Bradley Davis and his girlfriend Madi, who asked to be identified by just her first name, won a case in front of the city rent board alleging their landlord retaliated against them. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

For only the second time since Portland’s rent control law went into effect, the rent board recommended that the city fine a landlord for breaking the 2020 law.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday night, the rent board found that Elizabeth Kane retaliated against her Sawyer Street tenants when she rescinded her offer of a lease renewal after they questioned whether a rent increase complied with the city ordinance.

The board then voted 6-1 to recommend the city fine Kane $6,000, plus $200 a day starting Thursday until she rectifies that infraction by offering the tenants a rent control-compliant lease “substantially similar” to the one she rescinded, lawfully terminating the lease or coming to another mutual agreement with the tenants.

It took the board members more than 10 hours over three meetings to agree on recommending the fine, which will now be sent to city staff to decide if they will pursue it in court.

The only other time the rent board recommended the city fine a landlord, the city chose not to apply the fine. The city has said it does not fine landlords if they agree to correct their violations.

The city said it will begin considering how to proceed after the rent board is done deliberating all the items in the complaint. The board still has to decide whether and how much to fine Kane for other rent-control violations, including illegally raising and banking rent, failing to register the rental units with the city, and providing inaccurate information. The board is scheduled to decide on those violations at its May 29 meeting.


Voters approved rent control in 2020. Under the law, landlords can only raise rent by 70% of the rate of inflation in the Boston area and can only do so once a year, among a few other exceptions.

The rent board is tasked with mediating disputes between tenants and landlords, considering landlords’ requests to increase rents outside of what is regularly allowed, conducting hearings to respond to tenant complaints, and recommending actions for the city to take.


Bradley Davis, who rents the Sawyer Street apartment with his girlfriend, filed the complaint against Kane. In an an interview Thursday, he said he felt vindicated by the rent board’s findings and hopes that they will encourage landlords to comply with the city’s law.

He said he was especially glad to see the board decide that a landlord cannot raise or bank rent if they are “substantially” out of compliance with the law, as he believes that will encourage landlords to follow the law in the first place.

“I think the rent board’s findings are a large win for Portland and tenants across the city,” Davis said.


Rent board chair Philip Mathieu said he hopes the findings encourage landlords to be proactive in learning about and understanding the rent control ordinance.

Davis said he hopes that his landlord will offer him and his girlfriend a new, year-long lease and pay them $4,200 to cover the amount the rent board determined she overcharged them.

Kane did not respond to messages Thursday asking how she plans to respond to the rent board’s findings and whether she thinks they are fair.

At a meeting earlier this month, Kane said she, her husband and her parents, who are co-owners of the two unit-home, never intentionally tried to break the law. They said they didn’t understand the ordinance, received incorrect information from the city and rescinded their offer of a lease because they may have to move to their home in Maine because of storm damage to their main residence in California.

Asked previously about Kane’s claim that the city provided her incorrect information, the city said it does not provide legal advice.

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.