Legislation intended to protect Maine renters from retaliatory evictions is drawing support from tenants and their advocates and opposition from landlords across the state.

Introduced by Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, L.D. 45 would require landlords to show proof they are evicting tenants for legal reasons if tenants formally claim they are being evicted for retaliatory or illegal reasons after asserting their renters’ rights within the previous six months. Those rights include contesting rent increases because of unsafe or unhealthy living conditions.

The bill, which got its first airing Thursday before the Judiciary Committee, would protect tenants when a landlord tries to raise rent in violation of Maine’s 45-day-notice law, of a municipal notice ordinance, or of the law that prohibits rent increases when housing is uninhabitable, Carney said.

“It’s absolutely vital that everyone has a safe, warm place to call home,” said Carney, who is Senate chair of the committee. “For those who rent, that safe home is dependent on having a respectful relationship with their landlord. When that relationship breaks down, tenants need legal protections.”

The bill faces further work in committee, Carney said.

Carney noted that tenants across Maine and the nation have faced huge rent increases in recent months, including residents of Redbank Village Apartments in South Portland, which is part of her district. South Portland city councilors enacted an emergency rent cap and eviction moratorium in response, and they’re working on a rent control proposal. Still, evictions in Maine increased 27% from 2021 to 2022.


Redbank Village resident Chery Harkins testified in support of the bill. She said JRK Property Holdings, the Los Angeles company that purchased the 500-unit complex in 2021, tried to evict her last year when she spoke publicly about repairs needed in her home despite large rent and fee increases. Her case went to court.

“The eviction was dismissed, (but) I know when my lease is up again they’ll most likely want me ‘on my way’ because I have spoken out,” Harkins said. “I’m too old to live outside again, and my son’s health wouldn’t allow such a thing. Please protect renters from having a spiteful landlord or corporation put them out on the street.”

Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Legal Services for the Elderly and ACLU of Maine also testified in support.

“The changes proposed by L.D. 45 would amend Maine’s eviction statutes to better protect tenants who face eviction because they asserted their rights under Maine’s rental housing laws,” said Lynn Ward, an attorney at Pine Tree Legal.

Often, when tenants assert their rights, landlords will then try to evict, Ward said. The proposed bill would expand protection from retaliation to tenants whose landlords tried to impose an illegal rent increase and the tenants refused to pay the higher rent amount, she said.

At least 30 landlords or their advocates testified against the bill.

“Retaliatory evictions are already not allowed in Maine,” said Joyce McCaslin of Pittston. “There needs to be a requirement of proof from both the landlord and tenant to ensure tenants’ rights are upheld and that landlords are able to protect their property.”

“Evicting tenants is already very hard in Maine and I do not believe that retaliatory evictions is a serious problem worthy of a new law,” said Scott Lawliss of the Greater Bangor Apartment Owners and Managers Association.

“All this does is create more hurdles for landlords who want to legitimately evict tenants,” Lawliss said. “Good tenants are almost never evicted. Almost all evictions happen for very good reasons…We are not the enemy.”

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