As a tenant in Oregon, you have rights and responsibilities. To avoid problems, it is important that you know what these rights and responsibilities are to protect yourself. There are many resources available to folks looking for housing. OregonLawHelp.org has a Housing Self-help Guide. Here's an overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Oregon.
Here are 10 tips for folks wanting to rent a house or apartment:
- Bring your paperwork
- Review the lease
- Get everything in writing
- Protect your privacy rights
- Demand repairs
- Talk to your landlord
- Purchase renter’s insurance
- Protect your security deposit
- Protect your safety
- Deal with an eviction properly
What you should know before you rent
- Landlords may not advertise or rent condemned property
- Landlords must disclose housing code violations they have been notified of but have not corrected
- They must also reveal structural defects, a lack of hot or cold running water, serious plumbing, or electrical problems, and other hazards
What landlords must disclose
- If the heating unit cannot maintain a temperature of at least 67° F
- If you are required to pay utilities
- How utility charges will be divided if the dwelling is one of several not individually metered
You have the right to inspect the unit before you rent it. It is recommended you take along a flashlight, light bulb, hairdryer, pen, and the following checklist:
- Turn on each light switch to see if it works
- Check outlets (use hairdryer) and sockets (use light bulb) – defects could cause fires
- Turn on sink and faucets – check for leaks, proper drainage, and water temperature
- Flush toilets – check for leaks
- Look for smoke detectors
- Check ceilings and walls for cracks and water stains
- Are there deadbolts on apartment and exterior doors?
- Push on the windows – are they secure?
- Are latches in good working order?
- Check for storm window and screens
- Check the furnace - even if it is the summertime, turn up the thermostat to make sure it actually works
- Look at the water heater to see if it is leaking
Promises of repairs by a landlord should be provided to you in writing including a completion date, before you agree to rent the property.
Rental agreements are not required to be in writing. However, if there is a rental agreement, the landlord must give you an opportunity to read it completely before you decide to rent. When renting, you must be furnished with a copy of the agreement.
If an earnest money deposit is required with your rental application, the landlord must return the entire deposit by the end of the next business day if your application is rejected. If for some reason you decide not to rent, the landlord may withhold from your deposit actual costs or damages.
Most landlords require renters to pay a “security deposit” when they move into a new rental. A security deposit is a refundable deposit paid by a tenant to a landlord so that the landlord can make sure that the tenant follows the rental agreement and leaves the rental in a similar condition when they move out. When a tenant moves out, the deposit can be used by the landlord to pay any unpaid rent and fees, and to pay for any damage caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear. Any remaining amount must be returned to the tenant and the landlord must provide a written accounting for any amount that was not returned. View the Renter’s Handbook on Security Deposits by OregonLawHelp.org.
What You Should Know While Renting
At the start of a tenancy, the landlord must provide you with the name and address of a person who can be readily contacted regarding problems.
Check your lease to see who is responsible for making repairs. Typically your landlord is responsible if the repairs are necessary to comply with local housing codes and to keep the premises safe. If the landlord refuses to repair major building defects, you may report the defect to your local building or health inspector. The landlord may not retaliate by evicting you.
Unless otherwise agreed, tenants are usually responsible for routine minor repairs. You are also required to comply with any maintenance and sanitation requirements imposed on tenants by local housing codes. You are financially responsible for any damages that you or your guests have caused.
A landlord has the right to inspect, repair, and show the premises reasonable times. Except for emergency situations, the landlord may only after a 12-hour advance notice unless you allow entry on shorter notice.
Unhealthy & Unsafe Conditions
Sometimes rental units become unhealthy, unsafe, or unlivable due to a landlord's failure to maintain the property. It would be wise to get legal advice to learn if the tenant is able to legally adjust the rent. A lawyer may indicate how to document the condition, what agencies to contact, and what should be put in writing.
If conditions are so bad that tenants feel they can no longer safely live in a rental unit, a lawyer should be contacted before the tenants officially move out to prevent further financial obligation.
What You Should Know About Terminating a Tenancy
The law requires that a landlord follow specific rules when giving a termination notice to a tenant. If the landlord does not follow those rules, the notice may not be enforceable and you may not have to move. Check this Oregon Termination Notices & Eviction information to help you understand your rights when you receive a termination notice, whether the notice is valid, and your possible defenses in eviction court.
Termination Notices for Tenants on Leases
A lease is a written agreement for the rental of a property for a fixed amount of time—typically one year. When the fixed amount of time (the "term" of the lease) is over, the lease ends. At this point, one of a few things can happen:
- the tenant moves out
- the landlord and tenant sign a new lease, with the same or different terms
- the tenant stays in the rental with the landlord's approval, creating a new tenancy (in most states, this creates a month-to-month tenancy with the same terms and conditions of the old lease), or
- the tenant stays in the rental despite the fact the landlord wants the tenant to move, forcing the landlord to begin eviction proceedings.
If you refuse to leave the premises after your tenancy has been terminated, the landlord may start an eviction action against you in Small Claims court. You will be served a summons. This is your notice to appear in court, it does not mean you are evicted. In court, the judge asks you and the landlord to explain your sides and then will make a decision about your eviction. If you receive a summons for eviction, seek the help of a legal aid service or consult with a private attorney.