In an industry that is highly regulated with a tendency toward “litigate first, collaborate second”, words matter.
I’m often asked about no cause evictions and when and how a Landlord can end the tenancy when the tenant has not breached the lease agreement in a material way or violated the law to the degree that a For Cause Eviction is warranted. Whenever I hear the word “eviction” my mind instantly goes to the local County courthouse and I think of the difficult process we all work so hard to avoid.
In fact, “No Cause Eviction” is inaccurate and imprecise. An eviction is a specific legal action that requires evidence at court of violations of the lease terms and referred to as an evidentiary eviction. As the term applies, this action carries the need for evidence at court for major lease violations. Some common examples of major lease violations include:
- Non-payment of rent
- Violation of Federal, State and local law
- Violating the same lease element repeatedly
- Serious threat or incident of substantial personal injury on the premises
An evidentiary eviction is a legal proceeding with the outcome determined in court. The process is a formal legal process that carries costs for Landlords and becomes a matter of public record, potentially negatively affecting the ability of tenants to find rental housing in the future.
When a Landlord wants to end the tenancy but the tenant has not committed an infraction that would warrant an evidentiary eviction, the landlord would issue what is called a “No Cause Notice To Vacate” or “No Cause End of Tenancy”. This may seem like semantics, but using the incorrect term when providing a reference for a past tenant, a Landlord could find themselves in a difficult position.
In the State of Oregon, ORS Chapter 90.427 (https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/90.427) Section (3) (a) through (c) and Section (4) (a) through (c) describe the parameters by which a Landlord can end the tenancy without cause. Of course, ending the tenancy for no cause is a door that swings both ways. The Landlord can issue the No Cause Notice to Vacate with the appropriate days notice (see your local County and City Ordnance) and the tenant can issue a no cause notice to vacate to the Landlord.
Once your tenants live in the rental unit for 1 year or more, the rules change. After one year of occupancy, the tenant may end the tenancy with just 30 days notice at any time (assuming a month to month agreement), but if the Landlord wants to end the tenancy without tenant cause, the notice must now include a Qualifying Landlord Reason (QLR) as described in ORS 90.427 (5) (a) through (d). There are four QLR’s that Landlords should become familiar with:
- Demolish the rental unit or convert its use to something other than a residential rental unit
- Repair, Remodel or Renovate the unit to the degree the unit or surrounding grounds is unsafe or uninhabitable (consider for how long and how severe before acting)
- The Landlord moves in to the unit or moves an immediate family member in to the unit
- The Landlord sells the unit to a buyer who intends to occupy the unit as their primary residence.
That is it. If you don’t meet one of these QLR’s, a Landlord may not end the tenancy without tenant cause
And just to add a few more levels of complexity, if your rental unit is located within the City of Portland (regardless of county!), you could be subject to a hefty relocation payment. Find details here – https://www.portland.gov/phb/rental-services/renter-relocation-assistance
Before the change in law, a no cause notice to vacate may have been used to manage communities and provide an additional level of safety for other tenants or staff, such that a landlord could give an end-of-tenancy notice after multiple tenant complaints about drug or gang activity to the property manager or police. Perhaps the complaining tenants may not want to testify for fear of retaliation from the tenant being removed. Today, a landlord must use an evidentiary eviction in such cases after a year of occupancy, making lease enforcement critical.
Whether or not you use a month to month agreement or fixed term tenancies, enforcing your lease has never been more important. And should you decide to end the tenancy, be sure to use the correct terminology and stay diligent and disciplined in the management of your rental properties. You’ll be glad you did!
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