A judge has ruled that rental information compiled by the city of Portland under a 2020 rent control ordinance is public information and doesn’t meet the definition of a “trade secret” under state law.

Maine Business and Consumer Court Justice Thomas R. McKeon ruled in the city’s favor Thursday in a case brought by Bayview Court LLC and Eastern Promenade Limited Liability Co. The city had argued that the information is already disclosed on websites such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Apartments.com.

“The court concludes that the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to prove a ‘trade secret,’ ” wrote McKeon in his decision after a bench trial, without a jury, was held last month after unsuccessful settlement talks.

The two companies are owned by Lloyd Lathrop and together have 102 rental units. The companies said that the detailed information about rents required by a citizen-initiated rent control ordinance passed in 2020 should be considered “trade secrets” and should be shielded from public records requests submitted to the city.

Cliff Ruprecht, an attorney for the companies, did not respond to a phone message or email Thursday seeking comment on the ruling. City officials are pleased with the outcome, a city spokesperson said.

The 2020 ordinance requires landlords to provide certain information when they register rental units, including the amount they charge for rent and security deposits and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in each unit. All of that information has to be turned over to the city’s Rent Board if requested, though the ordinance requires it to be “anonymized” to not include the names, or street and unit numbers of any reported units.


The lawsuit argued the information should be available only to city employees charged with administering the ordinance, not the general public.

McKeon wrote that the information doesn’t meet the definition of a trade secret under the Maine Trade Secrets Act. The companies argued there was a perceived “competitive risk” with disclosing the information, but did not identify what specific harm could result, and it was hard to say exactly how valuable the information would be to a competitor, McKeon ruled.

He also wrote that little money or effort was spent to compile the information or to keep it secret. While he did find that the compiled information in some ways could be considered trade secrets – such as the fact that it would be very difficult to compile the information through alternative means – it wasn’t enough to fully meet the standards in state law.

The Portland Press Herald intervened in the case last year in support of the public’s right to access rental information.

“We appreciate that the City stood up for the public’s right to know,” the Press Herald’s attorney Sigmund Schutz said in a statement. “Without access to rent information, tenants cannot check whether they are being charged too much rent, and the public can’t assess how well the City’s rent control ordinance is working.

“Other municipalities around the nation with rent control ordinances, including in California, have made rent information public without a fuss for a long time. It’s good to see that Maine comes down on the side of transparency.”

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