The long saga of the COVID-19 residential eviction moratorium in Oregon continues with the recent passage of Senate Bill 278, but there are indications that this may be the end of the road.
In May, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 282, extending the moratorium on eviction of residential tenants for nonpayment of rent to June 30, 2021 and also extending the grace period for payment of back-due rent to February 28, 2022. Last December, the state also created a landlord compensation fund whereby landlords could receive grants of up to 80% of unpaid rent from qualified tenants. Tenants can also apply for various assistance programs, including the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program. All told, statewide programs have given out an estimated $113 million in aid as of early June, with another $129 million allocated but not yet delivered.
On Friday, June 18, the Oregon Legislature heard testimony that implementation of the various rent relief programs has been slower than expected. This led housing advocates to raise the alarm that the state could see an unprecedented wave of eviction cases in July. In response, the House and Senate quickly prepared, debated, and passed SB 278. Due to be signed by the Governor any day, the bill will not extend the eviction moratorium or change the grace period for back due rent. Future rents will still be due starting July 1. The bill will, however, give tenants a reprieve from eviction for 60 days for nonpayment of rent if they can show their landlord that they have applied for rental assistance.
SB 278’s proponents have called it a “safe harbor” for tenants who are actively seeking rent assistance but have not yet received funds due to the backlog in processing applications. Tenants can trigger the 60-day reprieve any time until the back rent grace period ends on February 28, 2022.
SB 278 also increases the ceiling on rent payment grants from the landlord compensation fund from 80% to 100% of back due rent. The final round for applications to the landlord fund opened June 2. Landlords can apply here.
In passing the bill, legislators and the Governor alike gave signals that they intend SB 278 and HB 2009 (which recently extended the residential mortgage foreclosure moratorium to September 30, 2021) to be the last steps in the state’s 15-month effort to manage the housing crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully the virus will cooperate and infection rates and hospitalizations will continue their current downward trend.