Maine Eviction LawPosted by Christopher Berkompas in Maine
Note: I am not a lawyer, and this is not intended as legal advice.
Under what circumstances may a tenant be evicted?
A tenant may be evicted when his lease ends and is not renewed, for not paying due rent, or for substantially violating the lease. A landlord may not seek to evict his tenant in retaliation for the tenant requesting a repair or for asking that the landlord comply with the terms of the lease.
What is the process for evicting a tenant?
The rules for beginning the process differ when the lease is written as opposed to oral. A written lease will give the reasons for which the landlord may seek to evict the tenant, and if it is not automatically renewed, the landlord may go to court after seven days of it's expiration, with no notice to the tenant.
If however, it is an oral lease, the landlord must give the tenant a notice to quit within 7 to 30 days. If the tenant fails to leave in either case, the landlord may then proceed with a formal eviction process through the courts.
In order to do this, the landlord will file a summons and complaint with the court, which will then be served on the tenant, who will have up to seven days to respond. If the lease agreement is in writing, the landlord must give a reason in his complaint, if not, no reason is required. If the tenant fails to respond to the summons or to attend the subsequent hearing, the court will issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord.
After the hearing, the court will decide in favor of one of the parties. If in favor of the tenant, he will be allowed to remain on the premises. If in favor of the landlord, the court will issue a writ allowing the landlord to request the local sheriff to remove the tenant. The sheriff will deliver this writ of possession to the tenant, who will have 48 hours to move or be forcibly evicted by the sheriff. The tenant may appeal the eviction order within 6 days from the decision, or request more time to move.
How are landlords supposed to deal with tenant belongings left behind?
When the tenant is forcibly evicted or leaves possessions behind, the sheriff will remove them from the premises, and leave them under the care of the landlord or whatever storage facility the landlord may choose. The landlord is not obligated to give them back to the tenant unless the tenant pays back rent or costs of storage.
If the property is worth more than $750, the landlord will have to get permission from the Secretary of the Treasury to sell it. If it is worth less than that, he may sell it unless the tenant claims it within 24 days.
Can the landlord shut off utilities or lock a tenant out prior to the completion of the eviction process?
No, the landlord may not harass his tenants by shutting off key utilities or locking the tenant out prior to getting a court order for his eviction.
Are landlords required to let tenants know why they are being evicted?
Not necessarily, if the lease is written and has expired. If it has not expired, the landlord's reason will be included in the papers served on the tenant. However, if the lease is oral, the rules are slightly more complicated. With 30 days notice, eviction may proceed without hardly any reason, but with only 7 days notice, the landlord must give a reason.
Is it legal for the landlord to deduct legal fees and court costs from the security deposit?
No. As in most states, the security deposit may only be applied toward repairing damage caused by the tenant and back rent.
Can the landlord try to collect unpaid rent for the rest of the time left in the lease?
A landlord may request the court to order the tenant to pay back rent. However, except as a condition to returning the tenant's property, the landlord may not go after the tenant for this rent unless the court approves.
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