ONCE AGAIN TRUTH AND JUSTICE FAIL US
Oregon’s Landlord and Tenant Laws face Reality
George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley recently asked the question whether the ‘Rule of Law’ even exists in the United States. He asserted that:
“A legal system cannot demand the faith and fealty of the governed when rules are seen as arbitrary...”. “Our leaders have led us .... to a crisis of faith where citizens no longer believe that laws have any determinant meaning”. On the surface, our landlord tenant laws would appear to be very clear. The Tenant pays the rent and the Landlord is required to provide a habitable dwelling unit. If the Landlord does not, then the Tenant may complain to the local housing or health authorities without fear of retaliation by the Landlord, which is strictly forbidden.
DAY ONE -- Soon after the move-in, the Tenant, Our Hero here, noticed the carcass of a dead rat alongside the sidewalk leading to his apartment.
Not to worry, said the Landlord, Karen, it might just be a large mouse.
THE LAW : A landlord is required keep the premises free from rodents. (ORS 90.320 is the applicable law-here and throughout; the Law is straightforward)
WEEK ONE -- The first week brought ants the Tenant’s way.
Not to worry, said the Maintenance Man Kirk, the building is old.
THE LAW : A landlord is required to keep the premises free from vermin.
MONTH ONE -- Another week, brought a foamy dribble of water from the shower window of the apartment above onto Tenant’s sliding glass door and all over.
Not to worry, said the new Maintenance Man Gene, I will fix it.
THE LAW : A landlord is required to keep effective waterproofing.
ANOTHER MONTH -- The patio door lock quit working.
The landlord said we are getting tired of your complaints.
THE LAW: All dwellings are required to have working locks that exclude others.
AFTER A YEAR -- THE LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENT FINDS A RAT BURROW IN TENANT’S PATIO, ant infestation, no working smoke alarms nor smoke detector, patios built without permits, lavatory sink clogged, patio sliding door lock does not lock along with various other violations including a laundry room toilet not cleaned for a year.
The landlord immediately issues the tenant a notice of termination of tenancy in retaliation because the Tenant complained to the appropriate health and housing authorities.
THE LAW: Among various tenant remedies, a court can issue an injunction requiring a landlord to comply with the provisions of Oregon’s Landlord-Tenant Law (OTLA) and enjoining landlord retaliation.
WHAT DOES OUR JUDGE DO?
Our intrepid judge is Hon. Stephen Bushong, Circuit Court Judge. He patiently takes the Tenants evidence consisting of pictures of the ants, pictures of the rat burrow hole (situated less than 15‘ feet from the Tenant’s sliding glass door), foamy shower water draining on his head, health and housing department reports of violations including lack of smoke and fire alarms, documenting the rat burrow including ant infestation and....................what does he do? (Ruling August 3, 2011)
He says that injunctions are extraordinary things and rules for the landlord.