Portland City Commissioners settle lawsuit around law initially designed to help renters

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 9:34 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The Portland City Council voted unanimously to amend parts of the Fair Access in Renting ordinances to settle a lawsuit filed by landlords in 2020.

All the commissioners, minus the absence of Jo Ann Hardesty, voted to change portions of the law involving security deposits at their Wednesday city council meeting. The changes now loosen restrictions on regulations for landlords to hold back their tenant’s security deposits. Jerry Mason owns and helps manages properties across the metro area. He was also one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit claiming the ordinance was too vague and overreaching.

“The real irony of this is that they developed this regulation through the city and they never brought the housing supply industry to the table. In fact, we tried to get there,” Mason said.

The settlement didn’t reward any money to any party, but simply amended the ordinance. What the council did on Wednesday was put most of the liability of damages back on the tenant. The amended law also now gives landlords the ability to charge renters for damages not on their ‘move-in’ checklist. Landlords do not have to calculate the depreciated value of damaged items. Mason said he is content with the outcome of the settlement.

“Not happy with it, with the solution, but satisfied,” Mason said. “It [the ordinance] didn’t hit the mark, it didn’t solve a problem they thought they had.”

Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan proposed the initial law back in 2019 and spoke at Wednesday’s city council meeting. He told other commissioners the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but he still believes the Fair Access in Renting ordinance is still one of the best ways to solve the housing crisis and protect renters.

“I want to be clear, these revisions to FAIR do not erode the intent of this ordinance,” Ryan said. “FAIR is here to stay and these changes will help the city implement this ordinance fairly.”

Other portions of the ordinance, like restrictions on background checks and income requirements, are still in effect.

Mason agrees Portland needs to find solutions to the housing crisis. He wants local leaders to work with the housing industry to find ways for all Portlanders to have a fair shot at getting a roof over their heads.

“The key is to get all the stakeholders at the table so you don’t have lopsided solutions,” Mason said.