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Portland Considers Proposal to Regulate Tenant Screening Process

By Michael Klazema on 4/11/2019

The balance between landlord and tenant rights is delicate. On one side are individuals who require an adequate place to live and a process for obtaining shelter that is not overly restrictive. On the other side are owners and investors interested in safeguarding not only their property but the safety of other tenants. In Portland, Oregon, tenant advocates believe that landlords have too much discretion in denying applicants based on credit or past criminal convictions. The Portland City Council is considering legislation to change tenant screening.

Two ordinances proposed by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly would alter the way landlords set the bar for applicants. One concerns security deposits and the other focuses on how landlords screen their tenants. 

Under current Oregon law, landlords have broad authority to consider not only a tenant’s rental and credit history but also his or her criminal history. The information contained in criminal history reports, such as those produced by a US OneSEARCH from backgroundchecks.com, may lead to a housing denial. For example, a landlord may choose to deny an application from an individual with a violent crime in his or her past.

The new rules proposed in Portland would change that by presenting landlords with two possible paths. If landlords maintain their current procedures, developed to suit their own needs, tenants would have the right to supplement their application with evidence of rehabilitation, and all denials would require a detailed explanation of the landlord’s reasoning. Landlords can alternately rely on a city-level screening process. This process would give less weight to old convictions, considering only misdemeanors up to three years old and felonies up to seven years old. 

Supporters contend that many of the factors which landlords currently consider do not have a significant bearing on an individual’s ability to meet monthly obligations. They also claim that the rules will open housing to individuals who may otherwise struggle to find suitable shelter. Those opposed say the new rules not only put other tenants at risk but could also force small-scale rental property owners out of business due to increased vetting costs.

For landlords, knowing to whom you’re renting is vitally important—a fact that Portland recognizes, as the city’s proposed rules for tenant screening would still allow landlords to consider and deny applications based on recent felonies and misdemeanors. For landlords and property managers who wish to have all the relevant facts in hand before offering anyone a rental agreement, it helps to have the right tools for thorough research. At backgroundchecks.com, we’ve streamlined the process of acquiring many of the most useful reports that landlords want to see, from sex offender registry checks to credit checks and beyond. Explore how you can make more informed choices about prospective tenants while remaining complaint with your state or city’s guidelines.


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