Legal FAQs for Renters in
Table of Contents
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Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
What can I do?
I've been sued in court for eviction
What can I do?
How can I get rent help?
Learn about Rent Assistance programs to help with housing costs
Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
- Are there any special protections for Maine renters during COVID-19?
The national CDC eviction moratorium ended on August 26, 2021. Please reach out to legal services if you are worried about eviction.
Maine's statewide eviction protections have expired.
Landlords may now try to sue tenants to evict them. If you are worried about an eviction, reach out as soon as possible to your local legal aid group. The lawyers may be able to help you find protections and services to deal with your eviction.
The national CDC eviction ban expired on August 26, 2021.
Earlier, Maine Governor Janet Mills had ordered that no writs of possession issued before March 18, 2020 should be served on renters to remove them from their homes. If your landlord was evicting you based on nonpayment of more than 2 months of rent, or for engaging in dangerous behavior or causing substantial property damages, they could ask for special permission to serve the writ. Renters had the right to respond to the landlord's request. This order went into effect on April 16, 2020 and expired.
Another now-expired protection was when the Governor ordered that police must protect renters from illegal evictions (if your landlord tries to remove you from your home without getting a court order).
Also expired is the Governor's order that extended the notice periods that landlords must give to tenants, before they could file an eviction case against them, if the eviction is based on nonpayment of rent related to COVID-19 income loss.
Earlier, Maine courts had temporarily suspended most eviction hearings, from March 18, 2020 through August 3, 2020.
Check here for updates on Maine's public health emergency period.
- What do the protections mean for Maine renters?
Since the emergency protections expired, then in Maine:
- Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord can still file an eviction claim in court against you.
- Courts may still hear an eviction trial against you.
- Law enforcement can still enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency in Maine?
Yes, Maine renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
You may have been protected from eviction, but now that those protections are over, you may be sued and you still owe all your rent.
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Apply for rental assistance immediately: If you need financial assistance for housing costs like rent or utility bills, you may be able to get help.
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Can my landlord evict me during the emergency in Maine?
Maine renters may still be sued by their landlords for eviction during the emergency, but they may have protections from new eviction hearings and from being removed from their homes by law enforcement. The courts are not hearing new non-emergency eviction cases until after August 3, 2020 at the earliest.
If you had a writ of possession issued against you before March 18, 2020, it should not be served on you. If your landlord was evicting you based on nonpayment of more than 2 months of rent, or for engaging in dangerous behavior or causing substantial property damages, they can ask for special permission to serve the writ. You have the right to respond to the landlord's request.
Landlords can begin to enforce evictions against all renters once again, 30 days after Maine's emergency period ends.
You may also have U.S. national protections against eviction that last through August 26, 2021. Check here below to see if you are eligible for them.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency in Maine?
Now that the emergency period is over, your utilities might be shut off for nonpayment.
Earlier, the Maine Public Utilities Commission had issued a moratorium on utility shutoffs. Check here for updates.
Renters must still pay their utility bills, but if you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through August 26, 2021.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.
Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.
Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:
- Live in a county with High or Substantial COVID rates. Find your county at the CDC tracker map (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view). If your county has been in the Moderate or Low category for 14 consecutive days, then the Moratorium does not apply to you.
- Rent a home in the United States; AND
- Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
- Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
- Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
- Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
- Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.
If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?
The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through August 26, 2021.
- If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
- You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:
- Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
- After the CDC Moratorium expires on August 26, 2021, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:
- Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
- You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.
How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?
To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:
- Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
- Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
- Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
- Protections through August 26th. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through August 26, 2021. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
- If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
- You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on August 26, 2021, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
- Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.
What if I need repairs in Maine during the COVID emergency?
Can I break my lease in Maine during the COVID emergency?
What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me in Maine during the COVID emergency?
Are eviction cases still proceeding through courts in Maine?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
- My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in Maine. What should I do?
You do not have to leave your home yet.
In Maine, your landlord must bring you to court to evict you for not paying your rent (or other reasons).
This official notice must follow some rules to be valid. If you have a lease, it must follow the rules in your lease. If you don’t have a lease, it must follow the rules below. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it in court.
If you don’t have a lease, these are the Maine requirements for an eviction notice:
- The notice must be written down.
- It must explain why you may be evicted -- whether it is for non-payment of rent, a lease violation, or other reason.
- If you owe rent, the notice has to say exactly how much rent you owe.
- It has to say that this rent must be fully paid within 7 days of receiving this notice or you must move out, and that you can fight the eviction in court. It also needs to say that you can reinstate the lease if you pay all rent owed and any filing or service fees on time. During the COVID state of emergency, the notice must give you 30 days to pay.
- You can get a 30 day notice even if you haven’t violated any rules and you don’t owe rent. If you live in the city of Portland, the notice might need to be longer than 30 days. During the COVID state of emergency, the notice must be at least 45 days.
- The notice must be handed to you in person or your landlord must try to hand it to you in person three times before mailing it and posting it on your door.
Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction.
- What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home in Maine?
You do not have to leave.
A conversation doesn't count as an "eviction notice". To be legal, the notice must be written down and given to you in the correct way.
Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself.
- Do I have to leave my home by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date in Maine?
No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the eviction notice.
You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave.
After the date on the eviction notice passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.
My eviction notice says that I will be evicted unless I pay back-rent I owe in Maine. What if I can't afford to pay it?
How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in Maine?
I've been sued in court for eviction
- My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in Maine. What should I do?
First you should make sure the court has your correct mailing address by contacting the court clerk’s office here.
Then you should also make sure you are able to appear at your court date. The date on your summons is the day your case will be heard. You should prepare to think about coming to an agreement with your landlord. You can either agree to a payment plan and to stay in your home or agree to a move out date. The shortest amount of time you will have to move after your court date is 7 days. If you can’t agree with your landlord, you should prepare to argue why your landlord should not be able to evict you.
During the COVID state of emergency, you will have three separate court dates. The first date will be over the phone. You should make sure to have a reliable phone with good reception so you can call into the court at the correct time and date. If you need more information about calling in, call the court clerk’s office.
The second COVID date will be mediation. Mediation is a meeting with you, your landlord, and a neutral person working for the court. The neutral person will try to help you come to an agreement. If you do not come to an agreement, you will have a third date where a judge will hear your case and make a decision.
If you win, the case will be dismissed. You will not be evicted. If you lose, you will have 7 days to move. At the end of the 7 days, you will be given a 48 hour “Writ of Possession.” At the end of the 48 hours, you can be removed from your home by law enforcement.
You should also make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction. In Maine, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:
- Only certain people can give you the lawsuit's Summons and Complaint. The landlord can not give you these papers - it has to be a person not involved in the case. This can be the sheriff, a constable, or any person over 18 authorized by the court.
- One of these people will attempt to deliver the notice to you in person or leave a copy with a member of your household.
- If they can not reach you three times, they can mail you the papers but they also have to leave a copy at your residence.
You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction.
- Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Summons and Complaint in Maine?
In Maine, you are not required to respond in writing to the eviction, if you want to avoid the eviction. You must show up at court. During the COVID state of emergency, this means you must call in on the right date and time to the number provided by the court. If you do not know the number, contact the court clerk’s office.
You will have an eviction hearing automatically scheduled at court. You must appear there if you want to defend yourself against the eviction. But you do not have to submit anything to the court or your landlord before this hearing.
(However, if you want a recording of the trial, which you will need if you want to appeal the case, then you should make a request in writing.)
During the COVID state of emergency, you will have three separate court dates. The first date will be over the phone. You should make sure to have a reliable phone with good reception that you can call into the court at the correct time and date. If you need more information about calling in, contact the court clerk’s office.
The second COVID date will be mediation. If you do not come to an agreement, then you will have a third date where a judge will hear your case and make a decision.
Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit.
- Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in Maine?
You can come to an agreement, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed.
You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home. You can also agree on a move out date. The shortest amount of time you can get after your hearing is 7 days. You should only agree on a move out date if your landlord is willing to give you more than 7 days.
Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.
Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen.
You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed.
How can I get rent help?
- Who can help me with rent that I owe?
If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.
Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.
Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.
- Am I eligible for rent relief?
Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships.
You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules.
You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP.
You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance.
- Does immigration status matter for rent relief?
Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.
Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration.
Did I have eviction protections under the CARES Act?
Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?
Its information is taken from these sources:Maine Gov. executive orderGovernor's office updatesPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerPinetree Legal AssistanceMaine Judicial Branch management plan