City of Eugene Passes Suite of New Tenant Protections

The City of Eugene, Oregon, approved an ordinance (No. 20670) on July 11 to establish a series of new tenant protections and support services. The measure passed the Eugene City Council by a 6-2 vote, and Mayor Lucy Vinis signed the ordinance on July 13. The ordinance establishes and funds a new rental housing navigator position, caps tenant screening fees at $10, requires landlords to provide photo documentation of conditions at move-in and move-out, directs the city to create and distribute educational materials about tenants’ rights during the eviction process, and requires landlords to provide rental references for tenants upon their written request. The new provisions will take effect on August 13.

“When renters organize, renters win,” said Kevin Cronin, chair of the Springfield Eugene Tenants Association and director of member services and industry support at Housing Oregon. “We oftentimes see people shell out $200 to $500 dollars in application fees in this market when looking for a new place. For low-income folks, like those on Social Security Disability or those with a Section 8 voucher, application fees represent a high barrier to leasing up. Additionally, the ordinance will invest in the local tenant association by providing dollars to run its hotline – permanently funding an organization fighting for working people.”

The passage of these protections followed months of deliberations in City Council and tenant-led advocacy. The City’s Housing Policy Board originally recommended updates to the city’s rental housing code in 2021. The City Council held work sessions in November 2021 and March 2022 to discuss these potential updates. In the March 2022 work session, councilmembers reviewed the Renter Protections Roadmap, which sets out a three-part timeline for considering 11 possible updates to city code. Councilmembers agreed to move the $10 cap on application and screening fees from Phase Three to Phase One, putting it on the agenda for consideration in the July 11 meeting alongside four other policy proposals.

Councilmembers approved the five Phase One tenant protections on a 6-2 vote. The first provision will create and fund a rental housing navigator position in the city government. The rental housing navigator will manage data collection on rental properties, enforce protections, and develop other support services for tenants and landlords. These services could include a tenant hotline, risk mitigation funding, or eviction diversion. To fund this position and additional services, the city will increase the rental housing code door fee from $10 to $20 for the first year that the protections are in effect.

The second provision will require landlords to itemize and take photo documentation of the property conditions at move-in and move-out, and to provide photo documentation to justify withholding tenant security deposits. The third provision will require landlords to provide rental history at least twice per year, upon a tenant’s written request, even if the tenant has not yet given notice that they plan to move out. The fourth provision directs the city to create, update, and post educational information on the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants during the eviction process. These materials must include the rental housing code and information about tenant protections. Once these materials are created, landlords must distribute them along with rental agreements. Finally, the ordinance caps applicant screening fees at $10, which will make the rental application process more affordable.

New tenant protections will be enforced on a complaint-driven basis. Tenants can contact city code enforcement staff to file a complaint. According to the roadmap, the city will proactively lead outreach and education efforts, with the goal of reducing the need for enforcement actions.

The Eugene City Council will move to consider Phase Two and Three proposals in the upcoming months. Phase Two includes three recommendations: limiting the total amount of the deposit that landlords can charge (encompassing security, cleaning, and last month deposits) to no more than twice the monthly rent, processing rental applications on a first-come, first-served basis, and providing displacement assistance for legal no-cause eviction. Phase Three would prohibit landlords from including medical or tuition debt when evaluating an applicant’s income, prohibit landlords from mandating credit scores of above 500, loosen minimum monthly gross income screening standards, and prevent or place a moratorium on no-cause evictions. According to the Renter Protections Roadmap, the city will conduct additional research on Phase Two proposals by November 1, 2022, and additional research on Phase Three proposals before February 1, 2023.

Eugene’s new tenant protections are the latest in a nationwide wave of state and local measures to keep renters stably housed during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. According to NLIHC’s State and Local Tenant Protections Database, the city of Eugene will join at least 67 other municipalities and 31 states that enacted tenant protections between January 2021 and July 2022.