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New Law Keeps Landlords From Hiking the Rent, and You'll Never Guess How

When a landlord jacks up the rent, tenants are usually stuck between two costly and indisputably crappy options: Pay the higher rent, or move out (which requires coughing up more money for movers, of course). But now, in Portland, OR, there’s a third option that’s causing quite a stir: Move out and demand your landlord foot the bill! Is that divine justice or what?

More to the point: Will this catch on in other cities across the U.S.?

This new law, passed by the Portland City Council last week, aims to address Portland’s housing emergency, which has been in effect since October to call attention to a frightening fact: 1,800 Portlanders are now living on the streets, unable to find affordable housing.

Here’s how it works, according to local news site OPB: If a landlord raises the rent by more than 10%—and if that raise forces a tenant to move—he’ll have to pay the tenant anywhere from $2,900 to $4,500 in moving fees, depending on the size of the original lease.

City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly (who championed the bill and is a renter herself), tried to pass a rent freeze, but that got shot down. So she turned to what she called “the next best thing: relocation assistance.”

Here’s how it works, according to local news site OPB: If a landlord raises the rent by more than 10%—and if that raise forces a tenant to move—he’ll have to pay the tenant anywhere from $2,900 to $4,500 in moving fees, depending on the size of the original lease. That amount is designed to cover not only average moving costs, but also first and last months’ rent and a security deposit. Not a bad consolation prize for needing to pack up and move!

Aside from Portland, Los Angeles is the only other major metro area currently with some form of “relocation assistance” in place to protect tenants. As for Portland’s plan, the ordinance is, so far, not permanent: It’s set to expire once its “housing emergency” is declared over (predicted to be in October).

But then again, who knows? Portland’s housing crisis could also get worse, and allow relocation assistance to linger—and perhaps catch on elsewhere.

“This notion could spread, especially to more progressive cities,” says Michael Vraa, a tenant advocacy attorney at Home Line in Minneapolis. And in his opinion, it’s long overdue in places without rent control or stabilization, which caps how much landlords can raise monthly fees.  Read More

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