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Phase II renter protections focus of tonight's hearing before Eugene City Council

Apartment buildings.
Brandon Griggs
Apartment buildings.

More renter protections are on the agenda, as the Eugene City Council convenes tonight for a public hearing.

Last summer, the council approved what’s called Phase I protections. These included requiring landlords to provide rental histories, and itemizing and photo documenting property conditions at move-in and move-out.

Now Phase II protections are being reviewed. These include limiting security deposits to no more than twice the monthly rent, and requiring landlords to pay displacement assistance for legal, “no cause” evictions.

Tim Morris, executive director of the Springfield Eugene Tenant Association, said in Eugene alone, where just over half of tenants are “rent burdened”, the prevalence of no cause evictions is problematic. He told KLCC that 259 people contacted SETA last year because they were evicted without cause.

“We know that not everyone who receives a no cause eviction will reach out to us," he said. "And so this is a much more pervasive and obscure issue that is happening outside of everyone's purview, and without any oversight."

Morris said no cause evictions remove a tenant’s ability to have their day in court, and these are often direct paths to homelessness in Eugene.

“So we really want to be able to address a lot of the housing insecurities that people are having and reduce a significant amount of barriers to housing that people are facing,” he said.

SETA began tracking no cause evictions in 2020, but Morris adds this is the first year past the pandemic.

Morris backs the proposals in Phase II. He said another requirement will have landlords process applications in the order they’re submitted.

“This will prevent cherry picking, this will prevent landlords trying to seek specific demographics in their units such as only white people, or only people without children," he said. “It'll really provide a lot of equity and transparency in the application process.”

The Eugene City Council’s public hearing on Phase II renter protections is tonight at 5:30. The proposed ordinance can be found of the City’s website.

In a press release, the city said it’s engaged in a “multi-phase process to review and update the city’s Rental Housing Code program to include renter protections that aim to keep people housed, lessen the costs associated with rental housing, and stop discriminatory rental housing practices.”

While Phase I passed in July 2022, one of its regulations – a cap on screening fees – was struck down last month by a Lane County Circuit Court judge. The judge agreed with critics that state law allows landlords to charge for the actual cost of the background checks, and that superseded the city ordinance.

The city said it intends to appeal the circuit court decision, though a timetable for the case to be heard has not been set. In the meantime, the cap on screening fees will not be enforced.

©2023, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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