If you’re a tenant or landlord in Maine, it’s important to understand the basics of the city’s rental regulations. This article breaks down the key points of Maine’s residential landlord and tenant laws and provides a clearer picture of what they mean for you. Please note, Maine towns and cities, such as Bangor and Portland, may have their own landlord and tenant regulations, or rules relating to notices of rent increases.
Notices of Rent Increase:
As of October 25, 2023, a new law (Title 14, § 6015) in Maine focuses on the required notice landlords must provide to tenants when increasing rent. Let’s explore the changes:
- Previous Law: Before this new law, landlords could only increase the rent for residential tenants after giving them at least 45 days’ written notice. Any attempt to waive this notice requirement was considered against public policy and void. Violators of this rule could be held responsible for repaying any unlawfully obtained funds from the tenant, along with interest, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs.
- New Law: The new law maintains a 45-day notice requirement. However, a significant change applies state wide. In the state of Maine, if a landlord plans to raise a tenant’s rent by 10% or more, they must now provide at least 75 days’ written notice. Additionally, if the landlord increases the rent more than once within a 12-month period, resulting in a total increase of 10% or more, the 75-day notice applies to any subsequent increase that pushes the total to 10% or more. Any attempt to waive this notice requirement is void, and those in violation of this rule may be required to return unlawfully obtained sums, along with interest and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
- Exceptions: The new law does not apply to rental housing that falls under specific categories, such as housing designed to remain affordable for certain income levels, properties subject to landlord or tenant participation in government housing programs, or units subject to restrictions related to such programs.
- Example Municipal Exception: The Bangor City Council also had a similar law go into effect in October. The main difference is that the Maine law requires 75 days for an increase of 10% or more, while Bangor requires at least 60 days’ notice of ANY rent increase.
Rental Application Fees:
In some municipalities, such as Bangor, landlords are not allowed to charge rental application fees. However, if you’re using an internet real estate marketplace (like Zillow) to apply for a rental property, the marketplace itself may charge application or screening fees. In the State of Maine generally, landlords may only charge applicants for the actual cost of a background check, a credit check, or another screening process.
If you’re a successful applicant set to become a tenant in a housing unit, the landlord can charge a screening fee. However, this fee should not exceed $75 or the actual cost of the screening process for each adult tenant living in the unit, whichever amount is lower. Importantly, the screening fee can only be required when the first month’s rent is due, and not before.
Both the State of Maine and the City of Bangor have strict prohibitions against housing discrimination. Discrimination based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry, national origin, or familial status is strictly forbidden. Landlords cannot refuse to rent or impose unfair terms on tenants receiving public assistance, medical aid, or housing subsidies. Unless a unit is exempt, landlords must comply with reasonable requirements of subsidy programs, including paperwork, inspections, and necessary repairs.
Implied Warranty of Habitability:
Maine law protects tenants with an “implied warranty of habitability.” This warranty means that landlords must address and repair conditions that endanger or significantly impair tenant health or safety. This includes issues like plumbing problems, missing safety devices (like smoke detectors), or structural concerns.
Remember, these are simplified explanations of the new rental laws and regulations, and different cities may have different requirements. If you have specific questions about the tenant protections in your area, contact your Municipality or reach out to one of our experienced attorneys.
Understanding your rights and responsibilities under Maine’s rental laws can help ensure a smooth and fair renting experience for both tenants and landlords. If you need more detailed information or legal advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for support.