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Judge upholds Portland's renter protections ordinance, but bill at Capitol dies

(KATU Photo)

Advocates for renters in Portland celebrated a big legal victory Friday while at the same time, a major renters’ rights bill died in the Oregon Legislature.

A judge ruled against property owners who sued to overturn new protections for tenants in the city of Portland. Landlords argued the protections are against state law.

“The judge took the city’s side. I’m not even sure how to say that – I mean, we won!” said Margot Black, organizer for Portland Tenants United. “This is a very meaningful, significant win.”

The judge upheld a Portland city ordinance passed in February. The ordinance requires landlords to pay relocation costs to renters if they’re given a no-cause eviction or a 10-percent rent hike. In those situations, the new rule requires landlords to pay anywhere from $2,900 to $4,500 of a tenant’s moving expenses.

Soon after the ordinance became law, two local property owners hired attorney John DiLorenzo and sued the city to get it overturned.

“This ordinance is disguised rent control, and those are the state claims that we will be litigating in state court,” he said in February.

DiLorenzno argued the ordinance was illegal because rent control is against state law. But on Friday, a judge ruled against him.

“Relocation has been a huge -- it’s been so impactful for tenants in the city of Portland,” said Black. “We have certainly gotten far fewer calls about rent increases and no-cause evictions within the city of Portland since the ordinance took effect.”

In a statement to KATU on Friday, DiLorenzo said, “We appreciate the time and effort which the court has put into this case, but must respectfully disagree with the rationale expressed in the opinion.”

He said the decision to file an appeal depends on whether the city renews the ordinance when it expires in October.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Ted Wheeler said the mayor is happy with the judge’s decision and that the city is exploring options.

Portland Tenants United withdrew support for a bill at the state Capitol this year that initially aimed to limit no-cause evictions, saying lobbyists watered it down.

DiLorenzo said the bill would’ve made the housing shortage worse.

The Legislature adjourned Friday, and the bill died in the Senate.

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