COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on July 7, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
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
- Are there any special protections for Maine renters during the emergency? How long do they last?
Maine courts have temporarily suspended most eviction hearings, from March 18, 2020 through at least August 3, 2020. They may begin to schedule eviction-related cases again after then, for cases that were from before March 18th. Hearings on new eviction cases will not resume until August 3rd. This date could change -- please check with the courts.
Maine Governor Janet Mills also has 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 can ask for special permission to serve the writ. You have the right to respond to the landlord's request. This order went into effect on April 16, 2020 and ends 30 days after the end of the public health emergency.
Additionally, 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).
The Governor's order also extends the notice periods that landlords must give to tenants, before they can file an eviction case against them, if the eviction is based on nonpayment of rent related to COVID-19 income loss.
Check here for updates on Maine's public health emergency period.
- What do the protections mean for Maine renters?
The protections means that through 30 days after the end of the state of emergency in Maine:
- Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit. If you do not have a lease, notices for nonpayment of rent (based on COVID-related income loss) must now be 30 day notices (rather than the usual 7 days). If you do not have a lease, other notices may need to be 60 day notices. The governor's executive order is not clear on this issue.
- Your landlord can still file an eviction claim in court against you.
- However, most hearings on eviction claims are temporarily suspended, at least through August 3, 2020. This date may change.
- For now, an existing eviction order issued by the court before March 18th may not be enforced against you, except where your landlord can show that you were brought to court for being more than 2 months behind in rent, or because you engaged in dangerous behavior or caused substantial property damage.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?
Yes, Maine renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
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:
- 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.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my landlord evict me during the emergency?
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 July 2020. 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?
No, your utilities cannot be shut off for nonpayment. The Maine Public Utilities Commission has issued a moratorium on utility shutoffs until further notice. 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 U.S. national protections against eviction?
Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.
Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.
If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
- Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
- After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.