As lawmakers rush to provide relief, landlords, tenants seek answers, guidance
(Update: Adding video, comments from Bend lawyers, Oregon State Bar)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The rental eviction moratorium is scheduled to end June 30 in Oregon, unless lawmakers intervene, and Central Oregon lawyers say they are receiving a large number calls from both tenants and landlords, trying to determine what steps to take. in an unprecedented situation.
Paul Heatherman has been an attorney in Bend since 1995, and the number of calls he's received since Gov. Brown announced June 11 that the June 30 deadline would stand is a first.
"Never, never nothing like this,” Heatherman said. "I’ve been very busy with landlord tenants, especially compared to the past 20 years. It's definitely a noticeable difference."
Starting July 1, all Oregonians renting a house or an apartment must pay their rent for the current month, or face eviction, unless they seek rental assistance.
Oregonians could not be evicted due to nonpayment of rent from April 2020 to June of this year.
Tenants still have until february 28, 2022 to pay back any rent owed during the moratorium.
With the rent rules changing, and lawmakers trying to solve the related issues, people are searching for legal clarification.
Heatherman said he's received most of his calls from landlords.
"They want to know those distinctions and what action they can take, because in many cases unpaid rent has been going on for a year and a half,” Heatherman said.
However, Katery Walsh, communications director with the Oregon State Bar says it's affecting everyone.
"Both landlords and tenants are really scrambling to figure out how to comply with the law, even as it's changing, seemingly hourly,” Walsh said.
Hourly is right.
Thursday afternoon, the Oregon House passed SB 278, which that would delay eviction by 60 days for renters who can prove they've applied for assistance. The state Senate still has to approve changes.
Walsh said the Oregon State Bar normally has 60 lawyers taking calls in their lawyer referral service for landlord-tenant issues, but with the moratorium ending, "we're literally down to one in the entire state right now that is accepting calls."
Walsh recommends for anyone that is searching for legal assistance or clarification, to visit this site, and click the "public" tab.
For low income Oregonians, she recommends the Legal Aid site here.
Jenny Rae Foreman, another independent attorney in Bend, says she's seen an increase in interest, but is not able to help everyone.
"Well unfortunately, I do charge for consultations, so sometimes tenants can't afford the consultation,” Foreman said.
Heatherman said a normal rent schedule had to resume eventually.
"You know, at some point, it was inevitable they're going to have to start paying, so that part is happening, which is a good thing.?
But Foreman fears with the rising price of rent, something else is inevitable.
"So we're probably going to see a lot more evictions, based on non-payment of rent,” Foreman said.