Some say renters' rights bill is a necessity, others say it's toxic

Senate Bill 608 would impose rent increase and eviction restrictions on landlords. (Genevieve Grippo/KTVL)

Amidst a housing crisis, Oregon is on its way to becoming the first state to impose statewide rent control.

Senate Bill 608, the legislation crafted to protect renters' rights, has already passed the senate. Now it's up to the house to decide if it will proceed on the path to becoming law.

Ron Bost, who started B&B Property Management in 1983, said there is no doubt renters face a tough task when looking for a place to call home.

After being in the business for decades, he claims the current rental marketplace is the most competitive he has ever seen.

It's one where a one to two percent renal vacancy has become the norm.

"I usually have people waiting to get in them before I have them cleaned up," he said.

The crisis is one that Michelle Glass-- co-founder of the Rogue Action Center-- said has spiraled out of control over the last five years.

"We have one in three households in Jackson County who pay more than 50 percent of their income just on housing costs-- which leaves very little for other necessities," she said.

Her center and volunteers have knocked on about 2,200 doors over the past 12 months to talk to renters and identify the biggest housing problems they face.

She said the effects of no-cause evictions and outrageous rental hikes are commonly the top two concerns-- both of which SB 608 aims to limit.

The bill would prohibit landlords from terminating month-to-month tenancy without cause after 12 months. It also limits rent increases to seven percent above the annual change in the consumer price index. Those increases would only be allowed annually.

For Glass, this is not a one-and-done solution. It's more of a first step.

"There is no silver bullet," she said. "This is just going to say, 'We're going to make sure that rents can't spike in ways that are really damaging.'"

Glass is a renter herself, and almost two years ago she personally experienced the ugly side of a no-cause eviction.

Her family of five was served a 30-day notice in Talent. When asked how hard it was to find a new home under that time constraint, she couldn't help but laugh.

"It's ridiculous," she said.

Glass said preventing absurd price increases on rentals is equally important, as she recalled a group of Medford tenants who went through a 30-50 percent rental increase with 30 days notice last February.

"That should not be legal, and I think most people agree," she said.

While Glass is excited over the prospect of SB 806 becoming law , especially after a similar house bill was shot down in 2017, Bost is concerned that bill could wind up hurting tenants in the long run.

He said he often serves at-fault tenants with 60 day no-cause notices rather than a 30-day cause notice to help preserve their rental records and give them more time to find new housing.

Under SB 608, that practice would change.

"I can say for sure now we are going to give 30 notices with cause, rather than the 60-- or now it's going to be 90 day notice-- without cause," he said.

And when it comes to the annual cap on rent increases, he's afraid property owners would take advantage of raising rents in smaller amounts-- but would do so much more often.

"A lot of owners that I've talked to are saying, 'Okay lets do it, and we'll just do it every year,'" he said.

A public hearing for SB 608 is being held in Salem on Monday.

Michelle Glass and about a dozen others are carpooling to the capitol to share their stories with lawmakers.

Anyone interested in joining can contact the Rogue Action Center on their Facebook page.

Find the full text of SB 608 below:


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