Help for renters evicted by foreclosure

WASHINGTON — Renters living in foreclosed homes will get more time to find new places to live under a bill that passed the Senate on Wednesday.

A provision that lets renters remain in a foreclosed property for the life of their leases, or 90 days for tenants on monthly leases, was part of a package of proposals to help people stay in their homes. The House passed a similar bill, to make it easier to access aid through the Hope for Homeowners program, in March. The two chambers now must work out differences between their versions of the bill.

There are no statistics for how many renters live in foreclosed homes, said Corky Senecal, the director of housing and emergency services at NeighborImpact, a Redmond nonprofit. But Senecal sees anecdotal evidence that more renters could be forced to move in the near future. “That’s kind of like the next wave. I hear about it all the time, and there’s really nothing we can do.”

In March, 471 foreclosures were filed in Deschutes County, according to RealtyTrac, which follows foreclosure activity. Deschutes had the highest rate of foreclosure in Oregon, with one for every 161 housing units.

Because investment properties helped fuel Deschutes County’s real estate boom, common sense says Deschutes renters are more likely than other tenants to live in a home facing foreclosure,, Senecal said.

“If there was anything that would be designed specifically to assist that subpopulation, we would welcome that,” Senecal said.

Senators approved the renters rights amendment 59-37. Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Democrats, voted for the amendment and the larger housing bill, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which passed 91-5.

Merkley co-sponsored the amendment, which was introduced by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. In an interview with The Bulletin, Merkley said this provision will prevent renters from being “chucked out in the snow” if their landlords lose control of their homes.

In foreclosure, “that renter, their rights are abrogated, they’re tossed out, often with very short notice,” Merkley said. “It is completely unfair to the families that are renting.”

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