Landlord/Tenant Law for Landlords in Maine
Renting & Evicting
Civil Processor, Clyde Barker 462-2436
Maine has detailed laws governing relations between landlords and tenants. Four major areas of legal requirement are leases, security deposits, eviction and abandoned property.
Lease and security deposit issues/disputes are civil and would need to be heard by a judge in Civil Court. Eviction and abandoned property issues sometimes are presented to law enforcement in the form of criminal trespass and theft complaints. Eviction is a very specific legal process. If you skip steps or do them incorrectly, you can incur added expenses and even penalties. Please note that eviction is a "summary process" and does not include a monetary award. Pursuing repayment for back rent or damages beyond what a security deposit may cover will entail a separate court process in either small claims court (for totals of $4,500. or less) or district court for larger amounts.
GOING TO COURT
If the tenant does not vacate the premises within the time given in the "Notice to Quit", the next step is to begin an action for "Forcible Entry and Detainer". This can be done by filing in district court, and having a civil processor serve the tenant with a hand-delivered summons. There are deadlines that pertain in these actions.
If you own your rental property as an individual, you may represent yourself. Corporations and LLCs must be represented by an attorney.
At the hearing you and the tenant may each present witnesses and evidence. The judge will decide if the tenant can be evicted. When a tenant does not appear at the hearing, eviction usually goes in favor of the landlord. Seven days from the judgment, if the tenant has not moved, you can get a "Writ of Possession" from the court, and have it served by a civil processor. The tenant has another 48 hours to leave. After 48 hours, the tenant is trespassing. Then and only then it is a matter that local law enforcement can get involved in.
If the property left behind is worth $750 or less, you may remove it from the premises. It must be stored in a safe, dry location, and you must mail the tenant an itemized list of the property you have, and a notice stating that you will sell it to pay for back rent, damages, and cost of storage and sale. If the tenant responds within 14 days, you must give the tenant 10 more days to pick up the goods. If the tenant does not pay any amount due, you are allowed to keep the goods.
If the property is worth more than $750, you MUST report it to the State Treasurer, who may authorize you to sell it.
This is a general explanation of the legal considerations regarding eviction and abandoned property and should be used for informational purposes only. For a more detailed explanation, consult the Maine Consumer Law Guide put out by the Department of the Attorney General, www.maine.gov/ag and also visit www.helpmelaw.org and click on the Legal Library icon.