Members of the Trelawny Tenants Union enter their apartment building on Congress Street in January 2022. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A new complaint filed against Portland landlord Geoffrey Rice alleges he violated the city’s rent control ordinance by increasing rents at his Congress Street apartment building when he was already found to be out of compliance with the law.

The Trelawny Tenants Union filed the complaint with the city’s rent board last week, asking members to order Rice to reimburse his tenants for all rent increases since Jan. 1, 2023. This comes just a week after Rice lost an eviction case to his tenant and former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, who was involved in founding the tenants union.

The rent board will be tasked with deciding if Rice violated the ordinance and should pay back all of the money, which the union estimated will be about $15,000. The tenants union is also asking that the board recommend the city impose fines and conduct a full audit of Rice’s properties to determine if other violations have gone undetected.

But it’s ultimately up to city staff to decide if they will go forward with any recommendations the rent board makes. The city has never done so, including for a number of other violations against Rice, choosing instead to work with him outside of the court system to resolve the disputes.

Portland’s rent control ordinance was adopted by voters in 2020. It was supported by the Maine Democratic Socialists of America, which hoped the new law would stabilize rents, prevent people from being priced out of living in Portland and lead to shared power between landlords and tenants.

The ordinance has been amended multiple times since and other referendums seeking to relax its rules have been soundly rejected by voters.


Landlords are allowed to increase rent based on the inflation rate or if there is turnover in a unit. The maximum increase in a year is 10%, although landlords are allowed to ask for higher increases if they make substantial improvements to a unit. However, rent increases are forbidden if a landlord is found to be out of compliance with the ordinance already.

Rice is connected to at least 27 violations, some related to illegal rent increases. He said in court two weeks ago that his rent control violations have been resolved and that any violations were the result of his misunderstanding of the ordinance.

Geoffrey Rice, owner of Trelawny 657 LLC. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

However, the complaint the tenants union filed last week alleges that Rice was raising rents even when violations against him remained unresolved.

Rice did not respond to questions about the new complaint.

The complaint filed was signed by 21 members of the tenants union including Matt Walker, who also sits on the rent board. He said he plans to recuse himself when the board considers the allegations.

“I just want our rents to be the right number and to not have to just keep finding problems over and over again every year, even with the same units we’ve already fixed before,” said Walker.


He said that more than anything else he’d like to see the city doing something to enforce the ordinance as it’s written.

“When the penalty for increasing our rents is just ‘If you get caught you have to pay people back,’ then there isn’t really a penalty, you’re just paying people back the money you weren’t allowed to collect anyways,” said Walker.

He said an audit of Rice’s properties would go a long way. Currently, the tenants union files complaints when they become aware of violations, but Walker wishes the city would take more responsibility for enforcing the law.

“It takes a lot of work and research to figure out the problems, and they are very widespread,” he said. “Based on past experience, it seems like he’s not going to fix these problems we identify unless someone tells him to.”

Strimling, who was also involved in submitting the complaint to the rent board, said it was filed with the city three weeks ago, but after 14 days went by with no response, the union made the decision to bring it to the board.

“Once they have violations in front of them they ought to be coming down as hard as they can on those landlords who are out of compliance,” said Strimling.

Jessica Grondin, a spokesperson for the city, said staff could not comment on the complaint until after the rent board holds a public hearing, which will likely be scheduled within the next several months.

Related Headlines

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your Press Herald account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.