any new nonpayment notices if this situation arises.

    The Landlord Newsletter is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice for any specific issue that might arise, since every situation is different. Always consult a knowledgeable landlord attorney with your specific legal issues.

  • Tuesday, December 14, 2021 5:18 PM | Anonymous

    By: Jason Miller, ORHA Legislative Director
    December 14th, 2021

    Yesterday, December 13th, 2021, Legislature passed in the 2nd special session an extension to the moratorium on evictions for non-payment for tenants who have applied for emergency rental assistance. The housing policy bill, known as Senate Bill 891, was the reason the Governor called the special session.

         In this bill, tenants that apply for rental assistance and provide documentation to their landlord before June 30th, 2022, will have a safe harbor from eviction until September 30th, 2022, or until their application is cancelled or denied. Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) will prioritize those that applied before December 1st, 2021, and cancel applications of tenants that are not responding to their requests. OHCS is required to notify the landlord if a tenant is denied, or an application is cancelled.   

       Additionally, in this bill is the extension of the requirement for a 10-day or 14-day Notice to Pay or Vacate for Non-payment of Rent until Sept 30th, 2022. Landlords must send an updated version of the tenant protection letter with these non-payment notices served after the date that SB 891 is signed into law by the Governor. The updated tenant protection letter will be available on the Oregon Rental Housing Forms Store at https://store.oregonrentalhousing.com/  

       In another bill, Senate Bill 5561 is the budget companion bill to SB 891 which allocates $100 million to OHCS for rental assistance. $5 million was allocated to administrative costs to speed up the processing of rental assistance applications, and $10 million was added to the Landlord Guarantee Fund for landlords to recover lost funds due to canceled, denied or unprocessed rental assistance applications. Another $100 million was allocated for longer term rental assistance programs to be distributed through other local agencies. 

    You can read the full bill here for SB 891:  https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2021S2/Downloads/MeasureDocument/SB891/Enrolled  

    You can read the full bill here for SB 5561: https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2021S2/Downloads/MeasureDocument/SB5561/Enrolled

  • Sunday, December 12, 2021 3:21 PM | Maria Menguita (Administrator)

    By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
    December 14, 2022

    continued from Part 2 of this article

    Portland screening rules
    In the city of Portland, city regulations restrict many areas of screening. ORHA has created Portland screening forms that are available on the forms store site.

    1. Unit must be advertised for 72 hours prior to accepting applications – called Notice of Unit Availability. Notice must include:
      1. When apps will be accepted (no sooner than 72 hours from date/time of posting of notice)
      2. Whether or not the unit is ADA accessible as a Type A Unit in accordance with the Oregon Structural Building Code and ICC A117.1, providing accessibility for wheelchair users throughout the unit
      3. Amount of screening charge, if any, and description of screening criteria if you will charge for screening applications
    2. If multiple units are advertised HP may publish the following information in either their Notice of Unit Availability or in a combined notice advising where info on each unit may be viewed. Notice must indicate the following:
      1. Number of units available
      2. Range of bedrooms of available units
      3. Range of sizes of available units
      4. Range of rents for available units
      5. When applications will begin to be received
      6. HP’s screening criteria, if assessing a screening charge
      7. Whether or not any of the units meet Type A definition of wheelchair accessible unit
    3. If HP maintains a Wait List:
      1. HP must publish Waitlist opening at least 72-hours prior to accepting names to add to the list, and include all the above info on number of units that can be filled from the list, range of bedrooms, range of unit sizes, range of rents, when the HP will begin accepting applications for the waitlist, and HP’s screening criteria if assessing a screening charge
      2. HP must keep separate Waitlist for Type A units
    4. Two types of Applicants – Financially Responsible and Non-Financially Responsible:
      1. Financially responsible applicants screened for everything including credit & income
      2. Non-financially responsible applicants screened for everything except credit & income. If non-financially responsible tenant is denied, you must still offer the other renters the unit
    5. Two types of Screening – Low Barrier or Landlord Choice/Individual Assessment
      1. Low Barrier Screening – HP agrees not to reject an applicant based on certain aspects of their criminal, credit or rental histories:
        1. Criminal History: An arrest that did not result in conviction, unless pending on the date of application; participation in or completion of, a diversion or a deferral of judgment program; a conviction that has been judicially dismissed, expunged, voided or invalidated; a conviction for a crime that is no longer illegal in Oregon; a conviction or determination through the juvenile justice system; a misdemeanor conviction with a sentencing date older than three years; or a felony conviction with a sentencing date older than seven years
        2. Credit History: A credit score of at least 500; insufficient credit history; past due collections less than $1000; damage balances owed to prior HP’s of less than $500; discharged bankruptcy; Chapter 13 bankruptcy under active repayment; medical, vocational, or educational training debt
        3. Rental History: Eviction history if case was dismissed or won by the applicant; an eviction judgment more than three years old; an eviction judgment less than three years old if the basis for the action was a no-cause notice, or judgment was issued by default and applicant can provide credible evidence that they had already vacated the unit at the time the notice was served; or a judgment that was subsequently set aside or sealed. HP will only deny for rental history reports that indicate rent defaults; three or more material violations of the rental agreement one year prior to application AND that resulted in notices issued to renter; outstanding balance due to prior HP; termination for cause; or insufficient rental history unless applicant in bad faith withholds rental history information
      2. Landlord Choice/Individual Assessment Screening – You may create and apply your own fairly established criteria, but:
        1. If you deny an applicant and any single criterion is more prohibitive than any of the Low Barrier criteria, you must conduct an Individual Assessment, considering factors such as, the nature and severity of the incidents; the number and type of incidents; the time that has elapsed since the incidents occurred; and, the age of the individual at the time the incidents occurred. When conducting an Individual Assessment, you are required to accept and consider all Supplemental Evidence that an applicant provides with their completed application to explain, justify or negate the relevance of the information
      3. Approval, Conditional Approval, or Denial – You must notify each applicant in writing of your determination within two weeks of completing the evaluation
    6. Applications must include:
      1. A space or form to declare or affirm a Mobility Disability or other Disability status
      2. PHB Statement of Applicant Rights & Responsibilities: https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/notice-30.01.086.c.3.c-application-and-screening-rights-and-responsibilities.pdf
      3. City Notice to Applicants for requesting a Reasonable Accommodation or Modification: https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/notice-30.01.086.c.3.b-modification-or-accommodation.pdf
      4. Screening criteria and description of the evaluation process if you charge a fee for screening
      5. A statement that applicants may include Supplemental Evidence for consideration, in order to mitigate potentially negative screening results
      6. Not required but “best practice” to include applicant’s right to appeal denial (ORHA Adverse Action and Denial form contains this information)
      7. If applicant requests, HP must provide record of receipt of application whether or not a screening charge is assessed. (Remember, HPs who assess an applicant screening charge are already required to provide a receipt for the fee)
    7. HP tracks receipt of completed applications and offers unit on a first-come, first-served basis, unless:
      1. Unit is ADA accessible as defined in Oregon Structural Building Code and ICC A117.1, and applicant or family member has physical mobility disability, in which case their application is prioritized ahead of other
      2. If someone submits an application prior to the end of the 72-hour period – 8-hour penalty for date/time of receipt
      3. HP may simultaneously screen applications received, but must accept, conditionally accept or deny in the order received
      1. HP may refuse to accept application, only if:
        1. Applicant has verifiable repeated violations of the rental agreement with the same landlord. Most recent violation must have occurred within the past 365 days from the date the application is submitted, and past landlord must provide copies of the violation notices
        2. Application is incomplete
        3. Applicant fails to provide information to confirm identity or income
        4. Applicant has intentionally withheld or misrepresented required information. (Be careful with this, some applicants may have memory or other cognitive disorders.)
        1. Acceptable forms of ID:
          1. SSN
          2. Valid Permanent Resident Alien Registration Receipt Card
          3. Immigrant Visa
          4. ITIN
          5. Non-immigrant Visa
          6. Any government-issued ID regardless of expiration date
          7. Any ID or combination of ID’s that would permit a reasonable verification of identity
          1. Income requirements
            1. Rent vs income calculations must include all cumulative sources of income for all financially responsible applicants, including non-governmental rent assistance
            2. If the monthly Rent amount is below the amount listed for the number of bedrooms in a Dwelling Unit, a Landlord can require an Applicant to demonstrate a monthly gross income of up to but not greater than 2.5 times the amount of the Rent.
            3. If the monthly rent amount is at or above the amount listed for the number of bedrooms in a Dwelling Unit, a Landlord can require an Applicant to demonstrate a monthly gross income of up to but not greater than 2 times the amount of the Rent.
            4. https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/table-30.01.086.d.2.a-b.pdf
            5. If an applicant fails to meet the income criteria, you may require an additional security deposit as specified in 30.01.087 A, limited to an additional half-months’ rent or a qualified co-signer
              1. If the tenancy is secured by a guarantor, you can require that individual to prove no more than three months’ rent to qualify.
          2. Application Denial
            1. Low Barrier: You must provide written Notice of Denial, with statement of reasons within two weeks
            2. Landlord Choice/Individual Assessment:
            3. You must provide written Notice of Denial, with statement of reasons within two weeks, and must include an explanation of the reasons that any Supplemental Evidence provided did not adequately compensate for the factors leading to the denial
          3. Appeal of Denial of Application. If a denied applicant appeals their denial and is subsequently approved by the applicant providing documentation that contradicts a screening determination, and the unit is still available, you must offer the unit to that applicant. If the unit vacancy is already filled at the time of the successful appeal, the following rules apply:
            1. Appealed approved app is good for three months
            2. If another similar unit becomes available, HP must contact applicant by email, phone or certified mail to offer the unit with a deadline of 48 hours for applicant to respond and declare their intent to rent the unit
            3. If multiple responses from applicants, order of unit offer is based on the appeal submission dates
            4. If no response, unit may be offered to the public by posting Notice of Unit Availability (ad)
            5. If Appealed Approved Applicant misses the 48-hour deadline, but HP has not yet posted Notice of Unit Availability, HP may enter into rental agreement, but is not required to
            6. If Notice of Unit Availability has already been published, Appealed Approved Applicant are subject to the same process as the general public, with the exception of re-screening unless the application is more than three months old.

          If you own a property in the city of Eugene, you need to be aware that the Renter Protection Committee is working to adopt some of the Portland rules and the city council will be voting on those soon so stay tuned.

          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. Any laws referenced herein are current to the date of publication.

          continue reading Part 2 of this article

        2. Thursday, December 09, 2021 9:51 AM | Maria Menguita (Administrator)

          By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
          December 14, 2022

          continued from Part 1 of this article

          Credit history criteria
          We may require you to submit a copy of your credit report obtained within the past 30 days. Negative credit reports may result in denial of application. Negative reports include, but are not limited to: late payments, collections, judgments, total debt load, and bankruptcy.

          I often hear of landlords requiring a certain credit score to qualify. This is fraught with peril, and I don’t recommend it. Not all credit problems are equivalent in the screening process, so a score is not a good way to evaluate an applicant. What if they have no credit? To me that just shows they don’t like to rack up debt. Why would that be a problem? What if the collection accounts are medical and due to a person’s disability? What if the defaults are due to domestic violence, prior addiction, or mental illness that can be documented? Each of these are ‘protected’ reasons.

          Many landlords overlook medical collections, and student loan collections. Credit cards, mail order, jewelry stores, payday loan collections are a higher risk, and money owed to utility companies, cable or satellite companies, cell phone companies and the courts are a very high risk. Money owing to a prior landlord is usually a non-starter unless the applicant is making payments, but remember, debt incurred during the Protected Period cannot be used to disqualify an applicant.

          An active bankruptcy poses a potential problem for a landlord as they can be named as a creditor until the bankruptcy is closed, so it’s fair to deny an applicant who is in a pending bankruptcy, but what about a past bankruptcy? While you can’t discriminate against someone who has been through bankruptcy, how much you ding an applicant for having gone through one will largely depend on the reason for it, and what has happened since. Bankruptcy to clear the slate of medical bills is very different from bankruptcy to clear the slate of consumer debt because a person was irresponsible with their money and credit. Incurring more bad debt or collections after bankruptcy can also indicate someone who is at a higher risk of default.

          Taking into account the varying reasons for credit problems, your guidelines might look something like this:

          1. No collections or late payments, or no credit accounts at all. Applicant meets criteria.
          2. Minor credit issues – one or two late payments in the past year, up to three minor collections, under $1000 total - $250 increased deposit or qualified co-signer.
          3. Moderate credit issues – some history of late payments, several collections totaling less than $2500, bankruptcy within the past 3 years – $500 increased deposit or qualified co-signer. Require written explanation.
          4. Major credit issues – regular history of late payments, money owing to prior landlord, but making payments, many collection accounts totaling more than $2500, money owing to utility companies, or related to consumer debt, or collections incurred after bankruptcy – $1000 increased deposit, double deposit, or qualified co-signer. Require written explanation and copy of payment agreement with prior landlord. Verify that payments are current.
          5. Open bankruptcy, money owed to prior landlord (not from the Protected Period) with no agreement to pay – automatic denial.

          Prior Rental History
          Favorable rental history of years must be verifiable from unbiased and unrelated sources. No evictions within the past five years. We do not consider evictions which took place five years or more ago, not do we consider evictions which resulted in a dismissal or a general judgment for the applicant. We also do not consider eviction judgments that were rendered during the COVID-19 Protected Period (April 1, 2020 – February 28, 2022). Applicants must provide the information necessary to contact past landlords.

          It’s standard to require at least one year of verifiable rental history. Some companies require a minimum of two years and some as high as three years. Be sure to verify that the person you are speaking with is the owner or manager of the property by looking up the property ownership info on the county’s tax website. Some sites are easy to use, others not so much, so if you are having trouble just call the county assessor’s office and they will tell you who the owner of record is.

          Taking into account your criteria and the information you are able to verify, your rental history guidelines might look something like this:

          1. Full positive reference(s), excellent care of property. Applicant meets criteria.
          2. Minor lack of history/one or two minor issues or late pays during tenancy – additional $500 security deposit or qualified co-signer.
          3. Moderate lack of history/several violations or late pays during tenancy – additional $750 security deposit or qualified co-signer.
          4. Major lack of history/regular violations or repeated late pays during tenancy/money owing to prior landlord, but making payments – additional $1000 security deposit, double deposit, or qualified co-signer. Require written explanation.
          5. Eviction judgment(s) in the past five years (not including the Protected Period), money owing to prior landlord and no payments being made (unless incurred during the Protected Period), uncured violations of the rental agreement, or even multiple cured violations for things like unauthorized occupants, unauthorized animals, noise/parties, smoking in the unit, harassment, assault, running a business in the unit, subletting or running an Air BNB, unsanitary conditions, or major damage resulting from tenant neglect or failure to report maintenance issues – automatic denial.

          Many companies are refusing to provide full rental references anymore and will only verify dates of residency and rent amount. I can tell at least something about the quality of the tenancy by two documents: the tenant ledger and the security deposit accounting. That information could help someone at least partially document their history.

          Criminal history criteria
          Criminal convictions or pending charges which may result in an application denial include but are not limited to: drug-related crimes, person crimes, sex offenses, any crimes involving financial fraud (including identity theft or forgery), or any other crime that would adversely impact the health, safety or right of peaceful enjoyment of the premises of the residents, owner/agent.

          Landlords should evaluate criminal history on a case-by-case basis, considering the nature of the offense(s), the length of time since the offense(s), and the rehabilitative measure taken since. Applicants with criminal history should be required to submit a written explanation of their criminal history, and may offer other supportive documents, resources, or references to attest to their rehabilitation.

          In April 2016, HUD issued a Memo alerting housing providers that they had seen a pattern of disparate impact on members of protected classes in regards to the application of screening standards required to get into housing. The concept of disparate impact states that even seemingly objective criteria can have an adverse impact on people in protected classes.

          “Across the United States, African Americans and Hispanics are arrested, convicted and incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their share of the general population. Consequently, criminal records-based barriers to housing are likely to have a disproportionate impact on minority home seekers. While having a criminal record is not a protected characteristic under the Fair Housing Act, criminal history-based restrictions on housing opportunities violate the Act if, without justification, their burden falls more often on renters or other housing market participants of one race or national origin over another (i.e., discriminatory effects liability). Additionally, intentional discrimination in violation of the Act occurs if a housing provider treats individuals with comparable criminal history differently because of their race, national origin, or other protected characteristic (i.e., disparate treatment liability).”

          So, how does a landlord walk this fine line regarding the past criminal history of an applicant? It is essential to know the specifics. What was the nature of the crime? Was it a one-time thing or repeated? How long ago did the crime occur? Does this history pose a current danger? Were they in the throes of addiction and now they are clean and sober? Did the offender complete their debt to society and comply with the terms of release and probation? What have they been doing since? A written statement from the individual, along with documentation of any programs or classes they have completed relating to their offense(s) may help to determine whether they are taking responsibility for their previous actions and explain why they are not a risk to the landlord or others. Speaking with parole officers, counselors, and class instructors can provide insight into whether the offender is truly repentant and turning their life in a different direction.

          Another section of the Memo reminds housing providers that research into criminal history shows that if a prior offender has not committed new crimes within the past six or seven years, the risk of new offenses is like that of a person with no criminal history. However, the Memo does continue to allow the denial of applicants with criminal history if that history includes crimes for the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs (possession is a different story), many violent crimes, and sex offenses.

          I once rented to a family where the dad had a history of methamphetamine use. He was three years clean and sober when he came to us. In his written explanation he accepted full responsibility for his crimes. He provided his certificates of completion for rehab, allowed me to speak to his drug treatment counselor, his parole officer, and his ex-wife. They all vouched for his changed life. His ex-wife told me in no uncertain terms that if he were still using, her children would not be in his house; his current partner said the same thing. He had paid his fines, had a good job, good credit, and three years of positive, verifiable rental history. I made the decision to move forward with a double deposit, and it went well. Within a few years, he got his journeyman’s certification in welding and he and his family were able to buy their own home.

          Another great success story was a young lady whose methamphetamine addition had resulted in the loss of custody of her two children. She completed a one-year inpatient rehab program, graduated from Renters Rehab, and we placed her in a one-bedroom apartment (albeit with a double deposit and a co-signer to mitigate the risk). Within the year she was with us, she successfully paid her rent on time, kept to her lease, and regained custody of her daughters. She needed a bigger place and transitioned out. We were all so happy to be a part of helping her rebuild her life.

          The question often is, how long clean is long enough? Hard to say. I think one year clean is a good start, along with having complied with the conditions of release. Less than that, or hit-and-miss compliance, and I would have misgivings, but I would call or email the Fair Housing Council of Oregon before deciding to see what they think (www.fhco.org).

          In Oregon screening law, you may not consider drug-related convictions based solely on the use or possession of marijuana. When evaluating an applicant, you may not consider the possession of a medical marijuana card or status as a medical marijuana patient when deciding about the suitability of an applicant. Affordable housing providers subject to federal laws prohibiting the use or possession of marijuana (including medical marijuana) by residents on the premises may continue to enforce those rules with their residents.

          So, taking all of this information into account, your criminal history guidelines might look something like this:

          1. No criminal history or one or two minor violations such as traffic, one DUII, parking ticket, wildlife violation – Applicant meets criteria.
          2. Moderate criminal – repeat DUII, major load of parking or traffic violations, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, contempt of court, marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of other drugs - $500 increased deposit, or qualified co-signer along with satisfactory letter of explanation and other supporting information or references to demonstrate rehabilitation.
          3. Major criminal – harassment, assault, theft, ID theft, burglary, unauthorized use of motor vehicle, unauthorized possession of firearm. $1000 increased deposit, double deposit, or qualified co-signer along with satisfactory letter of explanation and other supporting information or references to demonstrate rehabilitation.
          4. Drug manufacturing, arson, patterns or history of violent crimes, sex offenses, and crimes of ID theft or forgery – automatic denial.

          A co-signer is someone, usually a relative or close friend, who agrees to be financially liable for damages or defaults related to the tenancy. Co-signers are most often used with young people setting out on their own who have no history to evaluate but can be used in lieu of a higher deposit if you’re willing.

          If you do decide to accept a co-signer, you need to have criteria for them too. Use Co-Signer Application – ORHA form #52A. It provides a good basis for qualification and allows you to fill in the multiplier regarding the amount of income you will require. If the Co-Signer meets your criteria, you will execute Co-Signer Agreement – ORHA form #52. Sometimes with groups of students renting for the first time we would have some who had co-signers and some who didn’t. We had to establish something fair and reasonable, so we came to the standard that each person needed to provide either a $500 increased security deposit or a qualified co-signer.

          Special Circumstances - Reasonable Accommodation (RA)
          When a person who was once addicted to drugs or alcohol stops using and becomes sober, they are considered to have been disabled during the addiction period and should not be held responsible for their actions while using. The same is true for untreated mental illness that is now under control. It can also apply to victims of domestic violence.

          In cases like this, you may deny an applicant for some poor history or credit, only to have them respond with a reasonable accommodation request and verification to discount that part of their history during the time they were disabled or victimized. Like any reasonable accommodation request you are required to consider it. At a minimum, it can mean overlooking some minor lease violations, but at it’s extreme, you could be required to overlook quite a lot. An applicant may apply with RA paperwork in hand, prepared to make their request at the time of application or bring a request after application denial. In this case, you must consider the request and if you are provided with appropriate verification of the disability or history of domestic violence, you must consider discounting the negative history. The applicant must be under the care of the person verifying the disability-related need, and the verifier must have direct knowledge of the disability or victimization. You can get a good idea of how that process works by looking up the publication, Moving Forward with a Past. It’s a guide for residents with some amount of poor history that takes them through how to apply for a reasonable accommodation and how to write letters of explanation.

          I once denied an applicant who had poor credit, negative rental history, and an eviction on his record that was a couple years old, but a few days later received a reasonable accommodation request and verification from his counselor letting us know that during the three-year span where the credit problems, eviction and poor rental history accumulated, he had been a victim of domestic violence by his intimate partner. According to his counselor, he didn’t know that he had been legally evicted, or that his partner had racked up substantial debt in both their names or that he owed money to a prior landlord. We discounted that part of his history, but still charged him a higher deposit because he didn’t meet our income requirement. The original property he had applied for had been leased to someone else, but we found another comparable unit and moved forward.

          Victims of domestic violence are often not aware of their rights at the time the abuse is happening and sometimes lack the ability to assert any rights they are aware of, so the law takes a compassionate approach that allows victims who become aware of their rights once they are out of the abusive relationship, to ask a prospective landlord to overlook some or all of the poor history.

          Addressing issues of disability through the RA process in screening is walking a fine line. I once had three people apply for a unit who had been clean and sober for one month. That didn’t seem reasonable to me, considering their extensive criminal history with methamphetamine. In another case, a friend of mine managed an apartment complex where a mentally ill resident had twice set his unit on fire while off his meds, but now was back on his meds and receiving treatment. The manager was evicting him for the behavior, but his counselor wanted to use the RA process to stop the eviction. The manager declined and the resident and his counselor chose not to fight it. What would have happened if a complaint had been filed? I don’t know, but in cases like these it’s important to document the reasoning and if you have any questions, contact FHCO. They can provide guidance.

          Inability to verify information
          If, after making a good faith effort, we are unable to verify information on your application, or if you fail to pass any of the screening criteria, the application process will be terminated.

          The law is very clear that if you are unable to verify the information provided by the applicant, that you are not obligated to rent to them. There can, however, be reasons that some part of an applicant’s history is unavailable such as the death of the landlord. Be sure to check on that, though. I did once have an applicant tell me his landlord was dead, only to find out that he was very much alive and was owed more than $5000 by the tenant for the damage done to the home. Google is very helpful in discovering whether someone is still with us.

          Every day a property sits empty, is a day with no rent. It’s reasonable to work an application for a couple of days, and let the applicant know if one or more of their references is not responding, but at some point, you need to move on. Just make sure you can document your efforts to reach the person in case the applicant thinks you just went through the motions to deny them for some other reason.

          All applicants may submit a written explanation with their applications if there are extenuating circumstances which require additional consideration.

          In any case of deficient credit or criminal history it’s important to require a written explanation. I always advise applicants to go belly up, be honest about what happened and why, and tell me why I can trust that whatever happened won’t happen again. It’s a bad sign if the applicant won’t take responsibility, they deflect blame onto others, they demonstrate that they don’t really understand what they did to create or contribute to the problem, or if they can’t articulate the measures they have taken to ensure the behavior won’t be repeated.

          False or inaccurate information
          Falsification or misrepresentation of any part of the application will be grounds for denial.

          This statement speaks for itself but do overlook unintentional errors that the applicant can explain. Some applicants may have a disability that impacts their memory. Sometimes, for example, dates may not match up perfectly based on what the applicant reports and what the reference reports, and may or may not be cause for concern.

          Portland screening rules
          In the city of Portland, city regulations restrict many areas of screening. To read the full outline, click here. ORHA has created Portland screening forms that are available on the forms store site.

          If you own a property in the city of Eugene, you need to be aware that the Renter Protection Committee is working to adopt some of the Portland rules and the city council will be voting on those soon so stay tuned.

          Best practices
          Screen the applicants and screen them fully. Just because someone fills out an application, doesn’t mean they were truthful. Credit reporting laws changed in 2018, and now civil judgments like evictions or small claims money awards are not showing up on credit reports. Best to hire a screening company at least to pull the eviction and civil/criminal history to be sure it’s accurate. If you hit a piece of information that you would likely deny for, don’t stop there, perform the full screening.

          Ask the right questions. What were the dates of tenancy? Rent amount? Did they pay rent on time? Did they take care of the interior and exterior of the property? Were there any complaints related to the tenancy, or did you have to serve them any notices for noncompliance? Did you ask them to move, or did they initiate the move? Did they get any refund? Do they owe money? If so, have they made payment arrangements? Would you re-rent?

          Verify the references. Applicants can set up false references, so take a few minutes to verify that you are speaking to the right person. Property ownership is a matter of public record. Before you call that landlord reference, take a few minutes to look up the owner of record either on the county website in question, or by calling that county’s records department and asking. Same with employment. Don’t just call whatever number you are given and take their word. Call the local or regional office and get copies of pay stubs or tax returns.

          Watch for fraud. I once had a man rent a property, and everything checked out. He provided paystubs and a solid employment reference. He didn’t have rental history as he was new to the US, so we moved forward with a double deposit. A short time later, a friend of his applied for another of our available rentals. He provided similar documentation and we moved forward. The new tenant exhibited some odd behavior that the neighbors reported to the owner, and she started digging further. Turns out the address on the paystubs of both men did not exist. They had created false paystubs and had used virtually the same fake company to verify their employment. We terminated both tenancies without cause and never did find out what they were up to, but they were also on the police department’s radar. The lesson there was to verify everything, even if it looks legit.

          Don’t be pressured. One of the most obvious things an applicant can do that should cause you concern is when they pressure you, say they’re in a hurry, have all the money, can pay six months’ rent in advance, anything to get you to just take their money and give them the property. No matter how tight your financial situation, I can promise you that it will blow up in your face. Don’t take shortcuts, ever, in the screening process.

          Statute of Limitations
          Keep denied apps or apps that for whatever reason did not result in a tenancy for a minimum of two years. Keep tenant apps for at least two years after the termination of tenancy.

          The Takeaway
          Screening will often require some sort of judgment call by the screener in relation to an applicant not quite meeting criterion. Just make sure your decisions are based on an objective measure of risk, not membership in a protected class. Watch out for your internal prejudices and stick to your formula. Jot down notes regarding any negative determinations in case you are investigated for discrimination. Having written guidelines and processes for approval and denial will help you keep your objectivity during the screening process. It will also provide something that could help you justify your decision-making process if you are accused of discrimination.

          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.

        3. Wednesday, December 08, 2021 10:04 AM | Maria Menguita (Administrator)

          By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
          December 14, 2022

          If you have a decent rental property and responsible residents, there’s no easier job in the world than being a housing provider, and proper screening will help you identify those responsible residents. Applicant screening is an invaluable risk assessment tool and a crucial part of your success in rental management. You are handing an asset of great value over to a virtual stranger (in most cases), so it’s essential that you assess the applicant’s ability to stick with the agreement, pay the rent, take care of the asset, and be a good neighbor. That’s all that matters – not the type of job they have or where they rent comes from, not whether they’re married or not, not whether they are from a different culture or religion, and not whether they have children. On paper, the only things that matter are income, rental history, credit history and criminal history. In person, demeanor is also important. An aggressive or bullying demeanor during the screening process is a preview of things to come and may be a reason for denial depending on the circumstances.

          Underlying all aspects of housing is Fair Housing Law. Be careful to apply screening criteria equally to all applicants, without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and remember that you can’t discriminate against applicants because they are or have been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. There may be additional protected classes in your local area. In Eugene, for example, there are also protections for age, type of occupation, ethnicity, and domestic partnership.

          Due to the COVID pandemic, housing providers need to be aware of additional screening restrictions enacted under Senate Bill 282, that while temporary, will impact how we screen through January 2, 2028. Regardless of the reason, housing providers are not allowed to consider eviction judgments rendered or cases pending during the Protected Period (April 1, 2020 – February 28, 2022). Housing providers are also prohibited from denying applicants based on debt owing from a prior tenancy that accrued during the Protected Period. These restrictions apply to any applicant through January 2, 2028.

          While an eviction judgment rendered during the Protected Period cannot be used to screen out applicants, the reasons for the eviction may be relevant, as will any negative rental history arising from the tenancy (unrelated to nonpayment during the Protected Period). So, an eviction action that came about due the applicant’s noncompliance with the rental agreement is relevant, but only as it relates to the behavior of the applicant as communicated to you by the reference. If you are the one providing a rental reference for a prior renter who was evicted or owes debt from the Protected Period, proceed with caution. If asked whether the tenant left owing money, if it relates to debt incurred before or after the Protected Period, it’s okay to say that. If the resident owes money from the Protected Period, they are not considered to be in default until February 28, 2022, and even if they don’t pay in full or make payment arrangements by then, the debt may not be held against them for this five-year period. Challenging, eh?

          In summary, while debt incurred during the Protected Period itself cannot be grounds for denial, the reason for the debt might be. For example, the reference informs you that the applicant left their property in a terrible mess or severely damaged – that’s relevant, but not the money owing. In another example, if the debt is all related to nonpayment of rent during the Protected Period, then it can’t be used as a basis for denial.

          While the provisions of Senate Bill 282 have a sunset date, SB 291 passed last session, making a few permanent changes to screening law, and our screening forms have been changed accordingly. Most of the changes are best practices that professional managers have been compliant with for many years. Beginning January 1, 2022, to assess a screening charge to an applicant, the amount of any applicant screening charge must not be greater than the landlord’s average actual cost of screening applicants or the customary amount charged by tenant screening companies or consumer credit reporting agencies for a comparable level of screening. Actual costs may include the cost of using a tenant screening company or a consumer credit reporting agency, and the reasonable value of any time spent by the landlord or the landlord’s agents in otherwise obtaining information on applicants.

          Additionally, the landlord must include written notice to the applicant of the following:

          1. A right to appeal a negative determination, if any right to appeal exists;
          2. Any nondiscrimination policy as required by federal, state or local law plus any non-discrimination policy of the landlord, including that a landlord may not discriminate against an applicant because of the race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, familial status or source of income of the applicant;
          3. The amount of rent the landlord will charge and the deposits the landlord will require, subject to change in the rent or deposits by agreement of the landlord and the tenant before entering into a rental agreement; and
          4. Whether the landlord requires tenants to obtain and maintain renter’s liability insurance and, if so, the amount of insurance required.

          A more significant change found within Senate Bill 291 is the requirement of individualized assessments related to denials based on criminal history, which closely mirrors HUD’s guidance when considering an applicant’s criminal history. Housing providers must now seek and allow an opportunity for the applicant to submit supplemental evidence to explain, justify or negate the relevance of potentially negative information that may result in a criminal denial. Further, landlords must also conduct an individualized assessment of the applicant that includes reviewing any supplemental evidence before denying an applicant based upon their criminal-screening results. That individualized assessment must consider factors, including:

          1. The nature and severity of the incidents that would lead to a denial;
          2. The number and type of incidents;
          3. The time that has elapsed since the date the incidents occurred; and
          4. The age of the individual at the time the incidents occurred.

          Another significant change is that you must now provide a written statement of denial within 14 days of the denial regardless of whether you assess a screening charge. That’s a big change for folks like me who do not charge for screening.

          Some of the biggest problems landlords create for themselves usually result from shortcutting the screening process. Some basic rules: only accept completed applications; require that all lines on the application be filled in, even if it’s just an N/A because there is no information; when multiple parties are applying together, establish a policy that the applications will not be considered complete until the last one has been received; and perhaps the most important basic rule, do not pre-screen. Housing providers often get into trouble trying to weed out unqualified applicants. Provide an application to all who inquire, even if at first contact it appears that they may not qualify. Use our new combined four-page Application to Rent - ORHA form S1, now available on the forms store. The packet now consists of our Application Screening Guidelines (it’s important to let applicants know your screening criteria), as well as a separate Release of Information to make it easier to send the request without compromising applicants’ privacy.

          When talking with applicants, absolutely don’t ask illegal questions such as their line of work, whether they have children, or about their religion, marital status, or ethnicity. What can begin as a friendly attempt to get to know a potential renter can head right to a discrimination complaint on a dime. Plan your communications: if someone asks a leading question, just say something like, “I do not discriminate based on any protected class. Would you like an application?” To help you avoid discrimination claims, note on the application the date and time received, and screen applications in the order received. This is now a requirement in Portland, and the city of Eugene will likely be following suit very soon, but not the state, yet. It’s just a best practice that can help you stay out of trouble. Check each application thoroughly to make sure each question has been answered yes or no. If an applicant answers a question regarding criminal history in the negative and within one year the landlord discovers they lied about that, the tenant may be evicted on a 24-hour Notice for Harm. That won’t happen to you though because you will check their history, right?

          It’s understandable that we would like a clear path to approval or denial, but most of life is not black and white, and in screening there’s a lot of gray. Establishing reasonable criteria, evaluating an applicant’s suitability, and having clearly defined processes for approval and denial will help you stay on track. You must also know the law in Oregon.

          Required Disclosures:
          You must disclose the following, in writing, to any applicant before taking any payments:

          1. Terms of tenancy – Periodic (month-to-month, week-to-week) or fixed-term?
          2. Rent amount – Subject to change prior to entering into a rental agreement.
          3. Required Deposits – Which can be increased for an applicant’s failure to meet criteria.
          4. Due date for rent.
          5. Renter's insurance requirement – You may require tenants to obtain renter’s insurance if their combined household income is above 50% of the HUD median for that area. Visit www.hud.gov to determine what the income threshold is for the county where the unit is located. The requirement must be disclosed in writing during the application process, and you must also summarize the instances when it would not be legal to require it. You may require tenants to name you as an Interested Party (not an Additional Insured) on the policy for the purposes of notification of the resident’s failure to maintain the policy, reduction in coverage, or removal of your status as an interested party, and may also require that residents maintain a minimum of $100,000 in liability coverage as part of that policy. Requiring renter’s insurance when it would be illegal to do so may incur a penalty of the tenant’s actual damages or $250, whichever is greater.
          6. Fees to be charged at the beginning, end or during the tenancy. This includes late fees, NSF fees, noncompliance fees and statutory fees such as smoke/CO alarm tampering fees.
          7. Legal action – You must disclose if the property has entered foreclosure due to default under a trust deed, mortgage or contract of sale, or notice of trustee's sale under trust deed, including any pending suit to foreclose a mortgage, trust deed or vendor's lien under a contract of sale or any pending declaration of forfeiture or suit for specific performance of a contract of sale, or any pending proceeding to foreclose a tax lien – Use Foreclosure/Default Addendum - ORHA form #58. The penalty for non-disclosure: If the resident moves because of foreclosure actions that you failed to disclose, the penalty is twice the actual damages or twice the monthly rent, whichever is greater, in addition to all prepaid rent. Should the property enter legal action as described above at any time during the tenancy, the residents may, with written notice, request that any security deposits or prepaid rents be applied to their current rent or payment obligations. If the property is retrieved from legal action, you must provide proof of such to the residents and may require repayment of those funds but must give them up to three months to pay.
          8. Utility or services for which tenant pays that benefit another - If, as part of renting a unit, the tenant will be absorbing the cost of something that benefits the landlord or another tenant, such as common area lighting or yard care, it must be disclosed in writing at or before the commencement of tenancy. If you will be charging a utility fee to your residents, proceed with caution. Housing providers must disclose and do many specific things, such as the method of apportionment (square footage or number of bedrooms) and provide copies of bills upon request. There’s a lot more to charging utility fees, read and re-read ORS 90.315 Failure to disclose utilities or services that benefit another or improperly assessing utility fees incurs a landlord penalty of one month's rent or twice the amount wrongfully charged, whichever is greater. This penalty has been assessed by the courts for every month during which the housing provider was out of compliance, going back one full year, yikes!

          Prohibited considerations in screening

          1. Dismissed evictions.
          2. Eviction judgments more than five years old (remember now, this includes any eviction judgment rendered during the Protected Period).
          3. Arrests that did not result in a conviction, unless there are pending criminal charges for which the applicant would be denied, if convicted.

          Should you charge a screening fee and if so, how much?
          For my business before these changes, I chose to not charge a screening fee, but I only have four units, so it’s not very impactful on my budget to absorb that cost. I’m also very busy and there are a lot of things you must remember to do if you accept a fee, and if you mess up, the penalty is double refund of the fee, plus $150. Now that the screening requirements have changed in a way that removes the ‘advantage’ of not collecting a screening charge, we may want to reconsider this approach. If you want to pass on the costs of screening to the applicants, you must provide the following information to each applicant:

          1. Written screening criteria – use your own or use our Application Screening Guidelines contained in our Application to Rent packet – ORHA form S1.
          2. You must have an available unit or one that will be available soon and disclose how many units of that type you have are available or will be available.
          3. The number of applications in line ahead of theirs.
          4. The procedures once approved must be disclosed, outlining the steps the applicants must take if they are approved.

          Additionally, you must provide a receipt for the fee - use Application Screening Charge Receipt - ORHA form #42, and you must perform the screening or must return the fee. The charge to the applicant must represent the actual costs of the time and expense for conducting the review and cannot exceed the amount customary to the local area. Most screening services charge between $40-$50. Now that evictions and civil judgments won’t be showing up on credit reports due to a credit reporting law change, it can be a good idea to use a good screening company.

          If you charge a fee and deny an applicant or want to conditionally approve an applicant who doesn’t quite meet your criteria with a higher deposit or co-signer, you must disclose the reasons in writing separately to each applicant and give them the opportunity to challenge the denial or adverse action. Use Application Denial and Adverse Action Letter – ORHA form #43.

          Remember, credit reports are not always correct. I’ve had people show up as registered sex offenders only to find out it wasn’t them, but someone with the same name. They provided evidence that it was an error, and we were able to reopen their application, and in many cases, enter into a rental agreement. If a denied applicant successfully proves that the reason for denial was incorrect, and you reopen it, they don’t get to jump the line. Their application will go to the end of the line or if you have another available unit that meets their needs, you can place their application in line there. An applicant can also challenge an adverse action by providing evidence that the alleged deficiency is not correct in some fashion.

          What are your screening criteria, and how do you apply them during the screening process?
          Do you require household income of two times the monthly rent or three? Do you allow applicants to combine income for the purposes of meeting income criteria or must they qualify individually? What about debt-to-income ratio? How many years of verifiable rental history do you require? One year? Two? Three? What about someone who has none? How will you evaluate an applicant’s creditworthiness? What types of credit problems would disqualify an applicant? What about bankruptcy? What types of criminal convictions would disqualify an applicant?

          There’s a lot to screening and many aspects of the process that need to be done just right to avoid claims of discrimination. To keep yourself on track, you should develop your own risk assessment tool. I suggest that you write up and use a document to help guide you through the decision-making process and regardless of whether you assess a screening charge, provide the tenants with Application Screening Guidelines – ORHA form #45. The language below in italics is taken directly from that form.

          Income/Resources Criteria
          Household income shall be at least ______ times the rent (excluding utilities). Income must be verifiable through pay stubs or employer contact; award letters for Social Security, alimony, child support, welfare, utility or housing assistance; current tax records; or bank statements.

          Many property management companies will allow applicants to combine income if they have shared housing for a year or more to avoid discriminating against applicants based on marital status. It’s standard to require gross household income be three times the monthly rent or higher, but with rents increasing faster than wages, some like myself are only requiring 2-1/2 times the monthly rent. But what if you have a person with a very high income, but also a high debt-to-income (DTI) ratio? To calculate that ratio, simply take the total debt figure and divide it by the total income. For instance, if the debt costs $2,000 per month and the monthly income equals $6,000, the DTI is $2,000 ÷ $6,000, or 33 percent. In the world of mortgage lending, most lenders want to see no more than 30% debt-to-income ratio. Anything above that constitutes a higher risk in the world of lending, which I think can be extrapolated to our business as well.

          Taking into consideration the amount of rent vs the amount of debt and income and your internal guidelines might look something like this:

          1. Meets criteria or has only a minor lack of income, $100 or less short, good DTI. Applicant meets criteria.
          2. Some lack of income – 2-1/2 times rent/income ratio, good DTI - $500 increased deposit or qualified co-signer.
          3. Moderate lack of income – 2 times rent/income ratio or marginal DTI - $1000 increased deposit, double deposit, or qualified co-signer.
          4. Major lack of income/poor DTI – less than 2 times rent/income ratio, high DTI, some income not claimed or documented – additional $1500 security deposit or qualified co-signer.
          5. No provable income - automatic denial.

          continued to Part 2 of this article

        4. Tuesday, December 07, 2021 12:53 PM | Maria Menguita (Administrator)

          By: Tia Politi, ORHA President
          January 1st, 2022

          Hope everyone had a Happy Holiday season!

          Our legislative team has been hard at work fighting for your rights. Our new Legislative Director, Jason Miller, really stepped in it when he was voted into this position. He came on just as COVID was in full swing and along with Lobbyist Shawn Miller has been drinking from the fire hose so to speak. For those of us on the Legislative and Rapid Response committees, his commitment has been outstanding. Shawn has also been working for us harder than ever, meeting with legislators and negotiating the best outcomes within the framework of a triple Democrat majority in Salem. They are on the front lines and need your support, both in terms of donations to the ORH Key PAC and in terms of your time. If you want to see what happens behind the scenes, get involved in this committee. There are opportunities to participate in work groups and hearings beyond just sending in messages to your legislators (which we very much appreciate). Contact Jason if you would like to join in or volunteer – orhalegislative@gmail.com

          We are heading into one of the most exciting races for Governor this year and we will continue to advocate for candidates who support our efforts to provide housing to citizens of our great state, with the minimum level of restriction and interference. Fortunately, with COVID at the front of legislators’ concerns, we had few permanent changes in landlord-tenant law in the 2021 long session. Read my article "Tenant Screening – Senate Bill 282, Senate Bill 291, and Best Practices in Screening" for a full run down on how the changes impact our business, and how to use proper (and legal) applicant screening to keep your business profitable.

          Due to these changes, we have revamped our forms, and unfortunately, have had to discontinue offering our Application to Rent for free on the Forms Store site. We are always working to help our base of private housing providers stay out of trouble and with the changes to screening law, we felt that an application by itself would not be enough to keep folks compliant with the new laws. Thank you to Technology Chair Cloud Miller, who took our Application and combined it with our updated Application Screening Guidelines form and created a new Information Release form to create a 4-page packet that ensures our members stay in line with the updates to screening law. The new packets are available now.

          And of course, thank you to all of you who continue to do your part to support us and our members throughout the state. Let’s keep it that way - stay involved, let your voices be heard, and let’s hope this New Year is happier than the last two have been!

        © 2015-2023 Oregon Rental Housing Association - All Rights Reserved
        PO Box 20862, Keizer, OR 97307
        Contact ORHA (click here)
        ORHA Support Team: support@oregonrentalhousing.com
        ORHA Office: 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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