Many tenants are struggling to pay their rent during the coronavirus crisis -- and that's without having to worry about that expense going up. But rent increases during this time could result in serious financial hardships, given the millions of Americans who are out of work or have seen their income take a hit.
One city is aiming to protect tenants from rent hikes during these troubling times. In Portland, Oregon, a new ruling states landlords must now pay their tenants' relocation costs if those tenants can't afford the rent increases they're imposing. This rule will apply to rent increases issued through Mar. 31, 2021, and puts landlords on the hook for between $2,900 and $4,500 to allow tenants to move. Furthermore, this rule could be extended past March 2021, depending on how circumstances shake out.
A blow to landlords
This new Portland ruling may be designed to protect tenants, but landlords sure aren't happy about it. Portland landlords will be required to give tenants a minimum of 90 days' notice if they plan to increase their rent. From there, tenants can provide written notice that they require assistance, and landlords could then be liable to pick up the tab for their relocation costs.
Of course, the goal here is not to hurt landlords but help ensure tenants don't fall victim to homelessness in the absence of a statewide eviction moratorium. But clearly, the new rule hurts landlords a lot -- especially mom-and-pop landlords without the resources larger property management companies have.
Should landlords nationwide be worried?
If landlords can be held liable for covering tenants' relocation costs in Portland, the same thing could technically happen anywhere. But this rule only applies to landlords imposing rent increases; it doesn't apply to landlords whose tenants opt not to renew their leases due to financial constraints.
Therefore, even if similar rulings are imposed in other cities, landlords can avoid the burden of paying to relocate tenants by simply keeping rent prices stable as the country continues to grapple with its ongoing recession.
Of course, some landlords may seek to increase rents to compensate for lost revenue over the past seven months. Many tenants have had no choice but to withhold rent during the coronavirus pandemic, and smaller landlords may be growing increasingly antsy. Increasing rents therefore may not be an act of cruelty so much as one of desperation.
Unfortunately, this recent Portland ruling is just one example of how landlord-tenant laws have a tendency to unfairly favor tenants. In fact, many landlords have been pleading for aid ever since the initial round of eviction bans was put into place at the start of the pandemic.
The Millionacres bottom line
While some landlords out there care only about their bottom line, the reality is that many of them are struggling to survive the same way their tenants are. Portland's new law is just another hurdle landlords will face in the near term, but the fear is that if more laws like it emerge, whether in relation to the pandemic or not, mom-and-pop landlords will be forced to give up their livelihood -- and tenants will be left to deal solely with larger property management firms that may not be as accommodating.