Maine Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Maine Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Last Updated: January 24, 2024 by Phil Ahn

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions Unpaid rent, utilities and late fees

Costs of damage

Costs of storage and disposal

Cleaning costs

Return Deadline 21 or 30 days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return 2x Amount Due + Court Costs + Attorneys’ Fees

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Maine, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in Maine

In Maine, security deposits can be used to cover any breach or damage caused by the tenant, including, but not limited to:

  • Unpaid rent, utilities, and late fees
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
  • Costs of storing and disposing of unclaimed property
  • Cleaning costs

Most states, such as Maine, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear and Tear in Maine?

Maine defines “Normal Wear and Tear” as “deterioration that occurs, based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of the tenant’s household or their invitees or guests.”

Examples include:

  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

Damage” is not defined by Maine state law, but is generally understood to mean destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of abuse or negligence by a tenant.

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Maine?

Landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.


A carpet that is slightly discolored or gently worn will be considered normal wear and tear. A carpet with visible stains, major discoloration and rips will be considered excessively damaged.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Maine?

Landlords in Maine can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures.

However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Maine?

Maine law allows landlords to charge for reasonable cleaning costs limited to bringing the unit back to its original condition at the start of the lease.

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Maine?

In Maine, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

  • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
  • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

Normal wear includes:

  • Minor scrapes from daily use
  • Fading due to sunlight
  • Minor cracks in the original paint

Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Security Deposit Returns in Maine

Landlords must return a security deposit by mail with a written statement of deductions to the tenant’s last known address within 21 or 30 days depending on the lease term.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Maine?

Maine landlords have 30 days after the lease term ends to return any unused portion of the security deposit if the tenancy is governed by a written lease agreement.

For a tenancy at-will, landlords have 21 days  after the lease term ends or the tenant vacates the rental unit, whichever is later, to return the security deposit.

A written lease agreement can establish a shorter time period to return the security deposit.

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Maine?

Landlords in Maine do not owe interest on security deposits unless the rental unit is a mobile home.

If the rental unit is a mobile home, the tenant is entitled to the actual interest earned on the account where the security deposit is held.

If the account does not earn interest, the interest provided must not be less than the Federal Reserve Bank, secondary market, annual interest rate on a 6-month certificate of deposit for the year the security deposit is held.

How Do Landlords Give Notice in Maine?

Written notice must be mailed to the tenant’s last known address and must include the amount of the security deposit due, if any, to the tenant, plus an itemized statement of deductions.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Maine?

Maine law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent.

Landlords can include a provision in the lease agreement that the security deposit cannot be used for the last month’s rent until the tenant vacates the rental unit.

Security Deposit Disputes in Maine

If a landlord does not return the security deposit within the required time period, the tenant must send a demand letter and give the landlord 7 days to return the full security deposit. After seven days, tenants can file for damages in court up to twice the amount wrongfully withheld plus court costs and attorneys’ fees.

Exemption. The double damages provision does not apply to buildings with five or fewer dwelling units if the landlord lives in one of the units. The tenant can recover the security deposit in court but the judge cannot award double damages.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for:

  • Failure to provide an itemized statement when deductions are made
  • Failure to properly hold the security deposit
  • Unreasonable deductions

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Maine?

If a landlord fails to return the security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in Small Claims Court if the amount of damages is less than $6,000. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file a regular civil case in the local District Court.

A small claims case must be filed within 6 years and an attorney is not required but permitted. Cases are filed in the Small Claims Court for the county where the property is located or where the defendant lives or has a place of business. The filing fee is $70.