At a Cumberland County eviction court proceeding in Portland, a landlord’s attorney, front left, and a tenant speak with District Judge Peter Darvin. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Maine courts have reported that the number of housing eviction filings in 2022 spiked 27% over the previous year.

Data from the state Judicial Branch shows that the filings climbed from 3,908 in 2021 to 4,965 last year. The state has not seen that many since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords, tenants and attorneys have said the end of emergency rental assistance has contributed to the increase.

Katie McGovern, an attorney at Pine Tree Legal Assistance who represents tenants facing eviction, said the organization has seen more cases related to nonpayment since the federal money for that program ran out. General Assistance is an option for some, but not all.

“They’re a lot harder to work out because there is not a source of assistance that could pay arrearages and could pay enough to help cure the issues,” she said. “The end of rental assistance has meant that people are really not able to continue paying the rents that have increased so significantly in our area, so people need help with that. The evictions that people expected in the early days of COVID largely didn’t happen because of the help from rental assistance.

“Now, we’re seeing the impacts of that in combination with all the other pressures people are experiencing with inflation and heating costs and all of that.”

The number of new eviction filings does not represent the outcomes of those cases or the number of judgments entered in court. Tenants who receive a summons to court have a right to a hearing, but the stakes are high. If the judge sides with the landlord, the tenant has seven days to move out. So most cases are resolved with some kind of agreement, maybe a payment plan for back rent or a couple of extra months to move out. But attorneys said tenants are struggling to find new apartments even with extra time, and rental assistance is no longer available to help with arrearages.


A study from Harvard University found that 41% of Maine tenants are “cost burdened,” which means they are spending more than one-third of their gross income on rent. MaineHousing reported that the median rent for a two-bedroom in Portland in 2020 was $1,880 including utilities, an amount unaffordable to more than 70% of households.


Selma Tinta lives in South Portland and is a member of the housing leadership team at Maine Equal Justice. She came to the United States from Angola and lived in a hotel for nine months before her family of four moved into an apartment in October. She said she knows other immigrants who have faced eviction or who are bouncing between shelters and hotels. She recalled one friend who had a baby and then received an eviction notice at the hotel where she was living. That woman eventually moved into an apartment with her newborn, but the experience was very stressful.

“Right now, I would say that people are living in fear,” Tinta said. “People are living in insecurity. People are overwhelmed, and they don’t know how it’s going to end. They don’t know how they can move on. Even to go to school, to study or to learn English, you need to be in peace. You need to be comfortable.”

Democratic leaders in the Maine Legislature declared last month that housing would be a top priority this session and established a joint select committee to focus on the issue.

“The Joint Select Committee will work to create pathways to better lives for all Maine people who have found themselves in this cycle of crisis – from renters, the unhoused, to homeowners,” House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, of Portland, said in a written statement in December. “We have an obligation to secure the highest quality of life for everyone who calls Maine home. By establishing this joint select committee we are acknowledging that housing is one of our top priorities.”


Bills are still being drafted, but the current list includes a number of titles related to housing and evictions.

“There are a ton of bills related to the housing crisis, everything from banning application fees at the starting point when you’re trying to find accommodations to at least one proposal for bonding to support affordable housing, which could make a big investment there,” said Sen. Mike Tipping, an Orono Democrat who is the chairperson of a separate Committee on Labor and Housing.

Tipping is sponsoring a bill that would ensure legal representation for residents facing evictions. Some states guarantee a lawyer in eviction cases, but Maine is not one of them. Most landlords hire one, while tenants rely on volunteer attorneys from organizations like Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Legal Services for the Elderly and Maine Equal Justice.

Tipping said the text of his bill has not been finalized, but it was inspired by a 2020 report from the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition that echoed national findings on the impact of legal representation for tenants. The study found that tenants with an attorney were significantly more likely to avoid an eviction judgment than those without one.

“That’s one small piece,” he said. “This is a big problem across Maine, and it affects every town in the state.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.