SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to extend an emergency rent cap and eviction moratorium for an additional six months while it continues to review a permanent rent stabilization proposal.

If approved at a second reading on Nov. 1, the emergency cap and moratorium would remain in place for an additional 180 days, through May 26.

South Portland City Council imposed an emergency rent cap and eviction moratorium in June, after Redbank Village Apartments, a 500-unit complex off Westbrook Street, started raising rents as much as 35% last spring. Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald, file

The council also added a provision that would require landlords affected by the rent cap to forgive any potential rent increases over 10% annually – a limit that applies to certain property owners with more than 10 rental units.

Councilors supported the extension unreservedly, saying that it was the right thing to do given reports that some landlords have threatened to collect back rent and impose late fees when the rent cap is lifted. They didn’t name the landlords.

“I am fully in favor of this,” said Councilor Misha Pride.

Councilor Kate Lewis called out blatant “profiteering and greed” in the local housing market.


The council also agreed to increase the advance notice landlords must give tenants before raising rent from 75 to 90 days, and the time tenants have to respond from 30 to 45 days.

The rent cap and eviction moratorium are set to expire on Nov. 28.

The council imposed the emergency measure in June, after Redbank Village Apartments, a 500-unit complex off Westbrook Street, started raising rents as much as 35 percent last spring. Councilors were concerned that the increases would leave many tenants unhoused and prompt similar actions by other landlords.

JRK Property Holdings of Los Angeles had recently purchased Redbank and had begun to raise rents as much as $598 per month and moved to evict dozens of tenants. Some of those tenants received rent subsidies through the South Portland Housing Authority and other agencies.

The cap and moratorium don’t apply to some rental situations, including landlords who own fewer than 11 units, tenants at will, nonprofit residential elder care facilities and retirement communities, school dormitories, homeowners who rent out part of their property, and short-term rentals.

The council decided in September, during its third workshop on a rent stabilization proposal, to postpone further deliberation until Jan. 13.

By then, the council will have two new members, following the Nov. 8 municipal election, which will change who reviews the proposal. The delay raised fears among tenants and housing advocates that interest in protecting residents most vulnerable to rent hikes is flagging.

Councilors say interest in protecting renters hasn’t waned, but they have diverse views on rent control and believe it requires further deliberation. Chief concerns about the proposal are that it might discourage rental housing development, increase condo conversions and encourage landlords to raise rents to the maximum each year.

Under the proposed rent stabilization ordinance, landlords could increase rents once each year at a rate up to 7 percent, plus inflation. The ordinance would include exemptions for rents at or below federal fair market rates; apartments less than 16 years old; landlords with fewer than 11 apartments; as well as certain nonprofits, care facilities, schools, single-room occupancies and accessory dwelling units.

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