Thursday, August 6, 2020

Rentcafe: Almost 25% of Renters Now Think They Will Never Be Homeowners

Is owning a home and all the maintenance and upkeep required still the American dream? A recent survey by Rentcafe has found that nearly one-quarter of Americans aren't so sure. Millennials appear to be the generation most likely to want to buy. Read more. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Did You Know? The City of Portland Implemented Revised Administrative Rules for Tenant Screening and Security Deposits on July 29th.

The City of Portland's new screening and security deposit regulations took effect just five months ago on March 1, 2020.

Rental owners face a slew of proposed permanent changes that have taken effect already on an interim basis. It was July 29th when the Portland Housing Bureau released its interim rules--which became effective the same day.

The proposed permanent rules for applications and screenings, as well as security deposits, are available online. However, if you just want to read the interim rules, which are the same as the proposed permanent rules without the redlining to indicate the difference, you can find current rules for application and screenings here, and security deposits here.

Multifamily NW has posted a summary of these changes on its website which is reposted here.

Training: Multifamily NW will have webinar training on August 11th, 18th, and 20th (scroll to the bottom of this post for links to training information). 

Testimony on these changes is being accepted by the city through September 30th and information on how to submit that is included at the bottom of this post.

Fair Access in Renting (FAIR) Ordinance: New Interim Administrative Rules

On July 29, 2020, the City of Portland released new interim Administrative Rules, effective immediately upon release. The purpose of the interim Administrative Rules is to provide additional guidance and clarity as to the intent of the code and rule language. The guidance below impacts how Landlords manage applications and screening and security deposits under the FAIR Ordinance and are to be read in addition to the linked FAIR Ordinance Code Changes enacted by City Council on July 22, 2020. The Forms Committee has already directed the necessary changes to the Multifamily NW Forms Collection.

Applications and Screening


Clarification was provided in the following areas:

Advertising

  • Notice Requirements. When advertising, Landlords are required to make disclosures about accessible dwelling units, the date applications will be accepted, screening criteria, and, in cases of advertising for multiple units, additional information about such things as number of units available, size of units and pricing. This rule was further expanded to state that all published advertising must have the above disclosures, including but not limited to: outdoor signage such as sandwich boards or banners, flyers, printed materials, audio recordings, video media, or online platforms. This information can be provided directly or by providing an address, website address, internet link, or other method of communicating to prospective Tenants.
  • Publishing Notices. If a Landlord publishes multiple notices at different times or though different methods for the same availability of the same dwelling unit, the open application period (when Landlord may begin “accepting” applications) must be at least 72 hours after the initial notice.

Changes in Availability of Unit
During the application process, in the event, a unit is no longer available due to a vacancy being filled, or because a Landlord no longer wishes to rent the unit, the following apply:

  • Landlords may refuse to process applications because a unit is no longer available. When this occurs, Landlords are not required to provide written communication to Applicants accepting, conditionally accepting or denying the Applicant, perform an individual assessment, or grant an appeal to the Applicant.
  • If the unit is no longer available, but an Applicant has been screened, or their application has otherwise been processed, Landlords must provide written communication of a denial but not perform an individual assessment or grant an appeal to Applicant.

Optional changes to Application Language
Landlords may, at their discretion, include the following items in applications. Inquiries as to whether an Applicant is a current resident or has been a resident of Landlord in the last 365 days (applicable to owners of multiple properties in the City of Portland). Landlords may refuse to process the application of an Applicant who has “repeated and verifiable” violations of the rental agreement within 365 days of the application submission date.

“Repeated and verifiable” means:

  • At least 3 violations have occurred within 1 year, and the most recent violation occurred within 365 days before the Applicant’s submission date;
  • The Tenant received notice of each of the 3 violations in writing at the time each violation occurred. None of the 3 violations was dismissed, cured or resulted in a general judgment for the Applicant before the Applicant submitted the application; and
  • The Landlord provides the Applicant with copies of the notices referenced above.
The Ordinance has been amended to remove the word “dismissed” underlined above (as violations can’t be “dismissed”) and explaining that the word “cure” underlined above is defined in ORS 90.392. Specifically, for-cause notices for a material violation of the rental agreement giving 30 days to vacate (but 14 days to cure the violations) cannot be used as the basis to deny applications if the for-cause notice was “cured” per the notice.


Disability-Related, Reasonable Modification Requests

  • If an Applicant requests a reasonable modification of the property that is denied by a Landlord, the Applicant must first be provided two successive 24 hour periods to request alternative modifications before the denial is finalized. If no reasonable modification can be made, the Applicant, if otherwise eligible, can accept the dwelling unit without the modification.
  • The Interim Rule clarifies that the 24 hour period begins to run for each of the two successive periods when a Landlord sends a notice to the Applicant denying the request for modification.

Approval of Applications Reviewed on Appeal
Applicants have 30 days to appeal denied applications during which time they may correct, refute, or explain negative information forming the basis for the denial. The interim rule addresses how to handle Applicants with appeals that have been granted, but that the unit applied for is no longer available.

  • Applicants must be prequalified for any rental opportunities at Landlord’s properties at the same or lower rental rate for three months following the approval date.
  • Applicants cannot be subject to additional screening, and Landlords must waive all screening fees for three months following the approved appeal. Applicants under these circumstances may be required to certify in writing that no conditions have materially changed from those described in the Landlord’s approved application.
  • If a Landlord has prequalified Applicants through the appeal process, the Landlord must notify those Applicants of any available units for which they are prequalified before offering the units to the general public.
  • The Landlord must issue the notification to the prequalified Applicant by email, phone, or certified mail, as provided on the application or subsequently updated by the Applicant.
  • Prequalified Applicants must be given at least 48 hours after delivery of the notification by email or phone, or receipt of the notice by mail to respond and declare intent to enter into a rental agreement before a Landlord can offer the unit to the general public. Notifications must include the date and time the Landlord must receive the response and declaration of intent from Applicants. If there are multiple Prequalified Applicants, the offers must be made in order of appeal submission dates. Landlords are not required to rent to Prequalified Applicants responding after the deadline.
  • Once notices of dwelling unit availability are published, Prequalified Applicants must submit an application and are subject to the general application process as outlined in the Ordinance, but will not be subject to screening fees or additional screening.

Security Deposits - Clarification was Provided in the Following Areas

Definition of “Termination Date”

  • Within one week following the termination date, the Landlord must do a walk-through “Final Inspection” of the dwelling unit at the Tenant’s option, to document wear and tear. The Tenant does not need to be present but must be given at least 24 hours’ advance written notice of the Final Inspection.
  • “Termination Date” has now been defined as the date the tenancy terminates, and the Landlord takes possession of the unit.

Condition Reports

  • Landlords must provide Tenants with the Condition Report on the first day that the Tenants may take possession of the unit (first day of the lease). Tenants have 7 days to complete the form noting any damage.
  • Unless Landlord disputes what is noted on the Condition Report and the Tenant and the Landlord jointly obtain third party validation of the condition of the dwelling unit, the Tenant’s description on the Condition Report is the baseline to be used for any future deductions from the security deposit. “Third-party” must be neutral, not a friend or family member of Landlord or Tenant.

Tenants are now required to participate in the validation process in good faith, but the Interim Rules do not specify any consequences for the Tenant for failure to do so.

Upcoming Training through Multifamily NW

Webinar training with Leah Sykes, Partner at the law firm of GreenspoonMarder LLP

Cost
Members: $45.00
Non-Member $60.00

Dates, Times, and Registration Links

Tuesday, August 11th, 10-11 am 
Fair ordinance Update webinar
https://www.multifamilynw.org/events/fair-august-update

Tuesday, August 18th, 10-11:30 am
Application and Screening Rules webinar
https://www.multifamilynw.org/events/fair-august-update

Thursday, August 20th, 10-11:30 am
Security Deposit Update webinar
https://www.multifamilynw.org/events/fair-security-deposits-august

This update is not intended as legal advice. Please obtain the advice of an attorney for any policy change or decisions regarding residential and commercial landlord-tenant matters.

Testimony/Comments
Testimony may be submitted via email, fax, letter, or at the public hearing (details below). Written comments or testimony must be received by September 30, 2020, and must include a first and last name to be considered. 

Email: RentalServices@portlandoregon.gov

Fax: 503-823-2387

Mail:
PHB c/o FAIR Administrative Rule Testimony
421 SW 6th Ave, Suite 500
Portland, Oregon 97204

Testify at the online public hearing:
FAIR Rules Hearing
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

3:00 - 5:00 pm

Click here to register to attend the Zoom meeting and/or to testify live

Some Things Landlords Can Do in These Difficult Times

Oregon attorneys provide tips and advice for landlords in Oregon [many tips also apply to Washington] in this article published by the Rental Housing Journal.

The article analyzes the power of tenant groups, the value of getting out in front with your mortgage lenders, setting up payment plans now, and other ways to help yourself in the event no financial assistance or laws protecting property owners are forthcoming.

Multifamily Outlook: More Pain on the Way

With the pandemic continuing to spread and additional federal funds to help uncertain, the second half of the year could mean pain ahead for rental housing and challenging times for apartments, Yardi Matrix says in their summer multifamily outlook.

Rents are falling as COVID-19 weighs on the multifamily rental housing industry, and “more pain” is coming, the report says. Read more.

Monday, August 3, 2020

HFO Multifamily Marketwatch - August 3, 2020

This week: the U.S. economy contracted at a historical level, a new report estimates Oregon’s economy will recover by 2024, and Seattle plans to spend $18 million from a new business tax on a housing initiative.



Listen to our latest podcast.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Multifamily Mortgage Debt Increased $61 Billion in Q1 2020


Multi-housing News Reports that impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt this summer, but rewinding to the first few months of 2020, commercial and multifamily lending and borrowing followed the 2019 pattern. Read more.

Monday, July 27, 2020

HFO Multifamily Marketwatch - July 27, 2020

This week: Portland allocates $15 million to rental assistance from its CARES act funding, and Barcelona Spain threatens to seize vacant apartment units at the end of August. Be sure to check the HFO blog for new stories about Washington State’s eviction moratorium extension and updated face mask requirements for apartment residents.


Listen to our latest podcast.

This week's podcast:

The Portland City Council approved a spending plan for $114 million in CARES Act funding on Wednesday. Just over $100 million will be allocated for community programs, household assistance, and aid for other Multnomah County cities. In comparison, nearly $13 million in federal funds and around $6 million in additional funds will go toward the city’s pandemic response efforts. $15 million will be allocated for rent assistance, though it is unclear whether that will be direct relief to families or whether it will be administered through a specific city program. An additional $15 million will be immediate cash assistance in the form of gift cards. The Joint Office of Homeless Services will receive $16.5 million, and businesses will get $12 million in direct grants. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was the only city council member to vote against the plan – she argues that more aid should be given directly to Portland residents, rather than businesses or city programs. Multnomah County’s 5 cities outside of Portland will receive a total of $5 million for public health expenses. The CARES Act directed the majority of regional funding to the City of Portland, despite Multnomah County spearheading coronavirus response efforts. All local CARES act funding must be spent by December 30th of this year.



The Portland Tribune reports that Oregonians who are stuck waiting for unemployment benefits could lose out on backpay if their applications are not processed by July 25th. The extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits is scheduled to expire on July 24th. Still, several Oregonians have not received that money due to the state’s outdated computer system and a backlog of unemployment claims. Oregon Employment Department Acting Director David Gerstenfeld urges Congress to act immediately by extending the program. In states across the country, unemployment remains high, and hiring is not expected to pick up substantially in the near term. Unemployed residents have been using the enhanced benefits to pay for essentials like rent, childcare, and groceries. Republicans in the US Senate have rejected a plan passed by the House of Representatives for another round of assistance for struggling families and businesses. A handful of Republicans are considering a short-term extension of the program while the House of Representatives works on a new relief package. Still, Senator Ron Wyden cautions that they have rejected similar plans in the past. He had previously proposed a plan that would tie increased unemployment assistance to economic conditions. Senator Wyden is now offering a program that would provide $500 million in funding for states to upgrade their unemployment claim systems.



Public interest advocacy group OSPIRG released a report urging several counties in Oregon to tighten restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19. They created a color-coded system based on containment benchmarks to categorize Oregon’s counties. Green counties are areas where at least two containment benchmarks are being reached, yellow counties should maintain current restrictions, and red and failing counties should be locked down for at least 2 weeks. Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties all fall into the report’s yellow category. Most coastal counties and some Southern Oregon counties are green. Sherman, Morrow, Umatilla, Malheur, and Josephine counties are failing, while Marion, Jefferson, and Wasco counties are in OSPIRG’s red category. Counties that are failing have a positive test rate of over 15%, and over 50% of cases cannot be tracked to a known source of infection. While most counties in the state meet benchmarks one and two – containment and testing – the state fares extremely poorly on contact tracing metrics. Even in counties that fall into the green category for low rates of positive tests and few infections, the percentages of untraced cases are incredibly high. In Curry County, 100% of cases are untraced, while in Benton County, 83% are. The group urges the state government to define clear benchmarks that, if not met, would require additional containment measures, and advocates that bars and indoor dining rooms be closed. OSPIRG also argues that all indoor gatherings should be treated the same – there should not be exemptions to size limits based on the type of gathering.



As counties across Oregon see their unemployment rates drop, many counties still have rates above national and state averages. Nationwide, unemployment claims are starting to creep up after 15 consecutive weeks of declines. In the week ending July 18th, 1.4 million new unemployment claims were filed in the US. The CBO expects the unemployment rate to peak at around 14% in the third quarter of this year. On June 16th of Oregon’s 36 counties saw at least a 3 percentage point drop in unemployment rates, but included on that list are counties where the rate remains stubbornly high. Clatsop County’s unemployment rate dropped by 8%, but it still has the second-highest unemployment rate in the state at 15.2%. Like the national rate, Oregon’s unemployment rate is expected to go up this quarter. Recent layoff announcements portend this unwelcome trend. Nike announced that going forward, the company will be “nimbler” and “flatter.” While the company has not announced how many jobs it will eliminate in pursuit of this goal, it did say the company will experience a “net loss” in employment. Portland-based advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy announced that it is laying off 11% of its global workforce – a total of about 150 jobs. Unlike Nike, it directly attributes the layoffs to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent announcements position the companies Microsoft and Stratacache as potential bright spots for state employment. Microsoft is reportedly looking for at least 50,000 square feet of space in the Portland area. Sources say the company has expressed interest in an 85,000 square foot space in Beaverton as well as offices in the US Bancorp Tower in Downtown Portland. Also, Ohio-based Stratacache plans to hire several hundred workers to re-open the shuttered Hynix factory in Eugene, where it plans to build video display technology, including MicroLEDs.



The Portland Tribune reports that people fleeing the effects of climate change in Micronesia are increasingly choosing to settle in Oregon. The Federated States of Micronesia is an archipelago of over 600 low-lying islands in the Western Pacific, and many of these islands are rapidly losing land mass due to rising oceans. According to the CIA World Factbook, Micronesia is expected to have the 4th highest rate of net emigration per capita in 2020. And according to the UN, Micronesia is the tip of the iceberg – by 2050, the international body believes there could be 200 million climate refugees worldwide. Currently, Hawaii and Oregon are the two most popular destinations for people from Micronesia seeking to settle in the US. Dexter Moluputo, who grew up in Micronesia and now lives in an apartment in Salem, believes that Micronesians are moving to Oregon because a handful of elders who attended Eastern Oregon University told their community positive stories about the Pacific Northwest. But Micronesian immigrants to Oregon have had to adjust to different cultural norms – for instance, some have been told by apartment managers that they are not allowed to leave their shoes in the hallway outside of their doors. Oregon’s Micronesian community is also working to preserve traditions while living farther from the ocean, and sharing cultural practices with their new neighbors. Last Summer, health worker Sandi Wells of the non-profit Micronesian Islander Community taught a group of people at the Oregon Food Bank how to grow water spinach.



The Oregonian reports that retailers around the state are worried that a second round of shutdowns due to rising coronavirus rates could shutter their businesses for good. Terry Currier, who owns the iconic Music Millennium store in Portland, found that the market was surprisingly strong when he opened the store up on June 1st. Despite restrictions on the number of patrons in the store and the shift to curbside pickup, his store’s sales were down just 4% year over year. But a recent spike in cases has hurt his business – he expects July sales to be down by up to 20%. According to Sandra McDonough, CEO of Oregon Business and Industry, companies that were able to get PPP loans are once again strapped for cash, and it is unclear whether there will be a second round of federal assistance. Emily Powell, CEO of Powell’s Books, says her company is even seeing a decline in online ordering. She has heard from other bookstores that customer foot traffic is down, and she is unsure what her industry can do to stay afloat. Some businesses are banding together to find creative solutions. The NW Business Association held a successful sidewalk sale to attract cautious shoppers earlier this month, and the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association plans to move its annual street fair online. But these efforts are unlikely to keep many small businesses open in the long term. In Downtown Portland, companies rely on foot traffic from people who work in the area – now many of those people are working from home. Business owners are willing to fight to keep from closing, but without help, the second round of shutdowns could be devastating.



As the coronavirus pandemic continues, homeless camps in Portland are expanding. The CDC issued guidance earlier this year, ordering cities to refrain from sweeping or dismantling homeless camps. Public health experts need to be able to reach people who may have come into contact with someone who tested positive, and they feared the chaos and dispersal caused by sweeps of these camps would hamper contact tracing efforts. Encampments in Downtown Portland, Laurelhurst Park, Old Town, and other parts of the city have grown over the last few months. But sanitation facilities have been mostly absent – in Laurelhurst park, there is one portable toilet and one handwashing station for the people residing in roughly 50 tents. Laurelhurst neighborhood resident Mary Ann Schwab blames the camp’s presence in the park on the city’s inability to provide affordable housing to those who need it most. The town now oversees three organized camps in the Central City, which serve up to 120 homeless residents. But the city has also recently executed a sweep of an encampment in Lownsdale and Chapman squares, near where protests have been taking place, and Heather Hafer of the city’s Office of Management and Finance announced that the city will begin performing more sweeps later this summer. Experts believe that as pandemic-related closures continue and local and federal assistance programs and eviction moratoriums expire, the number of people on the streets could increase substantially. It is less clear where these new homeless residents will be able to go.



Finally, CityLab reports that the city of Barcelona, Spain, is warning landlords that they must immediately fill units that have been sitting vacant. The city identified 14 investment companies that own a total of 194 vacant units in the city and warned that if those units are not filled within the next month, the city will seize them and turn the units into public housing for low-income tenants. Also, the owners would be fined between 90,000 and 900,000 Euros. The Catalonia region of Spain, where Barcelona is located, passed a law in 2016, allowing cities to seize properties that have remained vacant for over two years. These seizures were not intended to be permanent; however – under the 2016 law, municipalities could only rent the units to low-income tenants for between 4 and 10 years. The groups then had to be returned to the owner. But a new law passed in 2019 allows the city of Barcelona to acquire units through compulsory purchase at 50% of market value. Barcelona has been working to discourage property owners from leaving groups vacant since the last recession, and the city has been working to find ways to encourage property owners to fill these vacancies. Housing Commissioner Lucia Martin argues that the city does not actually want to acquire these units – it would rather see the landlords make an effort to find tenants. The notices sent to the 14 property owners were intended as an ultimatum, and officials expect them to fill the units promptly. The city has identified an additional 232 empty groups that it plans to target in the future.

Washington Requires Face Coverings in Elevators, Hallways and Shared Spaces of Apartment Buildings

In addition to the extension of Washington State's eviction moratoriums last week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee also extended and expanded the Face Coverings Order of the Safe Start requirements.

The expansion
"...will require face coverings in all common spaces such as elevators, hallways and shared spaces in apartment buildings, university housing and hotels, as well as congregate settings such as nursing homes."
Penalties for failure to wear a mask are criminal in nature and only enforced by local law enforcement. 

The Face Coverings Order took effect on Saturday, July 25.

Gov. Inslee Extends Washington Eviction Moratorium

The Washington Capitol Building in Olymia with a blue sky in the background
Governor Jay Inslee of Washington issued Proclamation 20. 19-3 on July 24th, which extends the state's eviction moratorium to October 15, 2020. This is the second time the governor has extended the moratorium. In his proclamation, Inslee encourages landlords and tenants to work together on payment plans, though he does not offer specific guidelines for how to do so. Read the full extension order here. According to the Washington Multi-Family Housing Association, the governor has indicated he will not be providing more specific guidance on reasonable payment/repayment plans and is leaving that up to the legislature for the next legislative session which begins in January 2021.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Loretta Smith vs. Dan Ryan for Portland City Council Position 2 - August 11th Special Election


HFO Partner Greg Frick conducted an interview with Portland City Council candidate Loretta Smith. Smith is running for council position 2 against Dan Ryan. Smith first discusses what she called a failure of leadership regarding Portland's downtown protests, before getting into positions on housing policies. Smith is endorsed by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, the Oregon Nurses Association, The Skanner newspaper, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. 


Unfortunately, Dan Ryan's campaign did not respond to multiple requests for a similar interview. Ryan is endorsed by Willamette Week and The Oregonian. Willamette Week's interview with Ryan can be found below.