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Eviction Laws and Tenant Rights in Maine

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In a Nutshell

Landlords in Maine can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in Maine.

Written by Upsolve Team
Updated December 22, 2021


In Maine, landlords can evict tenants for several reasons. These include failing to pay rent, violating a term of the lease, or holding over after the lease expires. Facing this situation can be scary, but knowing your rights and how the process goes can help ease your fears.

This article will explain what a landlord must do to legally evict Maine renters whether they live in Portland, Bangor, or elsewhere in the Pine Tree State. It will also tell you how Mainers can fight an eviction action and provide some tips and other resources to help you stay in your home.

What Is Eviction? 

Eviction is the process landlords use to take back rental property from tenants who refuse to leave. The tenant may believe in good faith that they are entitled to stay or just be unwilling to leave. An eviction lawsuit is known as a forcible entry and detainer action in Maine. Landlords must file a lawsuit and get a court order to evict a tenant. Removing a tenant without a court order is an illegal eviction or illegal lockout.

Who Can Be Evicted in Maine?

Typically, some landlord-tenant relationship must exist for a landlord to evict you in the state of Maine. When one party (a landlord) leases an apartment, home, or mobile home to another party (a tenant) a landlord-tenant relationship exists. 

You can also be evicted if you’re occupying the premises even if your name isn’t on the lease.  When multiple people occupy an apartment or residence, they can all be evicted if the landlord lists the individuals who appear on the lease as well as  "all other occupants" when they file the eviction lawsuit.

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Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Maine? 

There are three reasons that landlords evict tenants: 

  • The tenant is delinquent in paying rent.

  • The tenant breaks the lease in a way other than the nonpayment of rent.

  • The lease term expires and the landlord has decided not to renew it.

The eviction process is the same for each of these reasons or grounds for eviction. Only the notice requirements may differ.

Late, Short, or Behind on Rent? 

In Maine, a landlord can’t charge a tenant a late fee for past-due rent until 15 days after the rent payment is due. Once you’re seven days or more late paying rent, your landlord can give you notice that they will terminate the lease in seven days if you don’t pay the past-due rent and any fees the landlord has incurred.

Lease Expiration or Termination

A landlord can also terminate the lease on seven days written notice if the landlord can show any of the following:

  • The tenant caused substantial damage to the premises and hasn’t repaired the damage before the landlord’s notice. 

  • The tenant caused a nuisance on the premises or caused the unit to become unfit for human habitation. 

  • The tenant has violated or permitted a violation of the law. 

  • The tenant has committed an act of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking against another tenant.

  • The tenant has committed an act of violence (or threatened violence) or sexual assault against another tenant or the landlord.

  • The person occupying the premises isn’t an authorized occupant.

This last provision permits a landlord to evict you if you hold over after the lease expires. Holding over simply means you don’t leave the premises once the lease expires. 

The Maine Eviction Process 

The following is a basic overview of the general process in Maine for residential evictions. In Maine, landlords must file a forcible entry and detainer action to evict a tenant.

What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction? 

Your landlord must give you notice before they begin the eviction process. In Maine, this notice is usually called a notice to quit or notice to vacate. For all written leases or rental agreements, the amount of notice they must give depends on the terms of the written lease or rental agreement. If the lease doesn’t mention notice, Maine law defines how much notice a landlord must give you as a tenant. The notice must advise you that you have the right to contest the eviction in court.

After a landlord has provided the necessary notice and seven days have passed, the landlord may begin a forcible entry and detainer action. A landlord can file this eviction action and terminate your lease on seven days’ written notice if it can show that you are seven days or more behind in paying rent. If you remain on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord can proceed with the eviction process.   

If the landlord is claiming that rent is seven days or more late, the eviction notice must also include a statement that tells you how much rent is late by seven days or more as of the date of the notice. It should also include the following notice: 

"If you pay the amount of rent due as of the date of this notice before this notice expires, then this notice as it applies to rent arrearage is void. After this notice expires, if you pay all rental arrears, all rent due as of the date of payment and any filing fees and service of process fees actually paid by the landlord before the writ of possession issues at the completion of the eviction process, then your tenancy will be reinstated." 

If you are seven days or more late paying your rent and pay the full amount of rent due before the expiration of the 7-day written notice, the landlord can’t continue with the eviction. You must pay all rent due as of the date of payment and fees the landlord incurred. If you do this, the landlord must reinstate your lease, and the court can’t issue a writ of possession, which allows the landlord to evict you.  

The notice to terminate the lease must include language advising you that you have the right to contest the termination in court. If the landlord fails to do so, this isn’t grounds to dismiss a forcible entry and detainer action under Maine law. But the court may not issue or enforce a default judgment entered against you for failing to appear at the eviction hearing. 

If your landlord fails to include language in the notice to terminate as required by a lease agreement or any other federal or state law that applies to your lease, you can raise this as a defense in the eviction hearing.  

What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court? 

The following describes the process after your landlord files an eviction lawsuit.

The landlord files a lawsuit. 

If the tenant remains after the notice period expires, a landlord can file a forcible entry and detainer complaint in the appropriate Maine state court. 

The landlord serves the tenant.

Once the landlord files the complaint, the court issues a summons. The sheriff or other court officer must serve the summons and complaint on you at least seven days prior to the eviction hearing, through any one of the following methods: 

  • Giving a copy to you in person.

  • Leaving a copy with someone at your residence.

  • Mailing a copy by first-class mail to you AND leaving a copy at your residence.

If there are at least three good faith efforts on three different days to serve you but these are unsuccessful, service may be accomplished by both mailing the summons and complaint by first-class mail to your last known address and leaving the summons and complaint at your last and usual place of residence.

When an eviction involves a residential tenant, the landlord must attach a specific notice to the summons and complaint. This form notice is provided by the Maine judicial branch and written in plain language that’s easy to understand. It must contain the following:  

  • A description of the court procedure to be followed in the case, including a clear explanation of the process that must be followed before you’re required to vacate a rental unit.   

  • A statement that failure to appear at any scheduled status conference or hearing may result in the entry of judgment in favor of the landlord, which would require you to leave the rental unit.  

  • A list of rental assistance programs available to residential tenants.  

  • A list of resources that provide legal information and representation available to residential tenants.   

  • A list of resources that provide housing counseling available to residential tenants.  

  • A statement that either party may request, or the court may at any time refer the parties to, mediation on any issue. 

  • A court-approved form to request mediation. 

The court holds a hearing.

The court will schedule and hold the eviction hearing no later than 10 days after service is made — the return day. If you need to reschedule the hearing and can show good cause for this, you can ask the court to grant a continuance.  As a tenant, you must file a written answer listing all known defenses on or before the return day if you are requesting a recorded hearing. 

Recordings are typically required for appeals, so if you think that you may want to appeal, it’s in your best interest to file a written answer. This will ensure that the hearing is recorded so a transcript of the proceedings is available for the appeals court.

The form notice provided with the summons contains a statement that failure to appear at any scheduled status conference or hearing may result in the entry of judgment in favor of the landlord. If you don’t attend this court date, you risk the court awarding a default judgment to your landlord, which requires you to leave the rental unit. When you default or fail to show any cause for not paying rent, the court will award a judgment to your landlord that allows them to evict you.

A court may refer the parties to mediation on any issue at any time. If you and your landlord can’t reach an agreement through mediation, the court will determine if you both made a good faith effort to mediate the issue before proceeding with a hearing. If the court finds that either of you didn’t make a good faith effort, the court can:

  • Order you to submit to mediation,

  • Dismiss the action entirely or in part,

  • Render a judgment by default,

  • Assess any attorney's fees and cost,

  • Or impose any other sanction appropriate under the circumstances.    

Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims

If your landlord sues you to evict you, you can raise defenses or file a counterclaim. If the landlord has made a claim that is true, but you have a good legal excuse or justification for it, you can raise an affirmative dense. Doing so successfully can stop the eviction. You can also bring counterclaims against your landlord when answering an eviction lawsuit if they violated the law or the terms of the lease. This will force your landlord to disprove these claims assuming that you can prove them.

Tenants commonly raise affirmative defenses and counterclaims about the conditions of the property. In this case, you can assert that your landlord violated one of their obligations under the lease or Maine law. You can also claim that your landlord violated the implied warranty of habitability. In Maine, an implied warranty of habitability means that a landlord guarantees that the dwelling unit is fit for human habitation. 

To raise this defense, you’ll need to meet certain requirements. One requirement is that you must have given the landlord or their representative (like a property manager) notice of the alleged violation, and the landlord didn’t respond. Another requirement is that you didn’t cause the condition.

If the court finds that the rental unit isn’t fit for human habitation, the court will let you choose whether you want to terminate the rental agreement or reaffirm the rental agreement. The court will also assess an amount equal to the reduced fair rental value of the property for the period during which you owe any past-due rent. 

You must pay this reduced amount of rent on a pro-rata basis or proportionally to the reduced rental value of the property unless your landlord and you agree otherwise. Payments become due at the same intervals as rent for the current rental period. Your landlord may not charge you for the full rental value of the property until the rental property is fit for human habitation.  

What Happens After an Eviction Trial?

If the judge rules in the landlord’s favor, the court will issue a writ of possession, and the eviction process will continue. Seven calendar days after the judgment is entered, the court will issue a writ of possession to remove you. 

The writ may be served by a sheriff or a constable. But if at least three good faith efforts on three different days have been made to serve the defendant, service may be accomplished by mailing the notice by first-class mail to the defendant's last known address and leaving the writ of possession at the defendant's last and usual residence. 

A Maine court may not issue a writ of possession in any eviction case where the ground for termination of the lease was past-due rent, and the tenant pays the amount necessary to reinstate the lease. If you do pay the past-due rent to your landlord or a court, make sure that you keep some receipt of this payment for your records.

If a writ of possession has been served on you and you fail to remove yourself or your possessions within 48 hours of service, Maine law deems you a trespasser, and any property you leave behind is considered abandoned.  

Either party may appeal for a new trial (trial de novo) in the Superior Court. The time for filing an appeal expires once the writ of possession is issued or 30 days from when the judgment is entered, whichever occurs first.    

Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Maine

If you aren’t able to pay your rent and are worried about being evicted, look into emergency rental assistance programs. There are also rent-payment delay options you can use to help you avoid eviction. 

If you have to go to court to fight an eviction, gather all evidence supporting any affirmative defenses or counterclaims that you have against your landlord. This evidence includes written documentation, photographs, videos, and any other evidence that will help prove your claims about the property's poor condition and the landlord’s failure to meet their obligations under the lease and Maine law. You can even ask a county or municipal building inspector to visit the property and make an official report about its condition. Finally, consider contacting a tenants’ rights attorney for legal advice.

If you can’t make a scheduled court hearing, contact the court and request a continuance. You will lose by default if you don’t show up or try to reschedule.

Maintain a civil relationship with your landlord, if possible. Some level of past mutual respect can help if the landlord later threatens to evict you. Having an eviction lawsuit filed against you goes on your rental history and hurts your chances of renting housing later, so do all you can to avoid it.

If your landlord initiates an eviction, the two of you can negotiate to find a way that you can pay past-due rent and remain in the property. If you make any type of agreement with your landlord, make sure it’s in writing and signed by your landlord.

Tenant Resources in Maine

Several nonprofit and governmental organizations provide free resources to tenants in Maine. These include the following:

On August 26, 2021, the United States Supreme Court ended the CDC Eviction Moratorium imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. This means there is no longer a federal ban on evictions in the United States. The Maine State Housing Authority has COVID-specific information for Maine renters. 



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