Oregon landlords: tenant mistakes

Oregon residential landlord/tenant law

Navigating Oregon residential tenant law isn’t easy. It’s no wonder that both Oregon landlords and tenants can make mistakes and have misconceptions about what the law does and does not allow—or what a lease can prohibit.

However, sometimes tenants can have misconceptions about what their lease and the law allow. Here are 6 things your tenants might be wrong about:

1. We don’t have to pay rent for the final month. [WRONG]

Right: A tenant’s security deposit does not automatically cover the final month’s rent.

Final month’s rent is a separate charge from the security deposit. What’s due during the final month depends on what was collected at the beginning of the tenancy and what the lease says.

If the final month’s rent was not collected around when the tenant took occupancy, then rent for the final month of their tenancy is still due in the same timeframe as every other rent payment. If providing the final month’s rent was part of the tenant’s lease or rental agreement, and that money has been paid, then the tenant does not owe rent for the final month.

2. Sure, bring the pets. [WRONG]

Right: Pets are not automatically allowed and can be prohibited.

The lease or rental agreement can set limits and prohibitions on pets.

For example, a landlord could decide that it’s okay to have one cat, or one dog, or one fish, and prohibit all other types of pets. The lease could also set a limit on the size and number of pets, such as one dog, up to 40 pounds, or two dogs, up to 15 pounds each.

Insurance requirements might also limit the options for what pets can be allowed. Some insurers or policies may not cover certain types of pets, specific breeds, or any pets at all. Oregon landlords also have the right to screen pets, just like screening an applicant, and can reserve the right to reject an applicant if the pet is unsuitable or dangerous.

Note that there’s a difference between a pet and an ADA or service animal. A service animal is not a pet. It’s an animal that is providing a type of service to the owner, such as a dog for a woman with blindness or a child with autism. If a medical provider prescribes a service animal, that will have to be allowed, regardless of the lease’s original terms.

3. Wrong: 4:20? Fire it up! [WRONG]

Right: A landlord can prohibit the use of cannabis on the rental property.

While Oregon law does allow for the legal use of recreational cannabis, landlords can ban it from the property. The main concern here usually has to do with smoke, for the same reasons, such as smoke damage, that a lease can prohibit cigarette smoking on the property.

Oregon law also makes provisions for the legal growing of cannabis plants on private property. Again, landlords have the right to prohibit this as well.

If the use of cannabis is medicinal, that is something that tenants and landlords can discuss to figure out mutually acceptable terms.

4. Sure, I’ll sublet my rental to a few more people. [WRONG]

Right: No you won’t. Subletting is not automatically allowed.

In fact, subletting is only allowed if the lease specifically permits it.

Leases and rental agreements generally contain language around the prohibition of subletting. If a lease allows a sublet though, subletting does not release the original or primary tenant from the responsibility of paying rent. If a sublet tenant does not pay rent, a landlord has the right to collect rent from the primary tenant. Non-payment of rent can be grounds for eviction as well—as can subletting when it was not allowed by the lease.

5. I don’t have to do any fixes or housekeeping, it’s a rental. [WRONG]

Right: The property must be kept in an orderly, habitable condition, and the renter or tenant can be considered responsible for routine housekeeping and maintenance tasks.

A rental agreement can stipulate specific requirements, such as a certain level of lawn care, especially when that is also reflective of general neighborhood rules (such as HOA codes, covenants, and restrictions). Landlords and tenants can also agree how certain duties might be split, such as the landlord paying for a yard care service.

Repairs and upgrades are an area where discussion is always helpful, so clear expectations can be discussed, set, and understood.

6. Renter’s insurance? It’s a rental. I don’t need insurance. [WRONG]

Right: Not only is renter’s insurance affordable and a good idea, Oregon landlords can require that a tenant procure and maintain renter’s insurance.

Renter’s insurance is typically affordable for just about any tenant or rental situation. It provides similar protections to renters as home insurance does for property owners, and it gives the tenants some protections and peace of mind.

Renter’s insurance can also be a stipulation of the lease. Not only does a landlord have a right to require renter’s insurance, but in the event a tenant does not secure it, the landlord has the right to get renter’s insurance and bill the tenant for the costs.

Navigating Oregon rental rules can be tricky, but a good lease and open conversation can prevent misunderstandings

Misunderstandings between landlords and tenants can often come down to miscommunication or a failure to have an open, truthful discussion about an issue or concern.

Ultimately, the legal terms of the lease win out. Just because a tenant assumes something was the case, doesn’t mean it was. Are you trying to figure out a problem with a tenant, or are you trying to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with a rental property?