Oregon Tenants Could Face Eviction as Extended Moratorium Runs Out

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  • Oregon's extended eviction protections expired on Feb. 28.
  • Now, those unable to pay rent or catch up on past-due rent risk losing their homes.

Talk about terrible news.

When the COVID-19 outbreak first hit the U.S., many non-essential businesses were forced to shutter overnight. That led to a massive uptick in unemployment -- and widespread income loss on a national level.

Since many people didn't have money in savings before the pandemic, they immediately began falling behind on essential bills, including housing. Recognizing a massive eviction crisis could be imminent, lawmakers intervened in the form of a federal eviction moratorium that barred landlords from removing tenants on the basis of not paying rent.

That federal eviction ban stayed in place until mid-2021. At that point, it was determined that economic conditions had improved enough to let the ban lapse. Plus, there were billions of dollars in rental assistance funds that had been made available under two separate stimulus packages. The logic was that tenants who owed money to their landlords wouldn't necessarily risk losing their homes, because aid was available.

Meanwhile, some states extended their own eviction protections beyond mid-2021, and Oregon was one of them. But now, that lifeline has run out.

Oregon tenants now risk eviction

Though Oregon's eviction moratorium initially expired during summer 2021, tenants were given an extension until Feb. 28, 2022 to come up with past-due rent owed between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. But now, that extended protection has run out. Beginning March 1, landlords in Oregon can pursue evictions against tenants who are behind on housing payments, leaving many residents of the state in a very troubling position.

So far, more than $289 million in rent relief funds has gone out to over 40,000 Oregon households. But as of this writing, there are still more than 18,000 rent relief applications waiting to be processed. And unfortunately, a pending application won't necessarily bar a landlord from pursuing an eviction. The Rental Housing Alliance of Oregon has confirmed that landlords do have the option to start the eviction process if tenants are still waiting on approval for their rent relief applications. However, in that case, they can't be evicted until June 2022.

That buys some tenants a bit of added protection. But it also makes things complicated and stressful for tenants and landlords alike.The eviction process can be costly for landlords, and it can also be time-consuming. To some degree, it doesn't make sense for landlords to start the eviction process if they have tenants who have applied for rent relief already.

On the other hand, applying for rent relief does not guarantee an applicant will get approved. And so landlords may not want to run that risk -- especially those who may, at this point, be going on almost two years of not getting paid.

It's not too late to apply

Although Oregon has already given out quite a bit of rental aid, struggling tenants can still apply for assistance to cover missed rent payments dating back to March 13, 2020. Applicants may be eligible for assistance to cover not just past-due rent, but also up to three months of future rent.

That said, the state only has limited rent relief funds available. Those in need of aid should therefore apply sooner rather than later, especially now that landlords have the leeway to start moving forward with evictions.

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