Motels, Hotels and Rooming Houses
Although Maine law is fairly clear on many tenant issues (see Rights of Tenants in Maine), the laws are less clear about the rights of people who live in motels, hotels and rooming houses. Here we will answer some of the most common questions about these types of housing.
Do I have the right to a written eviction notice and a court hearing?
Generally speaking, you are not a tenant if you live in a motel or hotel. So the owner can put you out on short notice and without going to court. But the answer could be different if you have lived there for a long time. Read more below.
If you live in a rooming house, are you a tenant? What if you live in an inn, a motel, or lodging house for an extended period of time? Or pay a monthly rent, rather than a daily charge? This is a gray area of the law. The owner may say that you are not a tenant because he has an "innkeeper's license" or runs a licensed "lodging house." But there is more to it. If the owner acts like a motel owner or innkeeper by:
- providing clean sheets and towels
- having access to your room and cleaning your room
- signing guests in and out in a registry
- posting room rates in individual rooms
- employing a desk clerk
- fully furnishing rooms
- renting out rooms for short stays only
- advertising as a place for travelers and lodgers
then you are probably not a tenant. But if the owner does not do these things, then he may be treated by the law as a landlord. This means that you may have the legal rights of a tenant, and you cannot be evicted legally without a written notice and court order.
Other important elements are:
- how long you have lived there and how long others in the building have lived there
- the availability of on-site kitchen facilities
- the nature of your written agreement, if you have one
So just having a "lodging house" license is not enough. If the owner acts more like a landlord, the law will treat him as such. And his tenants will have extra legal protections.
If you live in an inn or rooming house and you are not sure about your rights, please call Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
What if I start out staying only a few days but then begin living there more long-term?
One right that is clear under Maine law is your right not to pay "use taxes" if you stay there more than 28 days. This rule applies to:
- rooming houses
- tourist camps and
- trailer camps
These places must charge "use taxes" to tourists and other short-term guests. However, if you stay there more than 28 days, the owner cannot continue charging you this tax. Also, the owner must return to you the taxes you paid for the first 28 days. This law applies if you:
- do not have a permanent home, or
- you are away from home to work or go to school
Where can I go if I am evicted and have no money?
Here are two possible options:
- Go to the town office where you have been living or where you intend to live and ask for "General Assistance." This is a program run by each city and town in Maine to help people pay for their basic needs if they have no other resources. Go here for more information.
- All of Maine's cities, and some larger towns, have homeless shelters. To find a shelter closest to you, contact the Maine State Housing Authority.
Is there a way to keep my kids in school until I get resttled?
Your children have the right to keep going to school, even if you are homeless or in some kind of transitional housing.
If you are staying some place temporarily (with friends or relatives, or in a motel, shelter, or campground, for example), you can choose to send your children to either:
- their old school (if it is within a one-hour drive) or
- the school within the school district where you are now staying.
The school must provide transportation. If your children go to the local school, they should be allowed to attend immediately, even if their school records have not been transferred. Once you move from temporary to permanent housing, your children can stay in their current school until the end of the school year, if that is your choice. If you have questions or problems about school issues, please contact KIDS LEGAL, a project of Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
If you have more questions, please contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance.
Partially revised June 2011
PTLA # 695