Low-income and other vulnerable renters who live in a perpetual state of housing insecurity have no real recourse when their landlords exploit their vulnerabilities through implicit and explicit intimidation and harassment. Landlords know when a tenant has limited options, and they take advantage of this powerlessness by acting with impunity. And vulnerable tenants are extremely reluctant to use the court system, go to the press, or otherwise try to assert their rights because they rightfully worry that they could lose their housing, or that it will impact their ability to find housing in the future. We must enact robust protections to protect tenants from bullying, harassment, and intimidation!
The current Rental Services Office (RSO) is underfunded, understaffed and — by design — limited in scope. It is not enough to have an Office which explains to tenants how badly the system is stacked against them and outsources all of its limited services in a way that makes it difficult or impossible for tenants to access them. We need a Rental Services Office that provides meaningful support by: (1) actively advocating for tenants, (2) collecting data for a comprehensive database that can be used by renters, advocates, researchers, and policymakers, (3) holds landlords accountable through a combination of licensure, mandatory education, and mediation, (4) provides direct legal assistance for tenants, and (5) empowers tenants to act collectively in defense of their homes and communities.
(Portland Tenants United)