Maine statutes regulate the landlord-tenant relationship, including when and how a landlord can evict a tenant. When evicting a tenant, the landlord must carefully follow all the rules and procedures set forth in the Maine statutes. This article will explain the basics of those rules and procedures for landlords and property managers.
To evict a tenant, a landlord must first terminate the tenant’s tenancy. The landlord can only terminate the tenancy if the landlord has legal cause to evict the tenant. Maine statutes define legal cause as the tenant failing to pay rent, damaging the rental unit, maintaining a nuisance, or committing domestic violence or sexual assault against another tenant. To evict the tenant for one of these reasons, the landlord must give the tenant a seven-day notice of termination of tenancy. In all cases except failure to pay rent, the landlord is not obligated to give the tenant any time to fix the bad behavior. At the end of the seven days, the landlord can go to court and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. However, in the case of failure to pay rent, the tenant will have seven days to pay rent in full. If the tenant does not pay rent in full, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14 § 6002).
A landlord who does not have legal cause to evict a tenant but wants the tenant to move out of the rental unit, must wait until the tenancy has expired before expecting the tenant to move. In some instances, the landlord will still need to give the tenant written notice to move.
A landlord who wants to end a month-to-month tenancy, but does not have legal cause, can give the tenant a written 30-day notice of termination. This notice must inform the tenant that the landlord is terminating the tenancy and that the tenant must move out of the rental unit by the end of 30 days. If the tenant does not move out at the end of 30 days, the landlord can pursue an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14 § 6002). Maine Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy has more information on this topic.
A landlord who wants a tenant with a fixed-term lease to move out of the rental unit must wait until the lease has expired before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord does not need to give the tenant written notice to move unless the terms of the lease specifically require the landlord to do so. If the tenant does not move out by the end of the lease term, then the landlord should stop accepting rent from the tenant and proceed with an eviction lawsuit against the tenant.
Even though a landlord must have valid legal cause to evict a tenant, the tenant could still choose to fight the eviction. The tenant could have a valid legal defense, such as the landlord failing to maintain the rental unit or discriminating against the tenant. The tenant’s decision to fight the eviction could lead to increased legal costs or allow the tenant more time to remain living in the rental unit. Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Maine has more information on this subject.
A landlord must never try to force a tenant to move out of a rental unit. The only way the landlord can remove the tenant is by winning an eviction lawsuit against the tenant in court. Even then, a law enforcement officer, not the landlord, will be the one who actually evicts the tenant. It is illegal for the landlord to pursue any action other than an eviction lawsuit to remove the tenant from the rental unit. Illegal Eviction Procedures in Maine has more information on this topic.
If the tenant leaves behind personal property after being evicted, the landlord must store that property in a safe, secure location. Then, the landlord must send the tenant written notice stating that the tenant has seven days to claim the property. If the tenant responds to the notice, then the landlord must hold onto the property for an additional seven days (making 14 days of storage in total) and allow the tenant reasonable access to the property to claim it. If the tenant either does not claim the property by the end of 14 days or never responds to the written notice, then the landlord can either sell the property (if it has value) or dispose of it (if it has no value) (see Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14 § 6013).
Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Maine law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction may not be valid. Although these rules and procedures may seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, and the end result is serious: the tenant has lost a place to live. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new home.