The mayor of Maine’s largest city is calling on landlords to halt evictions and suspend rent increases for at least 90 days while the state and nation try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Mayor Kate Snyder said Monday she was offering “guidance” to landlords in hopes they will comply and make efforts to keep financially strapped tenants, who could be facing job loss or reduced incomes, in their homes during the outbreak.

Snyder suggests landlords follow recommendations from the National Multifamily Housing Council, which has asked congressional leaders to provide financial relief to the millions of people who rent apartments in the United States, as well as to their landlords.

Those recommendations include halting evictions for 90 days for those who can show they have been financially affected by the outbreak, as well as suspending rent increases for 90 days to help residents weather the crisis.

Other recommendations include creating payment plans for residents who can’t pay their rent because of the outbreak. and waiving late fees for those residents. The council also recommends that landlords help tenants identify government and community resources to secure food, financial assistance and healthcare.

“While I’ve been reassuring people that evictions are not happening now due to the closure of courts, I’d like to ask landlords for their cooperation during this time, and for several months following the recovery, to work with renters as we all manage our way through this crisis,” Snyder said.

Snyder said she is particularly concerned about those renters whose jobs and incomes are eliminated due to because of the outbreak.

“It’s imperative to ensure that our residents are housed and protected, as many are facing unforeseen changes in their employment and income status,” Snyder said.

After she was elected last November, Snyder made it clear that making housing in the city of Portland more affordable was among her top priorities.

In its letter to congressional leaders, the housing council said that a one-size-fits-all federal approach toward evictions is inherently problematic, “so the appropriate federal role in evictions should focus on leveraging federal dollars to help keep people in homes while ensuring housing providers can properly manage their properties.”

The housing council said that any assistance offered to a tenant should not be used to lengthen the process of pursing a legitimate eviction, or curtail the rights of a landlord to evict someone for lease violations such as property damage or criminal activity.

Brit Vitalius, president of the Southern Maine Landlord Association, said Snyder and Portland City Manager Jon Jennings have reached out to him and asked that landlords step up to meet the crisis posed by the pandemic. The association represents more than 300 landlords in Portland as well as cities and towns such as Biddeford and Brunswick.

“I spoke with the Mayor prior to that (news) release and very much appreciate her outreach to the landlord community,” Vitalius said in an email Monday evening. “We are all in this together and we are happy to work with the city through these uncharted waters.”

Vitalius said the burden of making it through the crisis should not be borne entirely by landlords. In order for the mayor’s plan to work, Vitalius said, landlords and tenants need to keep open lines of communication.

“While landlords will certainly do their part to extend payment flexibility to tenants caught up in this crisis, the 90 day non-eviction is not a free pass,” Vitalius said. “Tenants will have some money coming to them through federal government checks and unemployment. Tenants should demonstrate efforts to get this assistance and pay as much as they are able to their landlords.”

Vitalius said tenants need to remember that landlords have bills to pay that might include mortgage and property maintenance costs.

“We are all interdependent on getting through this crisis,” he said. “Landlords will be looking to their banks to provide flexibility with mortgage payments the same way tenants are looking to landlords.”

“Ultimately, good communication and honest efforts to work together will get us all through this,” Vitalius said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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