Landlord Evictions on the North Coast of Oregon
In Oregon, evictions by residential landlords are largely governed by Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 90, also known as the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, as well as Oregon caselaw decided by the Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court. ORS 90 is a statutory scheme which lays out the rights and responsibilities of residential landlords and tenants. The statutes in ORS 105.105 – 168 lay the eviction process for residential landlords and tenants, as well as other situations.
In certain communities, there may be additional laws--e.g., a landlord or property manager seeking to evict a tenant in Portland should check Portland law and Multnomah County law. Special situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic may significantly modify the laws which normally apply to evictions.
In addition to Oregon statutes and caselaw, if there is a written residential lease, that lease serves as the contract between the landlord or property manager and the tenant(s). Depending on whether the written residential lease is based on valid forms vetted for compliance with Oregon law, the lease may provide the landlord or property manager with additional tools and guidance for handling difficult tenant situations. Simply having a clause in a residential lease signed by both the landlord or property manager and tenant does not mean that the clause is valid—there may be occasions where a clause is found to be invalid by a court, particularly if the clause is deemed to overreach and violate a tenant’s rights.
Generally, every eviction case must go through an Oregon court unless the parties involved in an eviction are able to resolve their dispute out of court. Additionally, each eviction case consist of three basic steps: First, the landlord or property manager must properly serve the tenant(s) with a valid notice; second, the applicable notice period must expire; and third, then the landlord or property manager must properly file an eviction case with the appropriate court and serve the tenant(s) with the eviction lawsuit.
Eviction notices fall into two categories: First, a so-called “no-cause eviction notice” is an eviction notice where the landlord or property manager does not have to articulate a reason for the eviction; second, a so-called “for-cause notice” is an eviction notice where the landlord or property manager does have to articulate a reason for the eviction, and usually the tenant(s) have the opportunity to cure the alleged violation. In Oregon, no-cause notices are strictly limited by law, and after the first year of the tenancy, no-cause notices are available not available except in specific circumstances.
Generally, an Oregon residential landlord or property manager may not engage in self-help. “Self-help” refers to such situations as when a landlord or property manager forcibly removes tenants or their personal property without legal authorization from the court. Removal of residential tenants is a highly regulated and controlled process in Oregon, with potentially severe consequences for landlords or property managers who violates the law. This is true even if it is clear that a tenant is engaging in criminal activity or other disruptive or destructive behavior.
If an Oregon residential landlord or property manager and a tenant reach an agreement while an eviction case is pending, they may enter an agreement and file the agreement with the court. The parties may enter an order or stipulated judgment under ORS 105.145, and if either party fails to comply, then the aggrieved party can then quickly return to court to have the court intervene and help. Generally, a residential landlord or property manager way wish to consider such an agreement where a tenant is generally cooperative but needs additional time to move out.
A “judgment of restitution” is a legal document issued by a court which finds that a landlord or property manager has the legal right to regain physical possession of the rental property. A judgment of restitution is issued at the conclusion of an eviction case—up until a judgment of restitution is issued, a landlord or property manager generally is legally prohibited from attempting to retake physical possession of the property.
If a judgment of restitution is issued by a court, and a tenant still refuses to vacate the rental property, then a landlord or property manager must go back to court and obtain a “writ of execution” from a judge. A writ of execution is a judge’s authorization which allows a landlord or property manager to work with the local sheriff’s office to forcibly remove a tenant who refuses to honor a judgment of restitution. If a landlord or property manager obtains a writ of execution, they will then need to coordinate with the local sheriff’s office to arrange a date and timeframe for the sheriff’s office to send sheriff’s deputies to assist with forcible removal of a tenant.
If a tenant leaves behind personal property, a landlord or property manager generally may not simply discard the tenant’s personal property—doing so may result in a legal claim and damages being sought and awarded against the landlord or property manager. A landlord or property manager who is dealing with personal property which has been left behind by a tenant is legally required to provide the tenant with an abandoned property notice. The process of providing a tenant with an abandoned property notice consists of first drafting a property abandoned property notice, then properly serving the notice on the tenant, and finally following the statutory procedure depending on whether the tenant cooperates.
When dealing with abandoned property, landlords and property managers are well advised to bear in mind the saying that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The condition of the rental property, including personal property, should be carefully documented, even if the landlord or property manager strongly believes a tenant simply left behind “junk.” Careful documentation of the condition of the rental property, including pictures and video, will help ensure that the landlord or property manager can defend against any frivolous claims a tenant may later bring, as well as help identify potentially valuable personal property which the landlord or property manager may need to work with the tenant to recover.
On the north coast of Oregon, residential landlord-tenant disputes in Clatsop County are formally decided by the Clatsop County Circuit Court in Astoria, and residential landlord-tenant disputes in Tillamook County are formally decided by the Tillamook County Circuit Court in Tillamook.
If you are a landlord or property manager and have questions about landlord-tenant issues on the north coast of Oregon, please contact Coast Land Law for a consultation about how you can best protect your rights. We have worked professional landlords who own large, multi-unit developments, as well as smaller mom-and-pop landlords. We work with clients who own or manage rental properties in Clatsop and Tillamook Counties.