Understanding the basics of state law enables both landlords and tenants to deal with many legal problems and answer many legal questions without the assistance of a lawyer. Use this overview of key Oregon landlord-tenant law as a starting point, and, if you're left with questions about how to handle your specific legal matter, consider contacting a local landlord-tenant attorney for assistance.
Under Oregon law, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants (usually in the lease or rental agreement). The list of required disclosures is long and includes information on topics such as:
Oregon landlords can require tenants to pay a security deposit. Under Oregon law, a last month's rent deposit is considered to be a security deposit. Landlords must provide tenants with a receipt when they receive the deposit. Written rental agreements must include the amount of the security deposit. A security deposit can't be increased within the first year of the tenancy. Landlords have 31 days after the tenant delivers possession to return the deposit and provide an accounting of any amount applied towards rent or damages. See Oregon Revised Statute section 90.300 for all the rules regarding security deposits.
Tenants can sue landlords in small claims court for the return of their deposit and other damages, up to a dollar amount of $10,000. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 46.405.)
Oregon landlords may not charge nonrefundable fees (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 90.302). Oregon landlords may only charge fees for specified events as they arise. For example, landlords may charge fees for acts such as:
Complete information about fees Oregon landlords can charge is found in Oregon Revised Statute section 90.302.
Oregon has a statewide rent control law that limits the amount of rent increases, bars landlords from raising rent more than once in any 12-month period, and requires landlords to give tenants proper notice before raising rent.
During any 12-month period, landlords cannot raise the rent more than 7% plus the consumer price index above the existing rent—no matter how long the tenancy. Every September 30, the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis will publish the maximum annual rent increase percentage for the following year.
For week-to-week tenancies, landlords can raise the rent after giving seven days' written notice. For all other tenancies, landlords cannot raise rent within the first year of a tenancy. After the first year of a tenancy, landlords must give 90 days' written notice before raising the rent.
Landlords who illegally increase rent must pay tenants an amount equal to three months' rent, plus any damages the tenants suffered from the increase (such as interest on money they borrowed to cover rent). (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 90.323.)
When landlords fail to comply with a term of the lease or rental agreement, or fail to maintain the premises in a habitable condition, tenants may notify their landlord of the breach and give a 30-day notice to terminate if the landlord doesn't fix the condition within a certain amount of time. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 90.360.) Tenants also may withhold rent for some minor defects that can be reasonably repaired for not more than $300—but must follow the statute's rules regarding notice (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 90.368).
The rules on how and when landlords can terminate depend on the type of tenancy. Oregon's laws address week-to-week, month-to-month, and fixed-term tenancies (as well as tenancies located within a landlord's primary residence). To learn the rules that apply to your tenancy, review the full text of Oregon Revised Statute section 90.427.
Landlords may terminate a tenancy without cause for month-to-month tenants, but only during the first year of occupancy. After that, landlords must have a reason, or "just cause," as enumerated in the law (such as demolishing the building, moving immediate family members into the unit, or the tenant's violation of a lease term).
Tenants with a one-year (or shorter) lease may not have their tenancies terminated during the first year of occupancy unless the tenant has failed to pay the rent or violated another material term of the tenancy (such as having a pet in violation of a no-pet rule). Landlords may decide to not renew or extend a one-year tenant's (or shorter) lease by giving a 30-day "termination" notice prior to the lease's expiration date. If the landlord does not terminate and the tenant stays, the tenant has become a month-to-month tenant, but one who has the protections of "just cause" eviction rules on account of the tenant's occupancy for more than one year (see above).
Several other landlord-tenant laws in Oregon affect both property owners and renters, including:
If you want to read the text of a law itself, such as state security deposit rules, you'll find citations in many of the articles and charts included in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo site. The Library of Congress' website contains links to state statutes.
If you just want to browse, Oregon's landlord-tenant laws are found in the Oregon Revised Statutes sections 90.100 to 91.265.
In addition to accessing state laws via Nolo's website, Oregon statutes are available in many public libraries and in most law libraries that are open to the public (typically found in a county courthouse or at the state capitol or in a publicly-funded law school).
Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and antidiscrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites—just search for the name of a particular city in Oregon and then do a search when you're on the site. For example, the City of Portland's website contains a link to the Portland Housing Bureau, which in turn provides many resources for renters and landlords.
While most landlords and tenants will primarily be concerned with state law in Oregon, several federal laws come into play. Congress has enacted laws, and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have adopted regulations, covering discrimination and landlord responsibilities to disclose environmental health hazards, such as lead-based paint.
The U.S. Code is the starting place for most federal statutory research. It consists of 50 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"), also organized by subject into 50 separate titles.
The Cornell Legal Information Institute provides the entire U.S. Code as well as the Code of Federal Regulations. Finally, USA.gov, the official U.S. website, contains a wealth of government information.
Nolo's Laws and Legal Research page includes links to state and federal laws, explains how to research and understand statutes, and provides advice on finding local ordinances and court cases, including Supreme Court cases. To go further, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias and the Editors of Nolo (Nolo). This nontechnical book gives easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions on how to find legal information.
You'll also find a wealth of information in the Landlords & Tenants and Renters' & Tenants' Rights sections of the Nolo website and Nolo books, such as Every Landlord's Legal Guide and Every Tenant's Legal Guide.