The Difficulties of Ending a Residential Lease in Oregon

This is an incredibly difficult time in Oregon for tenants and landlords.  The combination of pandemic-related moratoria and other housing crisis laws makes it hard to move forward when it is time to end a particular leasing relationship.  For non-professional landlords without experienced property managers and attorneys, properly ending a lease is just about impossible.  Although hiring an attorney is an expense most landlords would prefer to avoid, this just is not an area where the inexperienced should go it alone.  Mistakes in the content or service of the termination notice can result in monetary penalties, having to pay the tenant’s attorney fees, and having to start the termination process all over again.  It is especially hard for Portland landlords, as the city has comprehensive landlord-tenant rules with enhanced protections for tenants.

Tenant-Cause Terminations

Once a landlord does hire an attorney, the next step will be to determine the appropriate path to properly terminate the lease.  These broadly break out into two categories: tenant-cause and landlord-cause.  Tenant-cause terminations include obvious situations like non-payment of rent or extreme and outrageous conduct (e.g., serious criminal activity).  But this also includes other breaches of the lease agreement or tenant duties under law, such as allowing unauthorized guests to reside at the property or significantly bothering neighbors.  In most situations, tenants must be afforded an opportunity and a set time period to correct the problem after receiving a termination notice. If the tenant fails to correct the problem within the proper timeframe, then the lease ends as of the end date and time stated in the notice (and the landlord can then file an eviction if the tenant stays past the end date).  If the tenant does correct the problem, the lease does not end.

The rules around for-cause notices are complicated and tricky, every situation is different, and the foregoing is just basic overview.  Landlords should hire an experienced attorney before issuing any such notice.

Landlord-Cause Terminations

Landlord-cause notices, on the other hand, have nothing to do with the tenant’s conduct.  These are also known as “qualifying landlord reason” notices.  Under state-wide law, once a tenant has lived in a unit for more than one year, the landlord can no longer issue a “no cause” termination notice but instead may only issue a notice based on a “qualifying landlord reason,” such as the landlord or the landlord’s immediately family member moving back into the unit, the landlord having already entered a sale agreement with a buyer who intends to live at the property, or the landlord making major renovations.  In Portland, these rules apply at all times, not only after the first year of occupancy.  Landlords issuing a qualifying landlord reason notice must explain, in detail, the facts supporting the termination and, unless an exemption applies, pay relocation assistance to the tenant.

Like for-cause notices, qualifying landlord reason notices should be prepared by an attorney who regularly handles landlord-tenant matters.  There are complicated state and local laws that govern these notices, each situation is different, and there are just too many ways for landlords to make a mistake.

The Eviction Process

Once a proper termination notice is served on the tenant, the next step for many landlords is, unfortunately, the eviction process.  Given the difficulty tenants often have in finding new housing, many landlords learn that the termination notice does not result in the tenant leaving at the stated date and time.  Instead, the landlord must then take the tenant to court by filing an eviction complaint and serving it along with a summons.  The court will then set a first appearance hearing, likely around a week to two weeks after the case is filed.  At that hearing, the parties must appear (show up in court).  The court will ask the parties to try to work out a settlement agreement, which, if possible, typically involves more time for the tenant to vacate or, in situations involving problematic tenant conduct, requires the tenant to refrain from that conduct or take other necessary steps.  If the parties cannot reach a settlement, the court will set a trial date to take place within the next few weeks.  Eviction cases are fast-tracked compared to other civil lawsuits, but landlords should still plan on the process to take at least 6 to 8 weeks, and sometimes longer.  If the trial occurs and the landlord prevails, the court will issue a restitution judgment.  It will then be up to the landlord to ultimately have that judgment enforced by the county sheriff if the tenant refuses to vacate.

Eviction proceedings are even more complicated than termination notices and should only be handled by experienced attorneys.

The foregoing is not legal advice and is not intended to be legal advice.  It is offered as general information only.  Merely by reading this blog post, you are not forming an attorney-client relationship with Southwest Portland Law Group, LLC or any of its attorneys.  Each situation is different and the information contained herein may not apply or may be materially incomplete depending on the facts and circumstances of a particular situation.  





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