City of Portland Proposal

Categories: Tenant Screening

Tags: criminal history

By: Max Petkevicius

As many of our clients who own and manage property within the city of Portland know, there is a new policy being proposed that would limit the ways landlords can use criteria such as criminal history, income, and previous negative rental history as a means to deny applicants. This proposal is set for final consideration by the Portland Housing Bureau’s Rental Services Commission on November 20th.

The proposal’s objective is to provide more housing options for individuals with low income, criminal records or negative rental history. While, in theory, the objective is admirable, we believe it will have severely negative effects on landlords and the overall well-being of the communities they oversee.

According to this proposal landlords will have to consider applicants with a household income of two times the rent amount, depending on how utilities are charged, rather than the industry standard of three times. An applicant will not be automatically denied for debt owed to a previous property or landlord if it is under $500. If an applicant has an eviction from over three years ago, that could not be used as grounds for a denial.
Possibly the most alarming bit of this proposal is the limits it would place on landlord’s ability to use criminal records as grounds for denial. Any criminal conviction with a release date of older than a year could not be considered an automatic denial. When criminal activity becomes a threat within a community, it is not just the landlord who is affected but the community as a whole. The safety and well-being of the neighbors comes into question if a potential renter’s criminal background cannot be considered in the screening process.

Limiting the screening criteria for criminal charges is the biggest threat to a community’s safety, but the limits this proposal puts on using negative rental history as grounds for denial cannot be overlooked. Rental references give us an insight into how an applicant was as a renter, and not just if they paid late, but if they had trouble with neighbors, caused damage to the property, and if there were any other general problems that do not show up on a credit report. Using negative rental history as grounds for denial is yet another crucial element of the screening process that will be limited by this proposal.

Many of our clients have already voiced concerns about this proposal and, they are not the only ones. Fair housing organizations within Portland have voiced concern to the city about this proposal: in an effort to create more housing, this proposal could in fact do the opposite. More and more independent landlords could be looking to sell their properties because of their concerns about their ability to properly screen tenants. This could, in turn, lead to fewer rental properties being available because any potential buyer is not guaranteed to continue to rent out the property.
As a screening company, this will directly affect how we operate for our clients with property in the city of Portland. We want to continue to help our clients find the best possible renters and this proposal will limit our ability to do so. We encourage our clients to voice any concerns to City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly who is the person in charge of this proposal.

Chloe Eudaly’s contact information can be found here:
https://www.portlandoregon.gov/eudaly/

The original proposal before rewrites can be viewed here:
http://media.oregonlive.com/opinion_impact/other/2018/09/16/Screening%20Criteria%20Framework-DRAFT%2017.pdf

Some additional articles found regarding the proposal:
https://www.wweek.com/news/city/2018/09/19/some-of-portlands-affordable-housing-developers-are-rebelling-against-proposed-tenant-protections/

https://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/09/editorial_eudalys_proposed_ten.html

DISCLAIMER: READ CAREFULLY: The information provided in this article is not considered legal advice and is given only for information purposes. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR LEGAL COUNSEL.