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Oregon law has long prohibited discrimination in rental or for-sale housing (including advertising the sale or rental of housing) on the basis of protected class status, including race, religion, national origin, sex, marital or familial status, and source of income. However, prior to passage of House Bill 2639 in 2013, the “source of income” category explicitly excluded federal rent assistance, which primarily refers to the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. This exclusion meant that Oregon landlords could refuse to rent to applicants, or even to consider them, just because they had a Section 8 voucher.
HB 2639, passed under the leadership of House of Representatives Speaker Tina Kotek, removes that exception and explicitly states that Section 8 or any other local, state, or federal housing assistance is included in the source of income protection. The new law also creates the Housing Choice Landlord Guarantee Program, to compensate landlords for damages incurred as a result of tenancies by Section 8 voucher holders. The law became effective July 1, 2014.
What does this mean for landlords and tenants?
Landlords cannot refuse to rent to an applicant, or treat an applicant or tenant differently, because the applicant is using a Section 8 voucher or other local, state, or federal rental housing assistance. Nor can landlords advertise “no Section 8.” Landlords can still screen and reject any applicant, including those with a Section 8 voucher, for past conduct and ability to pay rent. The law applies to all types of housing, including apartments, houses, group homes, shared housing, manufactured homes, SROs, etc.
What does this mean for rent prices?
A landlord can charge whatever rent the landlord wishes, so long as that rent amount does not vary based on the source of the tenant’s income or on another protected class – in other words, so long as the landlord doesn’t charge a higher rent because the tenant is using a Section 8 voucher or is a member of another protected class. A landlord who raises the rent just for the purpose of making their unit ineligible for the Section 8 voucher program would be in violation of the new law.
Does it only cover Section 8 Vouchers?
No. The new law provides protection from discrimination for applicants or purchasers of housing with any local, state, or federal rent/housing assistance. Because the most common rental housing assistance program is the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, much of the information about the new law in this FAQ and elsewhere refers to that program. Note, though, that the Landlord Guarantee Program only covers Section 8 voucher tenancies.
What else is important for me to know as a Tenant?
- The new Landlord Guarantee Program creates a mitigation fund for landlords if a unit has damages costing more than $500, and tenants must pay it back. Tenants may be able to get a waiver for good cause, or go on a payment plan, but most likely they will have to pay it back. Also, tenants may lose their voucher. It is therefore very important that tenants make a thorough documentation of housing conditions upon move-in and move-out. Please call CAT’s Renter’s Rights Hotline to learn more about protecting yourself: 503.288.0130.
- Landlords still have the authority to screen and reject tenants for past conduct, bad credit, ability to pay, etc.
- Tenants can make complaints to the Fair Housing Council of Oregon or the Bureau of Labor and Industries’ Civil Rights Division if they believe they are being discriminated against because of their source of income.