Authored By: Legal Aid Services of Oregon
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IMPORTANT: This is an excerpt from the 2016 Landlord-Tenant Law in Oregon booklet, available on this site. It is for general educational use only. It is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. If you have a specific legal question, you should contact an attorney. The information included here is accurate as of March 2016. Please remember that the law is always changing through the actions of the courts, the legislature, and agencies.
TIME LIMIT WARNING: Under state and federal laws there are time limits for taking action to enforce your rights. Most lawsuits related to the rental agreement and the Oregon Residential Landlord and Tenant Act must be filed (started in court) within one year of the incident. There may be other — shorter — time limits that apply in other cases. Ask a lawyer about the time limits that could apply in your situation.
Questions & Answers
Can my landlord force me to leave the rental unit? +
The landlord must go to court and get a court order to force you to leave.ORS 105.105. The landlord cannot legally change the locks, shut off the utilities, remove your property, threaten any of these actions, or take any other action to force you to move without first getting a court order.
There are only three ways that a landlord can get a rented place back legally:
- The tenant can move and return the keys to the landlord;
- The tenant can move away, abandoning the unit without telling anyone of plans to come back; or
- The landlord can go to court and get an order, with notice to the tenant to have the sheriff force the tenant to move out. Only the sheriff, with a court order, has authority to physically remove you.
What can I do if I am locked out or my utilities are shut off by my landlord? +
The only legal way to force you out of your home is for the landlord to go to court and get an order that requires you to leave. If the landlord locks you out, tell the landlord that it is illegal and ask to be let back into your home. If this doesn’t work, see if you can get in through a window or another door. If the landlord refuses to let you back in and you cannot get in on your own, you can call the police. They will sometimes help. They may say that it is a civil dispute and that they will not help you. If so, contact a lawyer.
If your landlord unlawfully changes the locks, shuts off the power or other utilities, makes serious threats or attempts to shut off your utilities, or takes other out-of-court action to force you to move, you may file a lawsuit to get an order so that you can return to your home. You can also sue for damages in the amount of two months’ rent or twice your actual damages, whichever is more. You may also sue for another month’s rent or actual damages if the landlord entered your home illegally (for example, to change the locks). This lawsuit can include damages for emotional distress causing loss of sleep, inability to eat, and other interference with your ability to use the rental unit. ORS 90.375. See the Time Limit Warning above.
See the resource ‘UtilityFees’ on this website for information about additional rights that you have if the landlord doesn’t pay utility bills that the landlord is supposed to pay.
What does a landlord have to do to evict me? +
A landlord must first give you a termination notice, unless you had an agreement that expired on a certain date. If you do not move by the date listed in the termination notice, the landlord may take you to court. If your landlord takes you to court, you will be given legal papers, including a Summons and Complaint telling you when to go to court for First Appearance.The landlord must go to court and get a court order that says you must leave. See the resource ‘Eviction – Going to Court’ on this website for information on what happens in court.
How does a landlord give a termination notice? +
There are only three ways that a landlord can legally serve you with a termination notice:
- the landlord must hand-deliver the termination notice, or
- mail it to your address by first class mail, or
- put the notice on your door and mail you a copy (if your rental agreement allows this).
If the notice is handed to you, the notice period starts to run immediately. If it is only mailed to you, the landlord must add 3 days to the length of notice. If it is posted and mailed, the notice starts to run either when the landlord mails the notice or on the day the landlord posts and mails the notice. Any other way that the landlord gives you a notice of termination (such as email, orally, or by certified mail) is not legal and may give you a defense in any eviction action based on that notice.
All termination notices must be in writing. ORS 90.155, 90.160.
What kinds of termination notices can a landlord give me? +
See this resource: Eviction Notices (https://oregonlawhelp.org/resource/eviction-notices?ref=GHzuA)
What notice do I get if my landlord converts my dwelling into a condo? +
Before a landlord can convert your unit into a condominium, the landlord must provide you with a 120-day notice of termination. This notice must tell you about rent increase restrictions, financial assistance that may be available to you in buying the unit, the prohibition on termination without cause within the 120-day notice period, and must include an offer to sell the unit to you. During the 120-day notice period, the landlord is not allowed to evict you without cause or to enact unscheduled rent increases (over cost-of-living increases). You may recover damages of up to 6 times the monthly rent if your landlord violates these provisions. There are also limits on the rehabilitation of common areas during the 120-day period. ORS 90.493, 100.305.
Can I be evicted for nonpayment if I paid part of the rent this month? +
If the landlord accepts part of the rent, the landlord may not evict you during the same month for nonpayment of rent, unless you agreed to pay the balance on a certain day and then did not pay. If your landlord accepted part of the rent after serving a 72-hour or 144-hour eviction notice, it is harder for your landlord to evict you. Contact a lawyer if your landlord files for eviction. But your landlord has not “accepted” the partial rent payment if the landlord refunds the rent within 10 days of receiving it. The refund may be by personal delivery or first class mail (mailed within the 10 days). The refund may be in any form of check or money—the landlord doesn’t have to return your check. If you are a Section 8 tenant, a landlord can accept the Section 8 rent assistance payment and still evict you if you don’t pay your portion of the rent.ORS 90.412, 90.414.
Can I be evicted if I have paid my rent? +
Even if you paid your rent, you can be evicted for other reasons. See the question ‘What kinds of termination notices can a landlord give?’ above for the other types of termination notices your landlord might be able to give you.
If you have been given a 30-day no-cause eviction notice and the landlord accepts a rent payment that covers more than the 30 days, you can still be evicted if the landlord returns the extra rent to you within 10 days of receiving it. (Example: The landlord gives you a 30-day notice on July 15th and accepts a full month’s rent payment from you on August 1st. On August 7th the landlord returns the rent that you paid that covers the time from August 16th to August 30th. You can be evicted after August 15th). ORS 90.412, 90.414.
What happens if I don’t move out after getting a termination notice? +
The landlord must go to court to legally force you to move. The landlord will file an eviction court case against you called an FED, forcible entry and detainer. The sheriff or someone serving the court papers (Summons and Complaint) will hand them to whoever answers the door at your home or will tape them to the door and mail a copy later. The papers will tell you when and where to appear for court for what is called First Appearance. The date will be about 7 days from the date your landlord filed the case in court in most counties. It is a good idea to get legal advice as soon as you get the papers. See the resource ‘Eviction – Going to Court’ at http://oregonlawhelp.org/resource/eviction-going-to-court?ref=DS7TZ on this website for more information.
What can I do if I have children and I am facing eviction? +
It is illegal to discriminate against families because they have children. However, it is not illegal to evict a family for nonpayment of rent or other legal reasons. (See the resource ‘Discrimination Against Tenants’ at http://oregonlawhelp.org/resource/discrimination-against-tenants?ref=kiTqw for more information.)You can call the state welfare agency, social service agencies, churches or other resources where you live to see if you can get an emergency grant to help pay your rent or for moving.