The Struggle to End Illegal Evictions in Portland

By: Isabelle B., Red Phoenix Correspondent Northwest

In the state of Oregon, the eviction moratorium ended on June 30, 2021.

Since then, evictions have returned to their pre-pandemic rates as rental assistance programs close and expire. However, this does not mean the evictions over the past year, or prior to the expiration of the eviction moratorium, are just, or even fully legal.

Due to eviction cases being filed outside of criminal court (i.e., in civil court), tenants facing eviction do not have the right to legal counsel in most states. Landlords have a lawyer representing them in eviction cases, while tenants very frequently do not. This is largely due to the class divide between landlords and tenants—landlords are able to pay high legal fees (no doubt because of the rent they collect from working-class people), while tenants can not. A landlord with a lawyer and a tenant without legal representation, in a bourgeois judicial system, is a situation with all cards stacked against the tenant. Landlords and their lawyers are able to exploit legal loopholes and fabricate evidence against the tenant, virtually without dispute.

However, there is growing support in Oregon for this to change. Eviction Representation for All (ERA) is working to get an initiative on the Multnomah County ballot that would guarantee all tenants the right to legal counsel. If passed, tenants facing eviction would have a lawyer to represent them in civil court at absolutely no cost of the tenant. In other regions around the country, where similar measures have passed, up to 84% of legally represented tenants were able to stay in their homes, compared to reports of only 5% of tenants winning their eviction cases in areas without the right to legal counsel.

Today, ERA is in the collecting signatures stage of getting the right to legal counsel for tenants passed in Multnomah County, OR. ERA needs 30,000 signatures to get the initiative on a ballot, and with a growing group of working-class volunteers canvassing Portland residents, they are well on their way. Members of the American Party of Labor in the Portland area are working with ERA to build tenant power and solidarity.

Of course, building tenant power and fighting back against the backwards practices of landlords will not end when Multnomah County has the right to legal counsel for tenants. It is essential for renters to be aware of the exploitative actions of their landlords and find support with fellow tenants. For help finding and connecting with a tenants union, visit this map of tenants unions in North America.

Housing is a human right!

Stop evictions!

Solidarity with tenants movements everywhere!

Read more about ERA here.

Categories: U.S. News

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