Former Mayor Ethan Strimling testifies during an eviction case brought by 657 Trelawny LLC. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling is appealing his eviction from a downtown apartment building, arguing that a district court judge erred by siding with the landlord after a hearing earlier this month.

Strimling argues that he was the target of retaliation for his role in organizing a tenants union in the building and for pushing a citywide rent control ordinance approved by voters that places limits on rent increases and provides a regulatory backstop that allows landlords who do not comply to be fined.

At the heart of the appeal is whether District Court Judge Susan Oram correctly applied the facts regarding when landlord Geoffrey Rice requested to meet with Strimling, and what exactly was discussed when Strimling met with Rice and his attorney.

Strimling’s attorney, Scott Dolan, argued that Rice requested the meeting in direct response to an emailed message from the tenants union, and not because of a fine he wanted Strimling to pay for opening his window when the heat was on.

Landlord and tenant offered differing accounts of what was said during the May 25 meeting. Strimling contends the discussion centered almost entirely on the tenants union. Rice said Strimling was “upset” about the window fine and then spent a “good deal of time” talking about the Portland housing ordinance.

David Chamberlain is the attorney for Trelawny 657 LLC, the company that owns the Trelawny Building and of which Rice is the sole shareholder. In an email Wednesday evening, Chamberlain said that he and Rice would have no comment on Strimling’s appeal, or on whether Rice will proceed with Strimling’s eviction.


Rice first gave notice to Strimling in May 2021 that his month-to-month lease would not be renewed, followed by a notice to quit in August that ordered him out of the building by December. But Strimling refused to leave and joined others in the building to complain about rent increases to the newly formed rent control board.

Strimling alleges that Rice started eviction proceedings against him after the union was formed and started filing complaints against Rice. Under Maine law, a landlord cannot evict a tenant “in retaliation for the tenant’s membership in an organization concerned with landlord-tenant relationships.”

Rice was fined $15,300 by the rent board for improper rent increases, a ruling he is appealing. Strimling has lived at the Trelawny Building at 655 Congress St. for about six years.


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