Tenants' Rights in Maine

4 Rights of Tenants in Maine

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Landlords and tenants in Maine are protected by Maine’s landlord tenant law. For tenants, rights such as security deposit rules, rent disclosure and landlord entry are protected. Learn four rights of tenants in Maine.

Maine Tenant’s Right to the Security Deposit

There are certain rules both landlords and tenants must follow in Maine about the security deposit. These rules include how much a landlord can collect, how the security deposit must be stored and how long after tenant move out a landlord has to return the deposit.

Maximum Amount of Deposit:

In Maine, a landlord can collect a maximum security deposit that is equivalent to two months’ rent. For example, if the monthly rent is $1,000, the most a landlord can request as a security deposit would be $2,000.

Storing the Deposit:

A landlord must place a tenant’s security deposit in an account in a bank or other financial institution. This account can hold multiple tenants’ security deposits, but it cannot hold any other types of funds, for example, monthly rent collected. If a tenant requests, a landlord must provide the tenant with the name of the bank or other financial institution, as well as the account number where their deposit is being held.

Security Deposit Receipt:

A landlord in Maine is only required to provide a tenant with a receipt for their security deposit if the tenant has paid the security deposit in cash.

Reasons a Landlord Can Keep a Tenant’s Security Deposit in Maine:
Maine landlords have a right to keep a tenant’s security deposit for the following reasons:

  • Unpaid Utility Bills
  • Unpaid Rent
  • Damage in Excess of Normal Wear and Tear
  • To Cover Costs to Store or Get Rid of Possessions the Tenant Left in the Property

Returning the Security Deposit:

30 Days:
In most situations, a landlord must return a tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of a tenant moving out of the rental unit.

 

21 Days:
For tenants at will, a landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit within 21 days of the tenant moving out of the unit. A tenant at will is a tenant who does not have a lease agreement. Their tenancy can be ended at any time by either the landlord or the tenant.

Deductions:
If the landlord has made any deductions from the tenant’s security deposit, the landlord must include a written itemized statement when returning the tenant’s security deposit. This statement must detail what deductions have been taken from the deposit and the amount of each deduction. The landlord must include whatever amount is owed back to the tenant, minus these deductions.

How to Return Deposit:
The deposit and the written statement, if necessary, should be mailed to the last known address of the tenant.

Failure to Follow Maine’s Security Deposit Law:

If a landlord does not return the portion of the security deposit that is owed back to the tenant within the necessary time frame, or if the landlord fails to include a written itemized statement for deductions, the landlord loses his or her right to keep any of the tenant’s security deposit.

Tenant Right to File Lawsuit:

If the landlord has not followed the rules for returning the tenant’s security deposit, the tenant can file a lawsuit against the landlord.

The tenant must notify the landlord of his or her intention to file the lawsuit at least seven days before actually filing the lawsuit. If the landlord has not returned the deposit to the tenant within these seven days, the tenant can move forward with the lawsuit.

Damages: 

If it is found that the landlord has wrongfully withheld a tenant’s security deposit, the tenant could be awarded up to two times of the amount wrongfully withheld. The tenant will also be awarded reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees. Once a suit has been filed against the landlord, the burden will be on the landlord to prove he or she did not wrongfully withhold the deposit from the tenant.

Transferring the Security Deposit:

If a landlord in Maine sells their rental property, the landlord has two options for the security deposit:

1. Transfer the Deposits to the New Owner: The landlord can transfer any remaining portion, after allowable deductions, of each tenant’s security deposit to the new owner. The landlord must provide a breakdown of the amount of security deposit that is being transferred for each tenant. The landlord must then notify each tenant that their deposit is being transferred to the new owner, include the amount of the deposit being transferred and the name and address of the new owner. Any deposits must be transferred on or before the closing date of the sale of the property.

2. Return the Deposits to the Tenant: If the landlord does not want to transfer the deposits to the new owner, the landlord can return the security deposits, minus any allowable deductions, to the tenants.

Exceptions:

Owner occupied buildings with five units or fewer do not have to follow these rules for the security deposit.

Surety Bonds:

In Maine, tenants are allowed to purchase surety bonds as their security deposit. For the rules on collecting and returning surety bonds, please consult Maine Revised Statutes Annotated, Title 14, § 6039.

Maine Tenant’s Right to Rent Disclosure

§§ 6015,6016, 6022, 6028

Rent Increase:

In order to increase a tenant’s rent, a landlord must provide the tenant with at least 45 day’s written notice. If a landlord does not follow these terms, the landlord must return any increased rent collected plus any court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. If the unit has any major health or safety violations which would make it unsafe to live in, the landlord is not allowed to increase the rent.

Rent Receipt:

Landlords in Maine are required to provide their tenants with a receipt if the tenant pays their entire rent or any portion of their rent in cash. The receipt must include the following information:

  • Amount of Rent Paid
  • Date Rent Was Paid
  • The Name of the Tenant Paying Rent
  • What Period of Time This Rent Covers
  • That The Payment Was for Rent
  • The Signature and Printed Name of the Person Receiving the Rent

Late Payment:

If a tenant does not pay the rent within 15 days of the rent due date, it is considered late. The maximum amount a landlord can charge as a late fee is four percent of the monthly rent. For example, if the monthly rent is $1,000, the most a landlord could charge as a late fee is $40.

A landlord can only charge a late fee if the landlord provided the tenant with written notice, either as a clause in the lease agreement, an addendum to the lease or some other written paper that a late fee could be charged. The statement must include the amount of the late fee and when the rent is considered late.

Maine Tenant’s Right to Notice Before Landlord Entry

Allowed Reasons for Landlord Entry:

  • To Inspect the Property
  • To Make Needed or Agreed to Repairs, Improvements, Alterations 
  • To Provide Necessary or Agreed to Service
  • To Show the Property to Prospective Tenants
  • To Show the Property to Prospective or Actual Buyers, Contractors, or Lenders

Required Notice:

A landlord in Maine must give a tenant at least 24 hours’ notice prior to entering a tenant’s rental unit.

Changing Locks:

A tenant cannot attempt to deny a landlord entry into their unit by changing the locks. If a tenant does change the locks on their unit, they must give the landlord a copy of the key within 48 hours of changing the locks.

Victims of domestic violence have the right to have the locks on their unit changed at their own expense. They must provide the landlord with a copy of the key within 72 hours of changing the locks.

If a tenant has changed the locks and has not given the landlord a copy of the key, the landlord can enter the rental unit “by whatever reasonable means necessary” in an emergency. If there is any damage, the landlord can charge the tenant for the damage.

If a tenant changes the locks and refuses to give the landlord a key, the landlord can terminate the tenancy. The landlord must send the tenant a seven-day notice to terminate tenancy.

Maine Tenant’s Rights After Bedbug Infestation

If a tenant has a suspected bedbug infestation, a landlord has the following responsibilities.

1. Inspect the unit within five days of the tenant informing the landlord of a possible infestation.

2. If a bedbug infestation is found, the landlord must contact a pest control company within 10 days.

3. The pest control company must have liability insurance. The landlord must follow the company’s advice to treat the bedbug problem.

4. A landlord must let all prospective tenants know if any adjacent units currently have a bedbug infestation. 

5. A landlord cannot rent out a unit with a known bed bug infestation.

6. If a tenant cannot afford to pay for their part in whatever measures are necessary to eliminate the bedbugs, the landlord can set up a payment plan with the tenant. This repayment plan should not exceed six months unless the landlord and tenant agree to a longer plan.

7. If a landlord fails to follow these rules, he or she could face a $250 fine or actual damages, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney’s fees.

Maine's Landlord Tenant Law

For the original text of Maine's landlord tenant law, please see Maine Revised Statutes Annotated, Title 14 §§ 6000-6046