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Forced Conversion

City to Protect Tenants' Rights

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In the past year, the Portland metro area has seen at least 976 apartment units converted into condos, an increase of 48 percent over last year's roughly 659 units—and in more cases than not, the rental tenants have been unceremoniously dumped out.

Currently, landlords are required to give tenants a 120-day notice of a condo conversion—but there's no way to enforce it, and the law isn't clear about whether landlords can evict month-to-month renters with just a 30-day, or less, notice.

Representatives Chip Shields and Tina Kotek authored House Bill 3186, which would have enforced the 120-day notice period, guaranteeing renters their right to buy their unit, and otherwise forcing developers to pay their moving expenses, equal to three months of rent.

A version of that bill made it through the Oregon House of Representatives and is currently in front of the Senate—but without the moving expenses due to objections by organizations like Oregon Realtors Association.

The bill has also prompted City Commissioner Randy Leonard's office to step in with their own protections. Leonard's chief of staff, Ty Kovatch, is drafting an ordinance that requires developers to pay displaced tenants two months of rent—or twice the fair market rent price for their unit, whichever is greater—and give a written offer to tenants to purchase their space.

More importantly, the ordinance would set up penalties for developers who violate the rules.

"Developers will be under pressure from the force of law and the threat of penalties in the form of liens against their building, which would make it hard for them to sell any units," Kovatch says. He expects the city attorney to review the ordinance by the end of the month, with council considering it later this summer.

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