SB 291 changes Screening Rules and becomes effective on January 1, 2022

On July 19, 2021, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 291 into law. This law goes into effect on January 1, 2022, amends the Oregon Residential Landlord/Tenant Act (ORLTA) regarding screening procedures and disclosures to applicants, and  requires individualized assessment prior to denial of all applicants with disqualifying criminal convictions.

The changes to the ORLTA are as follows:

Screening Charges

The amount of any applicant screening charge must not be greater than the landlord’s average actual cost of screening applicants or the customary amount charged by tenant screening companies or consumer credit reporting agencies for a comparable level of screening. Actual costs may include the cost of using a tenant screening company or a consumer credit reporting agency and the reasonable value of any time spent by the landlord or the landlord’s agents in otherwise obtaining information on applicants.

New required disclosures in screening criteria. Screening criteria must include the following information:

  • A right to appeal a negative determination, if any right to appeal exists; and
  • Any non-discrimination policy as required by federal, state or local law plus any non-discrimination policy of the landlord, including that a landlord may not discriminate against an applicant because of the race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, familial status or source of income of the applicant.

Limitations on Screening Requirements

When evaluating an applicant, a Landlord may consider a previous arrest of an applicant only if the arrest resulted in charges for criminal conduct for convictions or pending charges that are presently illegal in Oregon and:

  • The applicant was convicted of the charges; or
  • The charges are pending and the applicant is not presently participating in a diversion, conditional discharge or deferral of judgment program on the charges.

Response Deadlines

Landlords must provide applicants with a written statement of one or more reasons for the denial under the Landlord’s screening or admissions criteria within 14 days of the denial.

  • Except for the name and address of any tenant screening company or consumer credit reporting agencies that provided a report upon which the denial is based, landlords do not have to disclose the results of an applicant screening or report to an applicant (with respect to information that is not required to be disclosed under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act). A landlord may give to an applicant a copy of that applicant’s consumer report, as defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Statement of Reasons for the Denial

Notices of Denial must contain the following information:

  • The name and address of any tenant screening companies or consumer credit reporting agencies that provided a report upon which the denial is based, if not previously disclosed to the applicant;
  • Any supplemental evidence provided by the applicant that the landlord considered;
  • An explanation of the reasons that the supplemental evidence did not adequately compensate for the factors that informed the landlord’s decision to reject the application; and
  • A right of the applicant to appeal the determination, if any right to appeal exists.

Individualized Assessment

Before denying an application for housing on the basis of criminal history, a landlord must:

  • Provide an opportunity for the applicant to submit supplemental evidence to explain, justify or negate the relevance of potentially negative information.
  • Conduct an individualized assessment of the applicant, including any supplemental evidence, taking into consideration:
  1. The nature and severity of the incidents that would lead to a denial;
  2. The number and type of incidents;
  3. The time that has elapsed since the date the incidents occurred; and
  4. The age of the individual at the time the incidents occurred.

Landlords should ensure that they are using a forms program that addressed the above changes or that all application and screening materials provided to applicants are updated, as well as their screening policies and procedures.

This article is not intended as legal advice. Please obtain advice of an attorney for any policy change or decisions regarding residential and commercial Landlord-Tenant matters.