When you go to court on the date on the Summons, this is called “First Appearance.” The process varies from county to county. In most counties in Oregon, tenants may:
Ask the judge to dismiss the case if the landlord does not show up;
Tell the judge about any agreements you made with the landlord either before court or that day in court. If you and the landlord reached an agreement before court, both you and the landlord should go to First Appearance and tell the judge the terms of the agreement;
Ask the judge for a little time to move and have a good reason; or
Ask the judge for a trial and a fee waiver or deferral if you have a defense. See the resource ‘How to Use a Form Answer in an Eviction’ on this website for information about defenses.
The judge may ask you to try to work the problems out with your landlord by going through a mediation, before a trial is scheduled.
If you and your landlord have reached an agreement, you will likely need to sign a “Stipulated Agreement.” “Stipulated” means that both you and the landlord agree to the terms of the paper that you sign. The Stipulated Agreement will sometimes say that you can stay in your place if you pay all of the back rent and other costs by a certain date. It can also require you to stay current on your rent for the next 3 months after you make the agreement. If you do not follow what the Stipulated Agreement says, the landlord can go back to court and get an eviction judgment against you that will require you to move out in four days. Once you are served with the eviction judgment, you have the right to ask for a hearing on whether you lived up to the agreement or not before the sheriff moves you out. You should carefully read any papers the landlord gives you before signing. ORS 105.146.
If you ask for a trial and you do not have a lawyer, you must fill out a form Answer and file it on the same day that you first go to court. Most courthouses have form Answers you can use to describe your defenses. See the resource ‘How to Use a Form Answer in an Eviction’ on this website. There will be a filing fee to file your Answer in court. If you cannot afford the filing fee, the court will have paperwork to fill out to ask the court for a fee waiver or deferral. Get a trial date from the clerk when you file the Answer. It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer before asking for a trial, even if you are going to represent yourself.
When you go to court, you should get there on time and be neatly dressed. Look at the judge while speaking, stay calm, and be polite.
If you do not show up in court at the date and time set for First Appearance, your landlord wins automatically. The landlord will get a court order directing you to move and may have the sheriff or process server post a four-day notice. See the question ‘Can I be forced to leave my home if the landlord gets a court order that requires me to move?’ below.