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Multifamily NW Sues Portland over UnFAIR ordinances

On February 20, Multifamily NW filed suit against the City of Portland to stop the “Fair Access In Renting” (FAIR) ordinances related to resident screening and security deposit rules from taking effect. The ordinances have severe consequences for rental housing providers and will have long-term effects on the affordability and availability of housing in Portland, where rental housing providers are already grappling with statewide rent control and other regulatory challenges.

In its suit, Multifamily NW emphasizes the lengthy and complex nature of the ordinances, which require rental housing providers to screen applicants for tenancy pursuant to restrictive and unreasonable requirements. For example, owners must publicize a rental unit’s availability 72 hours prior to processing applications and must accept expired, non-government issued forms of identification. The screening ordinance also prohibits owners who use the “low barrier” screening process from denying applicants for poor criminal history, credit history or rental history. Additionally, the security deposit ordinance requires owners to, among other things, separately list and attach a depreciation value to each item covered by a security deposit.

Multifamily NW further argues that the Portland FAIR ordinances violate both the Oregon and the U.S. Constitutions:

  1. The ordinances violate free-speech protections because they prohibit plaintiffs from speaking to applicants during a 72-hour blackout period. The ordinances also force plaintiffs to follow a certain script when advertising and send city-written notices to applicants and tenants.
  2. Because the ordinances are overly vague and fail to inform plaintiffs of how to comply with all of the new requirements, the ordinances violate the Oregon Constitution and the due-process clause of the U.S. Constitution.
  3. The ordinances violate the due process clause because they impose arbitrary regulations that have no substantial relation to public health, safety, or welfare.
  4. The ordinances conflict with the Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant Act, ORS Chapter 90, and are thus preempted by state law.

In February, the association faced a setback as U.S. District Judge Michael Simon denied Multifamily NW’s request for a temporary restraining order to delay implementation of the ordinances, citing the time delay between when the ordinances passed and when the suit was filed.

As Multifamily NW’s lawsuit proceeds, housing providers are required to comply with the FAIR ordinance and applicable rules, which went into effect March 1. To better serve National Apartment Association (NAA) lease users and members, NAA conducted a webinar on February 27th, hosted by Anna McCormack of Warren Allen LLP, on the new regulations in Portland as a result of the FAIR ordinance. The webinar provided an overview of the application, screening and security deposit rules and a review of NAA's latest Portland-specific Click & Lease forms. Additionally, Portland housing providers can find more information about the FAIR ordinance rules on security deposits and application and screening on NAA’s Legal/Compliance Resource Library.

For more information, please contact Jodie Applewhite, Manager of Public Policy.