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Portland, Oregon

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Unreinforced Masonry Building Ordinance 189201 Requirements


December 14, 2018

City Council to require Unreinforced Masonry Building (URM) Owners to
Placard and Notify Tenants Per Ordinance 189201

To reduce the risk posed by unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings, Portland City Council passed Ordinance 189201 requiring owners of URM buildings to notify tenants and visitors that the structure is a URM. The ordinance was passed on October 10, 2018. Notifications to owners of Public buildings informing them of the requirements of the ordinance and how to comply with these requirements were mailed December 7,2018. Notifications to other owners will be sent beginning the first week in January 2019.

Placarding and Tenant Notification Requirements 

The ordinance requires that: 

  • A placard be posted on all URM buildings that reads: “This Building is an Unreinforced Masonry Building. Unreinforced Masonry Buildings may be unsafe in an event of a major earthquake.”
  • The building owner must notify existing tenants that the building is an unreinforced masonry building, and unreinforced masonry buildings may be unsafe in the event of a major earthquake. 
  • In addition to a placard, every lease or rental agreement entered into or renewed after the timeline for placarding noted below, must contain a statement that: “This Building is an Unreinforced Masonry Building. Unreinforced Masonry Buildings may be unsafe in an event of a Major Earthquake.” 
  • Building owners must record an agreement not to remove the placard and acknowledgment of compliance with tenant notification requirements. 

The ordinance requires URM owners to post a placard according to the following timeline 

  • Publicly-owned buildings: On or before January 1,2019 
  • Non-profit buildings: On or before November 1, 2020 
  • All other buildings: On or before March 1, 2019 

The URM placard must: 

  • Be at least 8”x10” inches 
  • Have lettering in at least 50-point bold font 
  • Be posted in a conspicuous location on the exterior at the main entrance with the following language: “This Building is an Unreinforced Masonry Building. Unreinforced Masonry Buildings may be unsafe in an event of a major earthquake.”  

It is not required to post the placard in languages other than English, but if the building serves people who are not fluent in English, it is recommended to post the information in those additional languages.  

The placard should meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Sign Installation Guidelines. The ADA requirements are also explained in this Quick Reference Guide.  

Exceptions to Placarding and Tenant Notifications 

Buildings that have been retrofitted to the following standards will not require a placard or tenant notification: 

  • Collapse prevention standard for BSE-2 seismic hazards or life safety for BSE-1 seismic hazard as defined in American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 41-17 or ASCE 41-13 are not required to post a placard or notify tenants 

For buildings that were retrofitted before January 1, 2018, either:  

  • Life Safety standard using FEMA 178, FEMA 310, or ASCE 31; or 
  • Oregon Structural Specialty Code 1993 edition or later 


Portland Fire and Rescue will inspect the placement of placards as part of their inspection program and will work with BDS Enforcement Section to enforce the requirements for placards. 

BDS Enforcement Section will use its existing enforcement program and authority to enforce the requirements for placarding and tenant notification. 


Building owners who receive notice to place placards and notify tenants but believe that their building is not a URM, or that the URM building has already been retrofitted to meet the standards above, may file an appeal.  See frequently Asked Questions on Placarding and tenant Notification Requirements for URM Buildings for more information. 

Additional Information  

  • Instructions for how to bring a URM building into compliance with Ordinance 189201 are available here.
  • BDS will create administrative rules that clarify how to provide documentation to show compliance with the new regulations.
  • See the Frequently Asked Questions on Placarding and Tenant Notification Requirements for URM buildings here.  

Contact: Amit Kumar, Senior Structural Engineer, Engineering Plan Review Services 


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