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Crime and Livability Problems at Rental Properties


Ryn McCoy
Crime and Livability Problems at Rental...

Read this story in Spanish.

By the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program

We often hear from tenants who are experiencing crime and crime-related livability problems in their rental properties. These problems are exacerbated when management or landlords are unresponsive to tenant complaints or may be contributing to the issues on the property. On occasion, we hear of instances where management has threatened to evict them or retaliate if tenants report criminal activity to the police. It is important for tenants to learn what resources they can turn to for assistance.

Some of the resources that can be helpful in solving problems:

Landlord/Manager: Often landlords and managers are interested in maintaining the livability and safety of their property. However, they may not be aware that their tenants are causing problems. When tenants report disturbances to management, even in confidence, managers at least know what is going on and can determine how to proceed. They must issue violations in accordance with the provisions of the lease and have some evidence (i.e. police reports or management or tenant observations) to pursue an eviction in civil court. If you are witness to the disturbances, they may need your support. When owners or managers are not responsive to addressing problems on the property, you may need to look to outside sources for help.

Lease and Landlord-Tenant Laws: Before signing any lease or rental agreement, you should understand what is included in the agreement.

Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT): CAT is an organization that provides education to tenants on Landlord-Tenant Law and can help organize tenants whose rights are being violated by landlords and managers. If you are facing eviction or harassment after reporting problems on the property to the landlord, police or other agencies, CAT is a good resource to contact. They should also be contacted if you are the victim of domestic violence and want to understand your housing rights. They have Spanish-speakers on their staff and provide information in English and Spanish on their website at oregoncat.org. If you need urgent assistance from a landlord-tenant attorney, call 2-1-1 or visit 211info.org.

2-1-1: Dial 2-1-1 if you are trying to find a low-cost legal aid, rent assistance or emergency shelter. They also provide referrals to other social service agencies.

Fair Housing Laws: Landlords cannot discriminate based on the federally protected classes of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, familial status and disability. Oregon state protected classes also include marital status, source of income, sexual orientation including gender identity, and domestic violence victims. To report any cases of discrimination, call Fair Housing Council of Oregon at 503-424-3247 and select extension 2.

Local Housing Inspectors: In Portland, there are Housing Inspectors who respond to housing code complaints for interior and exterior issues such as building safety and structural problems, mold, sanitation and trash. If the complaint is about the interior of an apartment unit, the inspector must have permission to enter the premises. If they find violations, they issue a letter to the landlord to abate the problems. Non-compliance can result in fines to the landlord. To report a violation, visit portlandoregon.gov/bds.

Police: Always call 9-1-1 if you observe an immediate threat to life or property. For suspicious activity in the City of Portland that is not an immediate threat, call the police non-emergency number at 503-823-3333. Important points to consider when calling the police:

If you don’t report activity, the police will not be aware that there are problems in your community.

It is preferable for you to provide your name and contact information to the 9-1-1 Center call taker. If you are concerned, you can tell the call taker that you want to remain anonymous. In some cases, this request may limit what can be done and may prevent an officer from following up with you.

If there is any information that might improve police response to an incident, let the call taker know. They will relay those details to the responding officers. For example, you may recommend where they enter the apartment complex to avoid detection.

When you do not want the officer to stop by your residence, tell the call taker fielding 9-1-1/non-emergency calls of your preference. Inform the call taker that you would like a call-back from the responding officer.

What to do if there are problems on the property and your landlord is not helping:

  • Document the date, time, activity and who is involved in an incident on the property and take photos. If the police were contacted, include that in your notes.
  • Talk to your neighbors to collaborate on potential strategies.
  • Contact resources that can help and keep communication records.

If you observe crime and livability issues on your rental property that are not being addressed by the landlord, protect yourself and know your rights. Work with your resources and neighbors who can help.


To learn more about the Crime Prevention Program, visit the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program website at www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/cp for English; www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/prevencion for Spanish, or call 503-823-4064.

Photo Credit: Korz 19 via photopin (license).

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