Max Denning

By Max Denning

The Observer

In Northeast Oregon, it is rare a property’s rent is raised by more than 7 percent in a single year. Oregon Senate bill 608 looks to cap annual rent increases at 7 percent, and while local property managers don’t think the cap would affect them much in the short term, they worry about the precedent passing statewide rent control would set.

SB 608 would make Oregon the first state in the country to pass statewide rent control. The bill has support from House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) and an endorsement by Gov. Kate Brown. Oregon Public Broadcasting said the bill is likely to pass and be on the governor’s desk by the end of February. The rent control portion of the bill is summarized in the bill as limiting increases to 7 percent after inflation is factored in.

“(The bill) limits maximum annual rent increase to 7 percent above annual change in consumer price index. (It) requires Oregon Department of Administrative Services to publish maximum annual rent increase percentage,” the bill’s summary reads.

Linda Hansen, who manages approximately 225 rental units in Northeast Oregon, said if statewide rent control is passed, it won’t likely have an impact on the region.

“Here in Eastern Oregon, 7 percent is probably going to be just fine,” Hansen said.

But, she and Ashley O’Toole, a real estate agent and property manager of six mix-used buildings in downtown La Grande, both worry a 7 percent cap on rent increases could lead to more.

“I think it’s going to set a couple of dangerous precedents for a slippery slope for something that is more restrictive and might begin to affect my business,” O’Toole said.

Hansen agrees setting a statewide rent control will open the door to more constrictive rent control in the future.

“My concern is they’re going to get it through with a 7 percent cap and as time goes on, in a year or so down the line, (they’ll say) ‘No, 7 percent is too much,’” Hansen said.

O’Toole said he has very rarely increased rent by more than 7 percent in a single year, and noted the bill is clearly going to have a bigger impact in the Portland metro area.

“I normally keep my rent increases between 3 and 5 percent,” O’Toole said.

While the bill is largely being touted as a rent control bill, it also has other protections for tenants that will affect local property managers.

One tenant protection is the elimination of no-cause evictions for tenants who have lived in a residence for more than 12 months.

O’Toole said this wouldn’t affect him.

“Nine times out of 10, my no-cause evictions happen within the first couple months and it’s just because we’ve got a bad apple we need to get out for one reason or another,” O’Toole said.

See complete story in Monday's Observer