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Posted on: August 5, 2020

Council Limits Rental Housing Application Fees


The Portland City Council approved a limitation on rental housing application fees during its August 3, 2020 meeting, which will be added to the City’s Code, Chapter 6, Buildings and Building Regulations, Section 223.1. The new ordinance prohibits landlords from advertising, accepting applications, and collecting application fees for a rental unit unless that unit is available or will become available in a reasonable timeframe, although the landlord and applicant can mutually agree to put the applicant on a waiting list. When advertising rental units and accepting applications, landlords must disclose up front 1) the criteria that will be used to screen applications, and 2) the cost of the background screening. 

Application fees, including screening costs, may not exceed $30 or the actual costs of screening, whichever is less, and landlords may only include “hard” costs in that calculation.   Landlords that do require application fees must provide a receipt to the applicant detailing how the application fee was used, and any unused application fee must be returned to the applicant. Applicants must also be given a copy of any screening or correspondence that results from the background screening.

The amendment was approved as an emergency and is in effect as of August 4, 2020. 

The Rental Housing Advisory Committee had suggested a ban on application fees, but the Council adopted an amendment presented by Councilor Duson. The RHAC is charged with providing the Housing Committee with recommendations or proposals for improvements, modifications, or changes regarding landlord and tenant policy issues and identifying education opportunities, seminars, and materials that would be useful to landlords and tenants.

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