Landlords in Oregon can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in Oregon.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated January 5, 2022
If you live in the Beaver State and you fail to pay your rent, your landlord can start the legal process to evict you. A landlord can also begin to evict you if you violate the terms of your lease or you remain in the rental property after your lease expires. This article explains the eviction process in Oregon and offers some tips about what Oregonians can do to fight eviction and remain on the property.
What Is Eviction?
Eviction is a process where a landlord legally removes a tenant from a rental property. Landlords must get a court order and meet specific legal requirements to evict a tenant. Even with a court order, they must make any entry peaceably without force. Landlords can’t just change the locks or turn off the utilities. This is considered an illegal eviction or illegal lockout.
Who Can Be Evicted in Oregon?
The residential eviction process in Oregon generally applies where a landlord-tenant relationship exists. A tenant is an individual who enters an agreement with a landlord to rent residential housing from the landlord. A landlord can also evict anyone living with a tenant, even if they’re not on the lease.
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Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Oregon?
Landlords and tenants typically agree to lease residential property for a fixed term. Often, the lease term is one year. The lease gives you, as the tenant, the right to live on the property for this specific time. This is also called a right of possession. Because you have this right of possession for 12 months, a landlord has to have a valid reason if they want to legally evict you from a rental property before the lease ends.
There are three reasons that landlords evict tenants:
The tenant is delinquent in paying rent.
The tenant breaches a lease term or fails to meet an obligation under Oregon law.
The lease expires.
Late, Short, or Behind on Rent?
If you pay your rent after the day it’s due, it’s considered late and your landlord can evict you. Also, the landlord can charge a late fee if your rent isn’t paid by the fourth day of the rental period. A landlord can serve you with a notice of the intent to terminate the lease on either the fifth or eighth day of the rental period. This period includes the first day the rent is due.
Lease Expiration or Termination
In Oregon, landlords can also evict you after they terminate the lease or if the lease has expired. In these cases, the landlord claims that you no longer have the right to live on the property, regardless of whether you’re current with the rent.
If a lease expires, it means the lease term has ended. If you remain on the property without a lease extension, the landlord can file an eviction action. This latter situation is different from where a landlord terminates your lease before the lease term expires. In both cases, an Oregon landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
The Oregon Eviction Process
This is a basic overview of the general process in Oregon for residential evictions.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
A landlord may terminate a lease for a fixed term only with cause and proper termination notice.
If a landlord wants to terminate the lease for nonpayment of rent, they can do so by giving you notice of their intention after a specific time. Oregon’s landlord-tenant law can be a little confusing on this subject. Under state law, landlords in Oregon are required to give 72-hour (three days) or 144-hour (six days) notice depending on the earliest day that a landlord is legally allowed to serve the notice.
An Oregon landlord can deliver this notice in two ways:
The first option allows the landlord to give at least 72 hours’ written notice of nonpayment and the landlord’s intention to terminate the rental agreement if the rent is not paid within this time period. The landlord may give this notice no sooner than on the eighth day of the rental period, which includes the first day the rent is due.
The second option allows a landlord to give at least 144 hours’ written notice of nonpayment and the landlord’s intention to terminate the rental agreement if the rent is not paid within that time period. The landlord may give this notice no sooner than on the fifth day of the rental period, which includes the first day the rent is due.
The notice must also specify the amount of rent due and the date and time you must pay it to cure or address the nonpayment. If you don’t pay the rent due by the end of the notice period — which is effectively 11 days — and remain on the property, the landlord can continue with eviction proceedings.
The landlord can also terminate your tenancy if you violate a term of the lease. Oregon landlords must provide Oregon renters with a 30-day notice to comply. This eviction notice gives you 14 days to correct the lease violation. If you fail to remedy the violation, you must move out of the premises within 30 days to avoid eviction.
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
The following is a summary of the legal process for the eviction of residential tenants in Oregon.
The landlord files a lawsuit.
After the required notice period passes, a landlord can file an eviction case. The notice period varies based on the reason for the eviction, as follows:
24-hour notice for personal injury, substantial damage, extremely outrageous act, or unlawful occupant.
24-hour or 48-hour notice for violation of a drug or alcohol program.
24-hour notice for perpetrating domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
72-hour or 144-hour notice for nonpayment of rent.
7-day notice with a stated cause in a week-to-week tenancy.
10-day notice for a pet violation, a repeat violation in a month-to-month tenancy, or without stated cause in a week-to-week tenancy.
20-day notice for a repeat violation in a fixed-term tenancy.
The landlord serves the tenant.
After the landlord files the complaint, they must serve the complaint and a summons on the tenant. The summons will contain the first appearance date. This will be seven days after the complaint is filed. The summons will inform you of the court procedures, as well as your and your landlord’s rights and responsibilities. This includes what will happen if you or your landlord fail to appear at the hearing.
There are two requirements for serving the summons and complaint:
The landlord must send them to you by first-class mail, and
They must be personally delivered to you. If you’re not available for service, the documents can be attached to the main entrance of your rental unit.
The summons must state the date, time, and location of the hearing. It must also state the following:
You don’t have to pay any fees to the court for this first hearing.
If you don’t appear in court and your landlord does, your landlord will win automatically, and they can have the sheriff physically remove you.
If you show up in court and your landlord doesn’t, the court will drop the eviction action.
If both of you show up, the court may ask you to reach an agreement with your landlord, but this is voluntary. The court will schedule a trial if you and your landlord don’t reach an agreement or if you don’t agree to move out.
If you want a trial, you must appear in court at the scheduled time. On the same day, you also need to file an answer explaining why you shouldn’t be evicted.
The court holds a trial and/or enters a judgment.
In Oregon, if a landlord appears but the tenant fails to appear at the first appearance, the court will enter a default judgment in the landlord’s favor. This means they win the case and can take possession of the rental property from the tenant. If the tenant appears and the landlord fails to appear at the first appearance, the court will enter a default judgment in the tenant’s favor and dismiss the landlord’s eviction complaint.
If both you and your landlord appear in court on the hearing date in the summons, the court will set the matter for trial as soon as possible unless either of you advises the court that the matter has been settled. The trial must be scheduled no later than 15 days from the date of this appearance. If you cause a delay, the court will order you to pay accruing rent to the court.
If you aren’t represented by an attorney, the court will direct you to file an answer in writing on a form available from the court clerk. You’ll also need to serve a copy to the landlord on the same day as the first court appearance. If you have a defense you don’t include in your written answer, you may still be able to raise it at the trial. But if you do this, your landlord can request a continuance, which reschedules the hearing. This allows them to prepare to counter the defense.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
You get to tell the court your side of the story. In doing so, you can raise an affirmative defense or counterclaim. An affirmative defense is a legally sound excuse or reason for wrongful conduct. If you raise one successfully, you can stop the eviction. A counterclaim is a separate legal claim you bring against your landlord.
The most common affirmative defenses and counterclaims are related to the condition of the rental property. Specifically, if the landlord violated the lease or hasn’t met certain health and safety requirements, you may have a defense or counterclaim. Every rented residential unit in Oregon must meet these "habitability" standards.
If you're being evicted for nonpayment of rent, you can raise a counterclaim, but you’ll have to prove that you told your landlord about the issue in the counterclaim before they filed the eviction action. If you bring a counterclaim against your landlord, you may be required to pay the court all or part of any past-due or future rent. If you don’t comply with an order to pay rent into the court, you can’t assert a counterclaim in an eviction case.
The court may release this money to you or your landlord during the counterclaim process, depending on who the court finds is entitled to the funds and/or if you and the landlord agree to it. If a judge finds that you don’t owe any rent, the court will enter a judgment on your behalf that allows you to stay in the rental unit.
You can’t get a continuance for more than two days unless the court orders you to pay rent (to court) as it becomes due. You’ll have to pay rent starting from the beginning of the action until the court enters a judgment. If you fail to pay rent as ordered, the court will try the eviction action immediately.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
If the landlord wins the eviction case, the court will award them a judgment for restitution of the premises. This means your landlord gets to take back the rental unit. The landlord can only enforce that judgment by serving you notice of restitution. This notice will give you four days to move out and remove your personal property. Though your landlord can direct the court clerk to extend the notice period beyond four days.
After four days have passed, if you haven’t moved out and taken your belonging, the court will issue an order called a writ of execution of judgment of restitution. The sheriff will serve this order on you. It directs the sheriff to remove you from the premises and give possession of the property back to the landlord. You’ll also be served with an eviction trespass notice.
If you lose, you can appeal the judgment to the Oregon Courts of Appeal. You must follow the appellate procedure for civil cases.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Oregon
Consider getting legal help from an experienced tenant's rights attorney if you are facing an eviction. There are also some rent payment delay options that may help you stay longer on the rental property.
If you must go to court and fight the eviction, collect any evidence supporting the affirmative defenses and counterclaims you’ll bring against your landlord. This evidence includes written documentation, photographs, videos, and any other evidence that will prove what you have to say about the property's condition and the landlord’s failure to follow the law or lease terms. You can even ask a county or municipal building inspector to visit the property and make an official report about its condition.
If you can’t appear in court for any scheduled court appearance, contact the court and request a continuance. If you fail to contest the complaint, you’ll lose by default.
It's crucial to maintain a good relationship with your landlord. This can help if you need to ask for more time to pay back rent or if your landlord threatens eviction. An eviction will go on your rental history and hurt your ability to rent in the future.
If your landlord tries to evict you, attempt to negotiate a settlement that will help you pay the past-due rent and remain in the property or at least give you a reasonable time to move out. Ensure that any agreement with your landlord is in writing and signed by your landlord.
Tenant Resources in Oregon
Several nonprofit and governmental organizations provide free resources, including eviction protections like emergency rent assistance or rent relief, to Oregon tenants.