SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council gave initial approval Monday night to a “housing security” proposal that would establish an education program for renters and landlords and extend the required warning period before a rent increase.

The proposed changes also would incorporate Maine’s anti-discrimination statute into the city’s housing code and create a list of housing resources on the city’s website.

The ordinance amendments were recommended by the city’s Affordable Housing Committee after the council turned down a renter-protection proposal last spring that included rent control measures.

The new proposal is similar to a measure approved last year in Portland, where more recently a group of residents has submitted a petition calling for controversial rent stabilization rules in a tight real estate market.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of the “housing security” proposal on its first reading. Councilor Linda Cohen provided the sole vote in opposition, saying that she believed such changes should be made at the state level rather than piecemeal by municipalities. The council will hold a second public hearing and final vote on the proposal Aug. 21.

Under the proposed changes, the warning period when South Portland landlords must inform tenants before increasing rents would be extended from 45 days, as required by statute, to 75 days. The code changes also incorporate state laws banning rental discrimination based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry, national origin, familial status or use of housing vouchers.


Landlords would be required to provide tenants with a disclosure form detailing the legal rights and responsibilities of both parties when they begin renting an apartment. The form would include information related to renting without a written lease (tenancy at will), contesting a landlord’s actions, and housing conditions such as lead paint, energy efficiency, radon and nonsmoking policies.

The proposed education program also calls for the city to host a series of public learning sessions addressing the housing needs of various community groups, such as first-time renters, first-time homebuyers and seniors looking to downsize.

The renter-protection proposal that the council considered last spring aimed to establish rent control, prevent landlords from refusing to rent to housing-voucher holders, eliminate no-cause evictions and limit other evictions, among other things.

That proposal was drafted by Pine Tree Legal Assistance, a nonprofit agency that provides legal help to low-income people, and it drew significant opposition from landlords.

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Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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