Modern Family Matters

Divorce, Domestic Violence, & Tenancy Rights: Leasing Options for Renters (& Their Landlords)

November 09, 2020 with Troy Pickard Season 1 Episode 17
Modern Family Matters
Divorce, Domestic Violence, & Tenancy Rights: Leasing Options for Renters (& Their Landlords)
Chapters
Modern Family Matters
Divorce, Domestic Violence, & Tenancy Rights: Leasing Options for Renters (& Their Landlords)
Nov 09, 2020 Season 1 Episode 17
with Troy Pickard

Show Notes:

·         If a divorcing couple is on a fixed term agreement and they're thinking about breaking it,  the landlord would have the right to continue charging the tenants for all of the rent that is due for the rest of the tenancy period that's been agreed upon if a replacement tenant can not be found. Additionally, there is a law in Oregon that allows a landlord to charge the tenants a flat fee of any amount up to a month and a half of rent, regardless of if they find a replacement tenant. This is only applicable if the tenant is breaking a written rental agreement that includes these terms.

·         A divorce decree cannot interfere with the rental agreement that already exists between the landlord and the tenants. Therefore, if a divorcing spouse who decides to stay at the rental property stops paying rent, the landlord would have a claim against both spouses for the unpaid rent, regardless of what the divorce decree says.

·         If you’re experiencing domestic violence in your home, the first thing you’ll want to do is speak with an attorney and see what your options are for a restraining order, which can provide immediate relief. In additional to this, you can let your landlord know about the domestic violence that has occurred, as they have the ability to terminate the tenancy of a domestic abuser with just 24 hours of notice. The process of evicting an abusive tenant will take far longer than the process of receiving a restraining order, so both options should be considered. 

·         Oregon has a law, 90.453, that allows victims of domestic violence to legally terminate their lease with no penalties, so long as they provide a 14-days’ notice. As part of that notice, victims of domestic violence will be required to include a qualified third-party verification, which provides proof to a landlord that domestic violence did occur. This law also allows domestic violence victims to get out of their lease even if their abuser does not live with them.

·         Oregon law has relatively recently been updated to say that a tenant cannot be held responsible for damage that was caused by the perpetrator of domestic violence as a result of an incident of domestic violence.

·         Even though a landlord is not allowed to evict or fail to renew the lease of a victim of domestic violence, they do have grounds to terminate a lease if they give the tenant a warning that the abuser is not allowed back on the property, but the tenant invites the abuser back and property damage occurs. By doing this, the tenant puts themselves at risk of losing the protection provided by Oregon law 90.453.

·         If you would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys regarding your unique family law matter, please call our office at (503) 227-0200 or visit our website at https://www.landerholmlaw.com/ to schedule a free consultation.  For more information about Troy Pickard and how his firm can be a resource for your family, you can view his website here: https://portlanddefender.com/

Show Notes Transcript

Show Notes:

·         If a divorcing couple is on a fixed term agreement and they're thinking about breaking it,  the landlord would have the right to continue charging the tenants for all of the rent that is due for the rest of the tenancy period that's been agreed upon if a replacement tenant can not be found. Additionally, there is a law in Oregon that allows a landlord to charge the tenants a flat fee of any amount up to a month and a half of rent, regardless of if they find a replacement tenant. This is only applicable if the tenant is breaking a written rental agreement that includes these terms.

·         A divorce decree cannot interfere with the rental agreement that already exists between the landlord and the tenants. Therefore, if a divorcing spouse who decides to stay at the rental property stops paying rent, the landlord would have a claim against both spouses for the unpaid rent, regardless of what the divorce decree says.

·         If you’re experiencing domestic violence in your home, the first thing you’ll want to do is speak with an attorney and see what your options are for a restraining order, which can provide immediate relief. In additional to this, you can let your landlord know about the domestic violence that has occurred, as they have the ability to terminate the tenancy of a domestic abuser with just 24 hours of notice. The process of evicting an abusive tenant will take far longer than the process of receiving a restraining order, so both options should be considered. 

·         Oregon has a law, 90.453, that allows victims of domestic violence to legally terminate their lease with no penalties, so long as they provide a 14-days’ notice. As part of that notice, victims of domestic violence will be required to include a qualified third-party verification, which provides proof to a landlord that domestic violence did occur. This law also allows domestic violence victims to get out of their lease even if their abuser does not live with them.

·         Oregon law has relatively recently been updated to say that a tenant cannot be held responsible for damage that was caused by the perpetrator of domestic violence as a result of an incident of domestic violence.

·         Even though a landlord is not allowed to evict or fail to renew the lease of a victim of domestic violence, they do have grounds to terminate a lease if they give the tenant a warning that the abuser is not allowed back on the property, but the tenant invites the abuser back and property damage occurs. By doing this, the tenant puts themselves at risk of losing the protection provided by Oregon law 90.453.

·         If you would like to speak with one of our family law attorneys regarding your unique family law matter, please call our office at (503) 227-0200 or visit our website at https://www.landerholmlaw.com/ to schedule a free consultation.  For more information about Troy Pickard and how his firm can be a resource for your family, you can view his website here: https://portlanddefender.com/

Intro:

Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast hosted by Steve Altishin, our Director of Client Partnerships here at Landerholm Family Law. We are devoted to exploring topics within the realm of family law that matter most to you. Our discussions will cover a wide range of both legal and personal issues that accompany family law matters. We strongly believe that life events such as marriages, divorces, re-marriages, births, adoptions, children, growing up, growing older, illnesses and deaths do not dissolve a family. Rather, they provide the opportunity to reconfigure and strengthened family dynamics in healthy and positive ways. With expertise from qualified attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcasts will help provide answers, clarity, and guidance for the better tomorrow for you and your family. Without further ado, your host, Steve Altishin.

 

Steve Altishin: 

Welcome everyone to our Facebook Live broadcast. I'm Steve Altishin, Director of Client Partnerships here at Landerholm Family Law. Today we're going to talk about the impact of divorce and domestic violence on renters and on their landlords. We'll discuss what to do if you're going through a divorce and renting your house or apartment. We'll talk about options you have on your lease as a victim of domestic violence. We'll hit some issues to think about on your divorce if you own rental properties, and we'll talk about what you as a landlord should do if your tenants are divorcing. And here to give us some answers to these questions, we have attorney Troy Pickard. How are you doing Troy?

 

Troy Pickard  1:55  

Hello. Nice to see you, Steve.

 

Steve Altishin  1:56  

Nice to see you too. So Troy, before we start in, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

 

Troy Pickard  2:02  

Sure. Well, I've been a lawyer for, let's see, about 13 years now. And about 10 years ago, I started my own firm, Portland Defender. And so we've been going strong for the past decade. And almost everything that we do over here is landlord-tenant law. And most of it is representing tenants in lawsuits against landlords that are not following the law. So that's most of what we do at my firm. 

 

Steve Altishin  2:32  

Well, that is perfect for today's broadcast. So, before we start in on individual questions, I'm kind of thinking we should just start with a broad overview. What is a lease, what's in a lease, and why are they important? 

 

Troy Pickard  2:48  

Sure. So, most tenants and landlords have a written rental agreement of some kind. And we use the term 'lease' and 'rental agreement' interchangeably. I think there's some implication that a lease is in writing, but there's nothing legally that is different about a written rental agreement versus a verbal rental agreement. A rental agreement in Oregon can be verbal. It's probably not a great idea because it seems like there's much greater risk for, down the road, people having a disagreement about what the terms of the rental agreement actually were. If they're written down, then there's fewer opportunities for that disagreement. Especially given that a lot of these agreements can last for many months, or sometimes, even, many years. And in all fairness to everyone, it can be hard to remember exactly what was agreed to verbally two and a half years ago. So most tenants and most landlords that think about it would agree that having an agreement in writing is the right way to go.

 

Steve Altishin  3:50  

Well, that makes sense. That's interesting that you can have a rental agreement that is verbal. So let's start then with divorcing people. People who are in the process of getting divorced and who happened to be renting a house or renting an apartment. What are some of the issues they should think about or may face if they are in that situation and either both names are on the lease, or one of their names is on the lease? What kinds of things can come up?

 

Troy Pickard  4:22  

Well, presumably, if it's a married couple, either both names will be on the rental agreement or, at a minimum, the landlord is going to know about the other person. And they're kind of a de facto tenant, they're just like the person who is on a lease. So the main thing to worry about is, presumably, if you're getting divorced, that means that you're no longer going to be interested in living in the same home together. And that will probably take the form of either both people moving out and living somewhere else, or just one person moving out while the other person stays. If you're really unlucky then you're going to be like me, 18 years ago, when I had a girlfriend and we were renting an apartment together. And then halfway through that lease, she was no longer my girlfriend, but neither of us had any money. So we couldn't exactly afford to get out of this lease early. So we had to tough it out. And sometimes that will happen. But if you're on what's called a month to month agreement, then it's going to be pretty easy for you, as a tenant, to make a move. Because at any time during a month to month agreement, you can go to your landlord, give them a 30-day notice and say, 'Hey, things aren't working out, we don't want to keep doing this. So we're going to be taken off on November 15.' And your landlord won't have any ability to stop that from happening. You haven't committed to anything else, because you're just month to month, right? The challenges really come in where you have an agreement for a longer period of time, like usually a one year lease. And so if you're three months into your most recent one year lease, and you decide that you can't stand to be in this home with this person anymore, now you've got a pickle on your hands because you've committed to renting for another nine months there. And so unless you can come to some kind of an arrangement with the landlord, you may very well incur some penalties if you just decide one day to let your landlord know, "Hey, I'm not doing the rest of this lease.' 

 

Steve Altishin  6:28  

Let's say one spouse wants to stay, the other one wants to go. For the one who wants to stay I imagine there are issues involved, as well as the one who wants to go, because they both are on the lease. 

 

Troy Pickard  6:42  

Yeah. So if there's a spouse that wants to leave, in my experience, most landlords aren't going to care about one tenant physically no longer being present, as long as that tenant isn't trying to not pay their share of the rent or say that they're no longer legally responsible. So a landlord is unlikely to micromanage where one spouse is actually staying on a day by day basis. Usually, if the landlord keeps on getting their monthly rent checks, and doesn't really hear anything else from the tenants, that landlord is going to be perfectly happy. So if it is a situation where one person moves out, the other spouse stays, and the full amount of rent keeps getting paid, the landlord probably isn't even ever going to know about a divorce, and probably isn't going to care.

 

Steve Altishin  7:37  

So based on what you're saying, i'm taking in that they can't just simply put in their divorce decree that the rental agreement is cancelled, or that one person isn't responsible for the rental agreement. But if they put down, let's say, the husband is going to stay and the wife is going to leave, so the husband should be responsible for the rent, does that have an effect on the landlord's legal rights?

 

Troy Pickard  8:10  

It doesn't. You could certainly have a divorce decree that impacts the rights as between the two spouses. But the divorce decree isn't going to be able to go in and interfere with the agreement that already exists between the landlord and the tenants. So the divorce decree could say, 'Hey, husband is going to stay and husband is going to keep paying the rent there.' And like I said before, as long as the rent keeps getting paid, landlord probably isn't going to care. But if the husband for some reason stopped paying rent, then the landlord would have a claim against both husband and wife for the unpaid rent, regardless of what the divorce decree says.

 

Steve Altishin  8:54  

So you said that there are more informal types, like a rental agreement that's not written. And I think you would tend to find those in more cases where a family member is renting, or a friend is renting. And if that's the case, how should the landlord or the tenant approach that?

 

Troy Pickard  9:23  

So if it's a situation where you're renting from a family member, those situations can become the nastiest of all, especially if there's a divorce involved. This is because the chances are good that at that point, your landlord is going to be taking a very personal and potentially strong position on who's at fault, who's right or who's wrong in the divorce. And that can make it very uncomfortable for the tenant who is on the, shall we say, losing side of that perspective. But hopefully, everybody can agree to maintain a level of professionalism about the relationship and agree that they're going to stick with the law. But I think what tenants should remember is if they're on a fixed term agreement, and they're thinking about breaking it, there are a couple of different consequences they could face. Now, what every tenant who breaks a fixed term lease could be looking at is the landlord would have the right to continue charging the tenants for all of the rent that comes due for the entire rest of the tenancy period that's already been agreed on. The landlord does have to use reasonable efforts to find a tenant to replace the tenants that are leaving. But as long as the landlord uses reasonable efforts, if the landlord for some reason doesn't find someone, then the tenants are on the hook for all of the rent until the tenancy is over by its own terms. That could potentially be quite a bit of money.

 

Steve Altishin  11:00  

Yeah. How about a situation where one of the folks, the person who wants to stay, should they go to the landlord then at that point and say, 'Look, we want to break the lease, but I want to become the sole renter of the property. Can we do that kind of situation?' 

 

Troy Pickard  11:25  

Yeah. Again, like I said, it's unlikely to ever be an issue for the landlord unless the rent stops getting paid. So it seems to me if it's a situation where one spouse wants to stay and keep paying the rent, I'm not sure I would even have that conversation with the landlord in the first place. 

 

Steve Altishin  11:42  

Can the landlord do something punitive to the tenant if one of them leaves, or if they're divorced?

 

Troy Pickard  11:55  

I have never seen a rental agreement that made any reference to something about divorce. It's rare to see a rental agreement that says something like, 'If one of you starts living somewhere else, there's some consequence.' I mean, look, if you're a landlord, and you have two tenants and they're spouses, and one of them decides to leave and the other stays and you keep getting the rent, I think if anything, you should be happy with that situation. Because hey, there's half as many people living in your home, there's half as much normal wear and tear. What's the downside to you if the rent keeps getting paid? But what tenants also need to keep in mind is that if you have a written rental agreement, your landlord may have put in a second option for themselves if they're facing tenants who are not going to be staying for the entire duration of the tenancy. Now, this only works if there's a written agreement and if this is specified in the agreement, but there is a law in Oregon that allows a landlord, instead of just charging all of the remaining rent, to charge the tenant a flat fee of any amount up to a month and a half of rent. This is basically a one-time penalty for failing to stay the entire duration of their lease. That is something that a landlord would probably use if they were going to be able to get a new tenant in there in just a week or two. And it can feel very frustrating if you're a tenant who leaves because you're thinking, well, geez, you got a new tenant a week after I left, why do I have to pay you all this money? But the law says the landlord gets to do it if they put it in a lease. So if you truly are in a situation where you're going to both be leaving the home, then the best thing for you to do, probably, would be to talk to the landlord about it as early as possible, and try to negotiate the most favorable deal for yourself that you can. Maybe it would involve you, as the tenants, doing something to try and find new tenants to replace you. And hopefully it wouldn't be too hard because it's not like you're leaving because there's a problem with the home. You're not leaving because the landlord is bad. You're leaving for reasons that don't have anything to do with this particular tenancy. 

 

Steve Altishin  14:07  

Got it. So before we move on from this subject, there's a question that came to my mind. What if only one of the tenants, one of the couples, is on the lease, and the other one leaves? There's not an issue with that, is there? Or do they somehow absorb some of that liability? 

 

Troy Pickard  14:33  

So there's a tenant on the lease. They're the only ones listed as a tenant. There is a spouse in the mix, but the spouse decides to move out. Do I have that hypothetical right? 

 

Steve Altishin  14:44  

Yeah.

 

Troy Pickard  14:45  

I wouldn't have any concerns about that if I was the tenant that is still staying at the home.

 

Steve Altishin  14:52  

Or the one leaving?

 

Troy Pickard  14:54  

Yeah, unless somehow the one leaving has become a tenant by an agreement of the parties somehow. I wouldn't imagine that. I mean, the landlord might not even know about that tenant.

 

Steve Altishin  15:08  

Right. So let's move to, say the couple divorcing are landlords, and now they're divorcing, and they've got some rental properties. What kinds of things do they need to think of in terms of how they handle those properties as landlords? 

 

Troy Pickard  15:32  

So now our couple that is divorcing are landlords, and they own one or more rental properties? 

 

Steve Altishin  15:38  

Yeah. 

 

Troy Pickard  15:39  

So the first thing they're going to want to figure out is, okay, there's hopefully not too long of a road, but potentially a long road between the decision to get divorced, and the ultimate resolution of the divorce. 

 

Steve Altishin  15:52  

Yep. 

 

Troy Pickard  15:53  

So what the couple would want to do first and foremost is to make sure that they have a plan for the ongoing management of these properties while the divorce is proceeding. Sometimes there can be some confusion among a couple about, well, who's really responsible for managing this rental? And the last thing you'd want is for a repair problem to arise and the tenants don't know who to talk to and there's miscommunications. Not only could it result in damage to the couple's assets, but it could also result in a tenant having claims against the landlord if the place is being negligently managed. So it would be wise for that couple to come up with a plan for, 'Okay, moving forward, until we get everything finalized here, spouse A is going to be the point person for taking care of management issues.' And this is only really an issue if the couple is self-managing. But a lot of landlords use property management companies. If a couple wasn't doing that and now they're getting divorced, that may be a time when they want to say, 'It's going to be easier to just have property management X take over, and we'll pay for that out of the rent that's generated from the home.' 

 

Steve Altishin  17:14  

That makes sense. And I can just envision, you know, 12 months after the divorce someone moves out, and the deposit is being held. And the person who's still there just says, 'Oh, that's mine.' So I mean, yeah, it all has to be dealt with.

 

Troy Pickard  17:34  

Think about your rental in the same way that you would think about if a couple owned a laundromat. Someone's got to still be in charge of managing the laundromat. It's going to need to be cleaned every now and then, you've got to get the quarters out of the machines, you've got to maintain the washers and dryers. And if everybody just ignores that, then that's going to be a problem for the customers and for the business itself. So think of your rentals as a business because that is what they are. 

 

Steve Altishin  18:03  

Yeah. That then leads into the other divorce issue, and that would be what if you're a landlord and your tenants are getting divorced? Any precautionary things you might want to do? You were talking about how the tenants might not want the landlord to know. Do you have any advice for someone who walks in and says, 'Hey, our tenants are getting divorced and it's ugly?'

 

Troy Pickard  18:32  

Yeah, I mean, hopefully there's not any domestic violence going on. I'm not sure if that's what you meant by 'ugly,' and I think we'll talk about domestic violence issues in a few minutes. But for now, let's assume it's ugly, but there's no domestic violence. And a lot of divorces are like that. I think if you're a landlord, your main concern is going to be making sure that the rent still gets paid. So I think if your tenants came to you with, 'Hey, we're getting divorced,' you'd want to have a thorough conversation with them about what they're thinking that means. Are they thinking that means one tenant will stay and one will leave? Are they thinking they all want to break the lease? And then you could make your decisions going forward from there. But if it's a lease break situation, hopefully you were smart enough to use a written rental agreement and to put in that option for yourself of just charging the tenants a flat month and a half of rent for a situation where they leave early. That will put you in a position where you can look at the rental market and you can say either, 'Oh, that's fine. I think I'll be able to get new tenants in there in a week or two.' In which case, you can just charge them a month and a half of rent. Or if it's a very loose rental market where you're worried you might not be able to find replacement tenants for months, then you'd just be charging them the rent that goes by while you try to find new tenants. But if it's a situation where one side wants to stay, I think that you would want to just have clarity among the tenants about whether both of them were still liable for the rent, even if they were not both still living there. And you'd want to have clarity on your tenants financial position to make sure that you are going to be able to still get the rent each month. You wouldn't want to be setting yourself up for a situation where the breadwinner is leaving, the person who doesn't make a lot of money is staying, and they're unable to make their rent payments in the future. 

 

Steve Altishin  20:30  

Exactly. That kind of leads to that question: can divorce or separation be a grounds to terminate a lease?

 

Troy Pickard  20:45  

I don't think by itself a divorce or a separation could be grounds to terminate a lease. I think that if a tenant is going to be moving out, a landlord might arguably be able to say, 'Well, if you're no longer going to be living there, then you're terminating the tenancy.' I think that's going to be a hard argument for the landlord to make though, if the tenant isn't telling the landlord 'I'm out.' If all the tenant is saying is, 'One of us isn't going to be living here day to day anymore,' I'm not sure that gives the landlord much of an arguement. 

 

Steve Altishin  21:21  

Got it. What if the renter who is on the lease, or on the month to month, gets married, spouse comes in, they get a divorce, and that person says 'I'm out of here, you can continue to live in the place as long as you pay the rent,' and then splits. But that person may have been the person with the financial wherewithal to make the lease, and they're no longer occupying the house or paying for it. 

 

Troy Pickard  21:52  

Right. I think under those circumstances, if a landlord wasn't getting the rent anymore, I mean, first of all, the landlord would probably be able to just issue the same kind of termination notice that they would with any other tenant who doesn't pay their rent. But if there was kind of a secret spouse, a tenant that moved in under the nose, the landlord had no idea, and then the real tenant leaves, I think if the landlord found out about that, then they would be able to go to the remaining occupant and give them a certain kind of termination notice. A 24 hour notice that says, 'Hey, listen, the real tenant has abandoned the home and the tenancy is terminated. I've never accepted any rent from you knowing that you were living here. And our rental agreement with the real tenant says that he's not allowed to sublet this place out or assign his tendency to anybody else.' 

 

Steve Altishin  22:48  

Wow. That just leads to the one last question and then we'll get on to domestic violence. What about COVID? We talked about whether the termination, and I know that there are some, in some jurisdictions at least, moratoriums on evictions. How does that fit into this whole thing?

 

Troy Pickard  23:08  

So the moratoriums that exist are limited to terminations over non-payment, terminations that are for no cause, or terminations that are for a relatively new kind of ability that landlords have, which I can a 'landlord-based termination.' So they don't relate to situations where the real tenant leaves and a landlord is left with a squatter. They don't relate to situations where the tenants are breaking some kind of rules at the home, unless we're talking about rules on making payments. So I don't think that the moratoriums that are in effect because of COVID are likely to have too big of an impact on landlords who are dealing with tenancy divorce. 

 

Steve Altishin  23:57  

Just a quick follow up on that--if there's a divorce, and just because there is a divorce and there's stress, say some payments don't get made. Even though there may be a moratorium on an eviction at that point, that doesn't affect the ultimate liability to make those rental payments, or does it? 

 

Troy Pickard  24:19  

You're right. Nothing about any of the moratoriums says that rent is not owed. It simply changes whether a landlord can kick someone out in a certain period of time because of the non-payment. And it changes to some extent when tenants are allowed to defer those payments, but it doesn't change, ultimately, whether a tenant is liable for the payment. 

 

Steve Altishin  24:47  

Thanks, that's terrific advice for people undergoing a divorce, thinking about it, or who are in the middle of it. So now let's move to another really important topic and a difficult topic. And that is, what if you're a renter, and a spouse or a roommate brings domestic violence into your home? It unfortunately is happening more often now. Under a lot of the issues going on with COVID, the stress levels are up, and people are closer together. Are there any options that people, as renters, have? If they can't break a lease, what can they do? What kind of options are there available? 

 

Troy Pickard  25:32  

So you're speaking from the perspective of the tenant that suffers an instance of domestic violence? 

 

Steve Altishin  25:40  

Yeah. 

 

Troy Pickard  25:40  

So the first thing you'd want to consider is you'd want to talk to a lawyer. I mean, if you haven't already talked to a lawyer, and maybe you have-- maybe you're a tenant that already has a lawyer at Landerholm, for example, preparing a divorce. But if you haven't already talked to one, you probably will, because depending on what happened, you may very well be entitled to seek a restraining order from the court that would force that abuser out of the home. And you'd want to think about, what are the consequences of this? Is this really something that I would want to do? And unfortunately, sometimes there are more considerations than just the immediate consideration of, 'Do I want this person gone?' But sometimes the consideration of, 'Do I want this person gone?', is the absolute most important consideration. So you'll want to explore what options are available to you for getting a restraining order. So then, in addition to that, you'd be able to, if you wanted to, let your landlord know about the domestic violence that occurred, because the landlord has the ability to terminate the tenancy of a domestic abuser, with just 24 hours of notice. I bring that up second after the restraining order issue because, number one, in the situation of advising your landlord so they can take their own action, first, you're going to be counting on a third party to do something to solve your problem. And the landlord may or may not take it as seriously as you do. And second, the process of evicting an abusive tenant is going to be a much longer process than the process of getting the immediate relief of a restraining order that might at least temporarily require that person to move out until the court has been able to make a more long term decision. So if you're looking for that immediate relief, the fastest way of getting it is to seek a restraining order. 

 

Steve Altishin  27:41  

What if the victim wants to be the person who leaves? There are a lot of reasons, both emotional, physical, and economic, that they may want to be the one that gets out of the lease. Can they do that?

 

Troy Pickard  27:57  

Absolutely, they can. So Oregon has a law that speaks very specifically to this. The law is 90.453. So almost all of Oregon's landlord tenant laws that relate to residential tenancies are in chapter 90 of our laws. And like I said, it's 90.453 that talks about the victim of domestic violence being able to terminate their tenancy. And the gist of the law is that you can give your landlord a notice, and you've got to basically give them a 14 day window. But you can give them a termination notice that says, 'Hey, I've been a victim of domestic violence. And I've given you my notice that on whatever date is 14 days into the future, that's going to be the end of my tenancy here, and I'm not going to have any further obligations to you in terms of being an ongoing renter. I am moving out.' And a landlord, unless they want to challenge the truth of your claim that you really are a domestic violence victim, unless they want to challenge that, your landlord won't really have any options here. By law, your tenancy will end. Now as part of that notice, you're going to want to include something that's called a qualified third party verification. And that's a long way of saying, basically, we just need to hear from someone else that's qualified to say, 'Yes, this person does appear to be a victim of domestic violence,' and that person could be your own lawyer. It could be a police report that describes you being the victim of domestic violence. There are a number of different things that could qualify as this qualified third party verification, but you'll want to make sure you include that in there because that is a requirement of the law that you're verifying to the landlord that this is a real thing. 

 

Steve Altishin  28:23  

If you've got a restraining order, either a family abuse restraining order, or one or the others, could you show them that?

 

Troy Pickard  30:03  

I think that would work, yeah. 

 

Steve Altishin  30:06  

So if someone were to walk in and they say to you, 'Here's the problem, my spouse is abusive, has been abusive, and finally I've had it. Should I talk to my landlord?' 

 

Troy Pickard  30:25  

Well, I guess my question would be, what are you hoping that the landlord might do or not do because of the situation? 

 

Steve Altishin  30:32  

I want it to stop.

 

Troy Pickard  30:39  

So, most people that I know of in domestic violence or divorce situations are probably not too eager to go talking about it to a bunch of people who don't really need to know about in the first place. But if you wanted out of your lease, and to be clear, this whole 90.453 law that allows a tenant who's a victim of domestic violence to get out of their lease, that law applies even if the abuser doesn't live with you. So for example, you could have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and maybe they have their own place on the other side of town. But you get yourself into a domestic violence situation, you may want to say, 'Look, I need to get out of here, and I need to move somewhere where this person doesn't know where I live.' And so you would still be able to go to your landlord and provide that demonstration that you've been a victim of domestic violence, and the landlord would have an obligation to let you out of that lease. 

 

Steve Altishin  31:37  

That's really, really important to know. I think most people would assume, well, I can get out my lease, but only if we're living together, or only if we're both tenants or something like that. 

 

Troy Pickard  31:50  

Yeah. So it does go beyond situations where the abuser is another tenant in the same home.

 

Steve Altishin  31:58  

Okay. One other fear that I think people have, and which leads to this question, would be that I've got an abusive spouse, they come over, they shoot holes in the wall, they hit. There are just all kinds of things going on, the police are called every day. So can the landlord, in this kind of a situation, either refuse to renew a lease or evict someone because, really, they're the victim of this abuse?

 

Troy Pickard  32:33  

No, a landlord is not allowed to discriminate against a victim of domestic violence. So a tenant shouldn't need to worry about that. In addition, with respect to damage to a home that's caused by an abusive spouse or partner, Oregon law has relatively recently been updated to say that a tenant cannot be held responsible for damage that was caused by the perpetrator of domestic violence as a result of an incident of domestic violence. So, the classic case, this is so scary to even think about, but the classic case of an abusive spouse that comes over and kicks your front door in in an effort to get into your house. Well, there's a bunch of damage to the front door now. The landlord is not going to be able to hold you responsible for that. Although, if the landlord wants to, they would be able to ask you for that kind of demonstration from a third party of proof that you have been the victim of domestic violence. So there is a little bit of protection there for landlords against an unscrupulous tenant who might try to pin damage incorrectly on an incident of abuse when it actually wasn't abuse related.

 

Steve Altishin  33:51  

Right. And this, I take it, hold for all sorts of rental agreement situations? I'm saying that because it appears that if you're a professional landlord, this is what you do, it's your business, you're going to act differently than if you're the brother of the abuser and you're favoring that person, and you are also the landlord because you're letting them in your house. There are those kinds of situations, and all of the laws we just talked about still apply, don't they?

 

Troy Pickard  34:27  

Yes. Even if it's a situation where- sorry, I think what you're distinguishing between is big corporate landlord that rents out hundreds of apartments and a bunch of buildings, versus someone who's just renting one bedroom out in the home that the landlord owns and lives in themselves, right?

 

Steve Altishin  34:44  

I wasn't thinking that, but there's a great situation. Yeah. 

 

Troy Pickard  34:48  

So yeah, the law treats those landlords the same. Another thing to keep in mind is that, even though a landlord is not allowed to kick out a tenant because they're a victim of domestic violence, or fail to renew their lease because they're a victim, or treat them any differently because they're a victim of domestic violence, there are some situations where a landlord can terminate the tenants of a victim of domestic violence if the landlord has previously given the tenant a warning about the domestic violence by the other person, and the tenant allows that person to keep coming back to the home. So in other words, if you're in a situation where abusive boyfriend comes over and punches a bunch of holes in the wall, and you let the landlord know about it, and the landlord gives you a notice that says, 'Hey, you can't let that person back into the house.' Well, if you as a tenant let that person back over and then they punch more holes in the wall, you might have, at that point, given up those protections that the law extends to domestic violence victims. 

 

Steve Altishin  36:01  

Oh wow. 

 

Troy Pickard  36:02  

So in other words, you've got to be prepared to put your foot down, and not allow that person to just steamroll you and come back into your life because then you might be giving those protections up. 

 

Steve Altishin  36:15  

It sounds like there are a lot of great protections, and there are a lot of options for not only domestic violence victims, but for people going through divorces. But they're technical, and they're not simplistic. There are some complications involved and things that need to be done. And it seems to me the first thing to do, and my advice is, to see a good landlord-tenant attorney, and to figure out what your options and rights are. 

 

Troy Pickard  36:47  

Yeah, these are nuanced situations that just don't come up that often. And so as a landlord, even if you're a professional landlord that's been doing this for years, you might have never come across the situation. Or, it might have been years since you have and the laws have changed. All landlord tenant laws get updated. sometimes it feels like several times a year, somehow. So yes, whether you're a landlord or a tenant, it would be really smart for you to meet with a lawyer that knows landlord tenant law really well. Give them your complete situation and say, 'Look, where do I stand here? What are my options? What are the risks? What do you think I should do?' And a lawyer that knows landlord-tenant law really well is going to be able to explain where you stand, and help you understand what choices you have to make, and the risks and rewards of those various choices that are in front of you.

 

Steve Altishin  37:39  

Wow. Well, thank you. Thank you, Troy, for being here today and for helping to look into this entire issue. It's really not a simple issue, and I think it is a great idea to call someone like you. So thank you for being here today. 

 

Troy Pickard  37:59  

Thanks for having me! 

 

Steve Altishin  38:00  

I also want to let anyone listening know that if they have any further questions, you can shoot them to me. I can actually forward them to Troy to get you an answer or at least get you his information. And again, my name Steve Altishin, steve@landerholmlaw.com, or you can post your questions here and we'll respond. So until next time, everyone, stay safe, stay happy, have a great day. Bye and see you next time.

 

Outro:

You're listening to Modern Family Matters a legal podcast, focusing on providing real answers and direction for individuals and families as they navigate the growths, changes, and challenges of creating their new family dynamics. Modern Family Matters is sponsored by Landerholm Family Law, serving Oregon and the Pacific Northwest and devoted to providing clients with compassionate and fierce legal advocacy with a firm belief in the importance of upholding the family unit amidst complex transitions. If you are in need of legal counsel or have additional questions about a family law matter important to you, you can visit our Landerholm Family website www.landerholmfamilylaw.com, or call us at (503) 227-0200 to schedule a case evaluation with one of our seasoned attorneys. Modern Family Matters, advocating for your better tomorrow and offering solutions on legal matters, important to the modern family.