Judge: Portland ‘no-cause eviction’ not fed issue

Portland City Council passed ordinance February 2

A gavel (Public Domain Photos, George Hodan)
A gavel (Public Domain Photos, George Hodan)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The recently-passed Portland ordinance requiring landowners to pay moving costs for tenants evicted for no cause had its day in federal court. A very brief day.

A federal court judge hearing the case said the issue at hand — whether the ordinance violates the existing statewide ban on rent control measures — was not a federal issue and the case will likely move back to Multnomah County Circuit Court.

The case lasted about 45 minutes in federal court. The case could appear in Multnomah County Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon, but it’s more likely opening statements would be heard Thursday morning.

Attorney John DiLorenzo outside US Federal Court in Portland, February 15, 2017 (KOIN)
Attorney John DiLorenzo outside US Federal Court in Portland, February 15, 2017 (KOIN)

The City of Portland unanimously passed the ordinance February 2. An attorney representing landlords filed suit a few days later in Multnomah County Circuit Court. And a few days after that, the City of Portland moved the lawsuit to federal court.

The ordinance requires landlords to pay moving costs to tenants within 2 weeks of receiving the landowner’s notice that rent is going up by 10% or more within a 12-month period.

The main point in the lawsuit is that the city’s ordinance requiring landlords to pay moving costs for “no-cause evictions” violates a state law banning rent control. But the lawsuit also tried to argue it violated federal law.

Federal judge ruled it didn’t really apply to federal law but said it may violate Oregon law

The federal judge ruled it didn’t really apply to federal law but said it may violate Oregon law. The plaintiffs dropped the federal portion of their lawsuit and the case was sent back to a lower court.

Attorney John DiLorenzo, who is representing the landlords, told KOIN 6 News he wasn’t surprised at the ruling and that he’d rather it be in state court.

“It is a mystery to me as to why the city wanted to move this to federal court. I didn’t file it to federal court because most of our claims are state claims,” DiLorenzo said.

Until there is a ruling in the case, landlords will have to decide whether to decline to pay the moving costs for tenants — and face legal action themselves — or pay the moving expenses.

DiLorenzo is hoping the court makes a speedy decision.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.