Maine Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Working plumbing, electrical, sanitation facilities and smoke detectors. Air conditioning is optional, but if provided, must be kept in good repair (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within 14 days after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If a landlord fails to make necessary repairs, the tenant has the right to “repair and deduct” by paying for the repairs themselves and withholding that amount from the rent (read more).
  • Retaliation. It’s illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant for exercising their legal rights (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Maine does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling TypeLandlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single familyYes
Multi-familyYes
Fraternities/Sororities/ClubsNot specifically addressed
RV parksNot specifically addressed
Mobile home parksYes
CondosNot specifically addressed
Hotels/MotelsNo

In Maine, many of the landlord/tenant laws only apply to rental properties having more than five units where the landlord does not occupy one of the units.

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Maine, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability IssueLandlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair.Not addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks.Ceiling leaks
Provide hot and cold running water.Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment.Heat is required
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting.Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cookingNot addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet).Not addressed
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services).Not addressed
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe.Not addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe.Not addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean.Not addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials.Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectorsNot addressed
Provide a mailbox.Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack.Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances.Not addressed
Provide working carbon monoxide detector.Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer.Not addressed

Bedbugs

Landlords are prohibited from renting a unit known to have bed bugs. If bedbugs are discovered in a rental unit after it has been rented out, the landlord has ten days to contact a professional pest control company about treating the unit.

If a landlord does not treat the unit, the tenant is entitled to $250 or actual damages, whichever is greater, plus any attorney fees.

Lead-based Paint

For any rental property built prior to 1978 that is being repaired or renovated, the landlord must give a written, 30 day notice of the repair/renovation activity and a warning that there could be a lead hazard created by the activity.

Radon

If a landlord is aware that radon is present in the rental unit, the landlord is required to notify existing tenants within 30 days of discovering the presence of radon, or to notify prospective tenants of the issue prior to signing the lease.

If the radon test reveals higher than acceptable levels, tenants may terminate the lease with 30 days’ written notice.

Making Repairs

If tenants request repairs, they must put their request in writing.

  • Sending notice – The tenant must send the notice and keep a copy for himself. The landlord will then have 14 days to make any necessary repairs after receiving written notice.
  • Landlord access – Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, a landlord must give tenants 24 hours’ notice unless it’s an emergency.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Maine landlord tenant law allows a tenant in Maine to withhold rent in response to habitability issues.
  2. Repair and deduct – If the landlord fails to make the requested repairs within 14 days, a tenant has the right  to make the repairs themselves and deduct the amount from their monthly rent. Repairs must cost less than $500 or half their monthly rent, whichever is greater.
  3. Lawsuit – Tenants also have the right to take legal action for a condition that impacts a tenant’s health or safety.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – For any violation of the local health codes that affect the tenant’s health, tenants can contact their local health code officer or code enforcement officer

Landlord Retaliation

Retaliation against tenants for requesting repairs that affect habitability is illegal under Maine law. Landlords cannot interrupt essential services or refuse access to property by the tenant in retaliation for exercising their legal rights such as:

  • complaining to the landlord regarding habitability issues;
  • filing a complaint in court for any breach in the implied warranty of habitability; or
  • joining a tenant’s organization.

Sources