Landlord Fights Portland, Ore., Rent Control

     PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – An apartment owner sued Portland, Ore., challenging a rent control law the city passed in response to no-cause evictions in the trendy city.
     Portland had one of the highest growth rates of rental property in the nation last year, and one of the lowest vacancy rates. Housing advocates have been calling attention to the rates of displacement from rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.
     In response to the rising rents and no-cause evictions, Portland issued a rule that prohibits landlords from raising rent by more than 5 percent without 90 days notice.
     The City Council approved the ordinance in October, and it took effect on Friday, Nov. 13.
     On Tuesday, Melcliff Associates, which owns apartments, sued Portland in Multnomah County Court, claiming the ordinance violates state law. It claims the 90-day notice creates a “60-day rent control period” during which it cannot raise rents.
     Oregon law prohibits rent control by cities or counties, with exceptions for low-income tenants, condo conversion ordinances and responses to disasters, according to the lawsuit.
     Melcliff seeks an injunction declaring the city ordinance unenforceable. Its attorney, John DiLorenzo Jr., with Davis Wright Tremaine, called rent control “horrible public policy.”
     Oregon prohibited local rent controls in 1985. Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman said the city knew about the state law, and the city’s attorneys said the 90-day extension was reasonable.
     “The new Portland tenant protections provide renters more advance notice of rental increases – 30 days is just not enough time for renters to budget for the exorbitant rental increases many families are facing,” Saltzman said in an emailed statement.
     “The City Council, upon the advice of its attorneys, determined that a reasonable and sound legal option was to extend that notice to 90 days.”

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