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Landlords vow lawsuit if proposed Portland ordinance passes

A prominent attorney and lobbyist says to expect a lawsuit if the Portland City Council approves an ordinance that would require landlords to help pay moving costs for tenants evicted without cause or compelled to move by a steep rent increase.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Portland tenants forced to leave their homes and apartments might soon get some help paying to move.

The City Council is set to vote Thursday on an ordinance that would require landlords to help pay moving costs for tenants evicted without cause or compelled to move by rent increases of at least 10 percent.

Under the ordinance, landlords would pay renters between $2,900 and $4,500, depending on the number of bedrooms in the rented homes.

A majority of city commissioners told The Oregonian/OregonLive in a story published Tuesday they plan to support the ordinance.

Portland's newest city commissioner, Chloe Eudaly, proposed the tenant-protection rule after promising during her campaign to fight for renters who have seen their rents soar in recent years.

If approved, the ordinance is expected to face an immediate legal challenge from Multifamily NW, an association of companies that own or manage apartments, said John DiLorenzo, an attorney and lobbyist who has sued the city at least seven times over the years.

DiLorenzo said Eudaly's office rushed the proposal and never met with landlords to discuss potential unintended consequences. He said the ordinance conflicts with Oregon state law that prohibits rent-control measures.

"I don't believe any of this has been drafted in a collaborative process at all," DiLorenzo said.

Eudaly said the ordinance does not infringe on landlords' rights to raise rents, but instead requires landlords to share the financial burden when they cause a displacement.

"We feel very confident that this is highly defensible in court," she said.

Eudaly said her office has spoken with several landlords who expressed support for her plan. Her staff did not consult DiLorenzo or Multifamily NW because she does not believe they have offered viable solutions, she said.

"If they're coming to testify on Thursday, I'm all ears," Eudaly said. "I'm so excited to hear what their solutions are."

Commissioner Nick Fish called Eudaly's proposal a thoughtful compromise because she advocated rent control during her campaign and easily defeated incumbent Steve Novick.

He also encouraged landlords to come up with alternative solutions to city's housing emergency, caused by rapidly rising rents that have increasingly hit working and middle class renters hard.

"If there is a different and better approach I want to hear it," Fish said. "If we have to fight this in court, so be it."

The city in 2015 approved rules requiring landlords to give tenants 90 days' notice before issuing no-cause evictions or rent increases of 5 percent or more.

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