Know your rights!

Whether a first-time renter or a seasoned lessee, it is important to know one’s responsibilities and rights when entering into the sometimes-complicated arrangement of property rental.

Whether a first-time renter or a seasoned lessee, it is important to know one’s responsibilities and rights when entering into the sometimes-complicated arrangement of property rental.


Student Legal and Mediation Services is a full-service law firm available to eligible PSU students with the ability to assist in matters concerning property rental.

An appointment can be made by calling 503-725-4556, or visiting the office in room M340 of the Smith Memorial Student Union.

The following information about renter’s rights is compiled from the Web sites of Oregon State Bar at and the Department of Housing and Urban Development at


In Oregon there is no minimum or maximum amount that a landlord can charge for a security deposit and may also charge a fee for anticipated cleaning. Landlords must clearly document what a charge is for.

During the first year of the tenancy, a landlord may not require a tenant to pay a new or increased security deposit unless the tenant and the landlord agree to modify the terms of the lease. For example, if a landlord agrees to allow a pet in the unit, he or she has the right to increase the deposit.

Screening fee

A landlord may charge a prospective tenant an applicant-screening fee to cover the cost of obtaining information on the rental unit applicant.

The landlord must tell an applicant in writing what the screening investigation will involve, the landlord’s screening criteria, how much the screening will cost and the applicant’s right to dispute the accuracy of any information.

If the landlord charges a screening fee and then doesn’t screen the tenant, he or she has to return the application fee within a reasonable time or possibly face penalties.

Cleanliness and maintenance

The property must be safe and sanitary. The space must be free of pests upon move in, and there must be proper wiring, plumbing, heating and weatherproofing. The landlord must maintain these conditions throughout the rental period.


In a month-to-month rental agreement, either the tenant or the landlord can end the agreement with a 30-day written notice.

The landlord does not have to give the reason for a 30-day notice, but the reason must be a lawful one. For instance, the landlord cannot issue a 30-day notice to retaliate against a tenant for whatever reason.

A week-to-week rental period requires a 10-day notice for eviction or vacation.

Rental rates

In a month-to-month tenancy, a landlord may increase the rent by giving at least 30 days written notice of the rent increase. A rent increase may begin any time during a month.

The rent for a month during which the rent increase takes effect would be prorated, or divided proportionally. Unless one can show that the rent increase is retaliatory, discriminatory or imposed in bad faith, it must be paid.

Late rent

If a rental agreement is for a specific time period, a tenant may not be evicted before the end of that term without a good reason. If a rent payment is more than seven days overdue, a landlord may give written notice to either pay the rent within 72 hours or leave. The landlord may give a 144-hour notice when the rent is five days overdue and may charge certain fees for late rate rent.

The notice must be in writing in a special legal form. It needs to explain the reason for termination and the legal form of the notice must be correct in all details in order to be enforced in court.


If a tenant has caused serious harm to a landlord, his or her property or to other people on the rental property, or has committed outrageous acts, a landlord is permitted to give a 24-hour written notice to leave. The notice must state the reason for eviction.

Until the landlord has obtained a court order to evict, he or she may not try to force a tenant to leave by removing belongings, locking a person out of the unit or shutting off utilities.

Deposit return

A landlord must account for the deposit within 31 days after the end of the tenancy. The landlord may keep only the part of the deposit that is needed to pay for any damage directly caused by the tenant, minus normal wear and tear, unless your rental agreement says something different.


Federal and Oregon law protects a tenant from being discriminated against based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and physical and mental disability.

Oregon law also forbids discrimination based on marital status, the source of one’s income or if a tenant has won an eviction case brought by a former landlord. Some cities in Oregon, including Portland, protect people from discrimination on such grounds as age, type of occupation and sexual orientation.

Family law protects families with children, women who are pregnant, guardians of children and those who are in the process of getting custody of children, such as by adoption.

More information about fair housing laws is available from the Fair Housing Council of Oregon at 503-223-8295 in the Portland Metropolitan area or 1-800-424-3247 elsewhere in Oregon.