The South Portland City Council unanimously passed an emergency moratorium on evictions Tuesday in the wake of staggering rent increases at Redbank Village Apartments.

The moratorium will prohibit tenants from being evicted due to non-payment of a rental increase for 180 days, from May 31 to Nov. 27. It will encompass all increases issued as of April 1, with some exemptions, including those issued by owners of 10 or fewer rental units.

It also caps rent increases in the city at 10%, for landlords subject to the moratorium, from April 1 through the end of the moratorium period. The provision was added after Redbank owner JRK Holdings notified the city that it would cap increases at 10%.

“Yesterday we learned the City Council planned to take up proposals we believe would hurt us and numerous other apartment owners in South Portland,” Redbank management said in a letter to the city officials. “Rather than institute those harmful policies, we propose instituting a self-imposed cap on renewal increases to no greater than 10% of the average in-place rents for the property. We will impose this cap immediately.”

The city implemented its own 10% cap instead.

Redbank tenants have asked for help, saying they can’t afford their higher rents. Some residents of the traditionally low-to-moderate income, 500-unit complex say they are facing increases ranging from $200 to $598. At a council meeting last month, one tenant said her rent was going up from $2,200 to $2,600 per month. Another tenant said they are facing a rent hike of $550, which would bring their rent to roughly $2,100 per month.


At Tuesday’s meeting, Redbank tenants spoke of the toll the jumps in their rent have taken.

“It’s tough to lay your head down at night when you have a 6-year-old girl asking you questions about if you’re going to be here next year so she can talk to her friends,” Kevin Gibson said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I love where I’m at. This Redbank community is like a small family … I thank you for what you’re doing.”

 In addition to exempting smaller landlords from the moratorium, other exemptions include rentals where tenants share kitchens and bathrooms with the owner; college dorms; units with federal, state, or local government-controlled rents; nonprofit hospitals; and religious and extended care facilities.

Some local landlords with more than 10 units believe they are being unfairly punished. Phil Notis’ 80-year-old mother owns a 12-unit building in South Portland that is “part of her retirement,” he said.

“The good landlords are paying the price for bad landlord behavior,” Notis said. “She’s been a responsible landlord; she’s not out to gouge anybody, she’s not looking to live like Queen Elizabeth; she’s out to provide a service of fair rental, fair price.”

While recognizing the potential hardship, councilors maintained their argument that immediate action is needed and a more permanent approach to rent stabilization is forthcoming.

“We’re in an emergency situation, we’re taking emergency action,” said Councilor Katherine Lewis. “We do have some time this summer to work out details to avoid some of (those) difficult situations.”

Councilors said they want to collaborate with local landlords throughout the process and are scheduled to hold their first rent stabilization workshop Tuesday, June 14.

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