In Maine, rental agreements can be either written or oral. According to Maine law (MRS Tit. 14 Ch. 709), a rental agreement gives tenants rights, including the right to a safe and habitable dwelling unit and the right to take some forms of alternative action.
Landlords also have rights, including the right to be reimbursed for damages to property that exceed normal wear and tear and to collect rent in a timely manner.
Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.
Landlord Responsibilities in Maine
Maine landlords are required to provide a habitable living space and must make requested repairs in a timely manner (14 days). If they do not, then the tenant may take up to two forms of alternative action. They can make the repairs themselves and deduct up to $500 or half a month’s rent, or withhold rent.
Here is a list of amenities that landlords are or are not responsible for providing.
|Electrical wiring and outlets||Yes|
Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants in retaliation for exercising their housing rights (i.e. filing a health and safety complaint).
Tenant Responsibilities in Maine
Apart from paying rent in a timely manner, Maine tenants must:
- Keep the unit in a safe and habitable condition
- Keep fixtures clean and sanitary
- Perform minor maintenance and repairs
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors
Evictions in Maine
Landlords in Maine are empowered to evict tenants for the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent, then the landlord may issue a 7-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If the tenant still does not pay, then the landlord may pursue formal eviction proceedings.
- Lease violation – If a lease violation occurs then the landlord may issue a 7-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. If the terms of the notice are not met, then the landlord may proceed with formal eviction proceedings.
- Illegal acts – Illegal activities are handled in the same manner as material lease violations. Landlords may issue a 7-Day Notice to Quit. If the terms of the notice are not met then the landlord may file for eviction.
At-will tenants are entitled to at least 30 days’ advance notice before being asked to evict without cause. If cause is established, then eviction proceeds the same as it does for leased tenants.
It is illegal for landlords to evict tenants in retaliation or for discriminatory reasons, or for joining a tenants union, among other reasons.
Security Deposits in Maine
- Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – 2 months’ rent.
- Time Limit for Returns – 30 days.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a Maine landlord wrongfully withholds a security deposit, then they may be liable to pay up to twice the value of the original deposit as a penalty.
- Allowable Deductions – Unpaid rent, damages that exceed normal wear and tear, unpaid utility bills, cost of storage of abandoned property.
Lease Termination in Maine
Notice requirements. If a tenant wants to terminate a periodic lease, then they must give the following amounts of notice:
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Needed|
Early termination. If a tenant wishes to break a lease early, they may do so for the following reasons:
- Early termination clause
- Active military duty
- Uninhabitable unit
- Landlord harassment
Tenants who break a lease early may still be required to pay the remainder of the lease term unless the tenant finds a new tenant to fill the unit. Maine landlords are required to take reasonable steps to facilitate the re-rental process.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Maine
- Rent control. Maine law neither preempts nor enforces rent control policies. Landlords are currently free to charge whatever they wish in rental prices but local jurisdictions could enact rent control policies.
- Rental increases. Maine landlords must provide at least 45 days’ written notice before raising the rent but they are not limited in how much they raise rental prices.
- Rent-related fees. Late fees are capped at 4% of the owed rental amount and can only be applied if they were included in the lease agreement. Returned check fees cannot exceed the total cost of the amount due, court costs, service costs, and collection costs.
Housing Discrimination in Maine
Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, familial status, religion, sex, or disability. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. Maine state law adds one extra protection for tenants on the basis of sexual orientation.
Discriminatory acts & penalties. Housing discrimination complaints are handled by the Maine Human Rights Commission. They have identified the following behaviors as potentially discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected class:
- Inquiring about a protected class trait
- Failing to make reasonable accommodations
- Refusing to rent, sell, or lease housing
- Falsely denying unit availability
- Providing unequal financial services
- Engaging in blockbusting or steering
The Commission does not disclose what kind of penalties are imposed on landlords found guilty of discrimination. Victims of housing discrimination can file a complaint at their own discretion.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Maine
Landlord Right to Entry in Maine
Maine landlords must only provide “reasonable” notice before entering an occupied unit, which is normally interpreted as at least 24 hours. It is assumed that landlords do not need permission to enter an occupied property in the case of an emergency.
Small Claims Court in Maine
Maine small claims court will hear rent-related cases valued up to $6,000 but will not hear eviction cases. Rent-related disputes have a 6-year statute of limitations.
Mandatory Disclosures in Maine
Maine landlords are required to give 6 mandatory disclosures:
- Lead-based paint. Landlords that own homes built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead paint.
- Radon presence and testing. Landlords must disclose info related to testing and mitigation of radon levels.
- Security deposit location. Landlords must also disclose the location and account number of the security deposit, upon the tenant’s request.
- Smoking policy. Landlords must clearly disclose the smoke policy for the unit.
- Bed bugs. Landlords must disclose if the unit or any surrounding units have ever had a bed bug problem.
- Energy efficiency. Upon request, Maine landlords must disclose energy efficiency information; specifically a 12-month energy consumption and cost record.
Changing the Locks in Maine
Tenants in Maine are generally prohibited from changing the locks unless they get permission from the landlord first. Landlords must also get permission from the tenants to change locks.
Additional Resources for Maine Renters
Check your local county and municipality for additional land-lord tenant regulations. To learn more, please refer to the below digital resources.
The Rights of Tenants in Maine – Though it is published by a non-state legal firm, this guide is among the most comprehensive for helping new Maine tenants understand their rights and obligations under the state’s laws. This digital resource is easy to page through as well, so readers can easily search for keyword and find the answers they are looking for.
Maine Housing Guide – This multi-purpose guide can help both landlords and tenants understand Maine’s statewide programs and provisions relating to housing. In particular, this guide has a lot of contact information for outside organizations that can help protect and support individuals in need of affordable housing.
Maine Model Lease – This example lease was created by Maine’s Attorney General to demonstrate what provisions can and should be added to a fully operable lease agreement. New landlords in Maine can use this document as a base for creating an equitable lease agreement that minimizes the risk of conflict with future tenants.