Can I be evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes. There had been special rules during the State of Emergency but most of those rules have ended. Read through the questions below for more information. Call Pine Tree Legal Assistance if you are being evicted.
There are common myths that people with disabilities or children cannot be evicted during Maine’s cold months. These myths are not true. You can be evicted at any time of year even if you have a disability or children.
What is the CDC Eviction Ban?
The CDC Eviction ban is over. The federal CDC had issued an order that said you couldn’t be evicted for owing rent if you had a loss of income and met other criteria. However, this ban ended on July 31, 2021. If you owe rent, you should apply for Emergency Rental Assistance. If you are being evicted, you may still have a defense. Call Pine Tree Legal Assistance if you are being evicted.
Has Maine banned evictions?
No. Eviction hearings are happening in Maine courts through out the state. Under state law, your landlord can bring you to court and get a judgment against you if they give proper notice.
What kind of notice does my landlord have to give me?
If you have a lease, your landlord must follow your lease. Your landlord can only give you notices allowed in your lease. The notice must be for the length of time your lease says and be given to you according to your lease.
If you do not have a lease, your landlord can give you a 7 day notice for nonpayment of rent, damage to property, or nuisance or a 30 day no cause notice. The notice must be in writing and be served to you in person. If your landlord tries three times to serve you in person, they can post it on your door and mail it.
Do I have to move out when the notice expires?
No. Your landlord can’t force you out without a court order. If you do not move before your notice expires, your landlord must file a court action called a Forcible Entry and Detainer. This is the legal name for eviction in Maine. Your first court date must be 7 or more days after you are served with court papers and after your notice expires.
What happens when I go to court?
If you have been served with court papers, you should call Pine Tree Legal Assistance. There was a special process set up for evictions during COVID. Some courts are following this process. Other courts are going back to the normal process. There is limited information available this. We think the following courts are now using the normal process or soon will:
- West Bath
The normal process is:
- You have one court date.
- If you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord, you will have a hearing on the same day.
The special process is:
- You will first have a conference over the phone to check on the status of your eviction.
- You will be scheduled for mediation.
- If you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord, you will be scheduled for a in-person hearing. The hearing will be 7 or more days after your phone conference.
Court dates are being scheduled in person, on video, and on the phone. If you don't know whether you need to go to the courthouse or appear remotely, call the courthouse.
How do I call into a phone conference?
The court should send you a phone number, meeting number, and password before your first court date. If you do not get a phone number or you call in and no one is there, call the courthouse right away. You should make sure to call in early to make sure you connect. You should call from a quiet place where you have good phone service. There will be many people on the call. If you are not muted and you talk, everyone will hear you. If you are muted and you talk, the judge will not be able to hear you. During the phone conference, you should tell the judge the status of your eviction:
- You should tell the judge if you have already moved
- You should tell the judge if you have an agreement with the landlord
- You should not agree to move by a specific date unless you are confident you can move
- You have the right to talk more about an agreement in mediation
- You have the right to have a hearing if you cannot agree
What will happen at mediation?
A neutral mediator will try to help you and your landlord come to an agreement. The mediator will tell the court if you come to an agreement but will not tell the judge what anyone talked about. Mediation will most likely happen over the phone or by video. The court should send you information on how to connect.
Before mediation, you should think about what you want to happen. Do you want to enter into a payment plan? Do you want to agree to move from your unit?
How can I settle my case?
You can either agree to stay or to move. You can agree to move on a specific day. You should only agree to move in more than 7 days from your court hearing. If you lose at hearing, you will get 7 days.
You can agree to do certain things to stay, like make payments or clean up trash.
To make an agreement happen, you can either continue the case to give you time or you can let a judgment enter with a side agreement that you can stay as long as you follow your agreement.
What will happen if we can’t agree?
If you can’t agree, you will have a hearing. The hearing will be scheduled in person at the courthouse. You will be screened before you can enter the courthouse. You must wear a mask at all times in the courthouse. You must stay six feet away from other people in the courthouse.
To get ready for the hearing, you should:
- Get relevant documents together, with copies for you and your landlord
- Arrange for witnesses to appear in court
- Review your story and be prepared to talk about why you should not be evicted
- Confirm with the court that you should appear in person
During the hearing formal court procedure will be used:
- Your landlord will get to tell their side first. You will go second.
- The Maine Rules of Evidence will apply. You will be limited to talking about things related to the reasons for your eviction and you will not able to share “hearsay” or things people said outside of court.
- You should focus on facts related to the reason for your eviction.
- You should make sure to tell the court when it is your turn if you disagree with things the landlord said.
What are some defenses to evictions?
In order to evict you, your landlord must follow very specific rules. If the landlord didn’t follow the rules, you should not be evicted. Call Pine Tree Legal Assistance if you are being evicted. Some issues you can raise at hearing include:
- Your notice has not expired.
- Your notice was too short.
- The things your notice says you did are not true.
- Your notice was not served correctly.
- Your court papers were not served correctly.
- Your landlord is retaliating against you.
- Your landlord has not fixed dangerous conditions in your unit or building.
- You are being evicted because you were a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
- The person evicting you doesn’t own the building.
- Your landlord is discriminating illegally.
- You have a disability and need a Reasonable Accommodation. Read more about this here.
- You live in subsidized housing and your landlord hasn’t followed those rules.
What happens after the hearing?
If your landlord has not followed the eviction rules, the judge will rule for you. You will not be evicted and you can stay in your unit.
If your landlord has followed the eviction rules, the judge will rule for your landlord. You will have 7 days to move. If you don’t move in 7 days, you will be served with a Writ of Possession. Once you are served with the Writ, you have 48 hours before the Sheriff’s Office can remove you from your unit or your landlord can change the locks.
What if I can’t attend court?
If you can’t attend court by phone or video because of technology:
- Try to find a phone you can use
- Bring the court a letter asking for permission to appear in person
If you can’t attend court in person because you have COVID risks:
- Mail or ask a friend to bring the court a letter asking for permission to appear by phone or video
- Explain what is special about your situation that makes it dangerous for you to go to court. For example, you are in a COVID high-risk group or are over 65 years-old
If you get turned away from the courthouse because of the COVID screening:
- Follow the instructions of the court officers on how to call into your court hearing
- If they do not give you instructions, call the court immediately to ask what to do. Court contact information can be found here.
- The court should still let you participate remotely.
- You should not be evicted just because you couldn’t go into the courthouse.
If you can’t go to court because it is at a bad time or date for you:
- You can file a request with the court for a new court date.
- You should explain why you can’t be there.
- If it is for medical reasons, include a note from your medical provider
- The court does not usually give out new court dates
What happens if I miss my court date?
If you connect to your court date and no one is there, call the clerk’s office immediately.
If you were given one court date as part of the normal, one-day eviction process:
If you missed your court date, you have probably been evicted. If you do nothing, your landlord can kick you out in 9 days. You should call Pine Tree Legal for help if you think you shouldn’t be evicted.
If your court is still using the special COVID eviction process with multiple court days:
If you missed your 1st court date, you will be scheduled for a second court date. You will have to show that you had “good cause” or a good excuse for missing the first date. You should give the courts details about why you didn’t attend the first date. The judge will decide whether they think your reasons are “good cause.”
If the judge thinks you have “good cause”, you will have a hearing that day.
At this hearing, you must make all the arguments you can about why your landlord can’t evict you. Common defenses include the landlords claims not being true or if there are safety issues with your unit. The judge will decide whether your landlord has followed the eviction rules, and if any of your defenses apply. If the landlord has followed the rules, and you do not have a defense, an eviction judgment will enter. This means the court has decided your landlord has won their case, and you can be evicted.
If a judgment enters, you have 7 days to move. At the end of the 7 days, you will be served with a “Writ.” A ‘writ’ is a legal document telling you you have 48 hours to leave. After 48 hours, you can be removed from your unit and the landlord can change the locks.
If the judge does not think you had “good cause” for missing your first hearing, you will be evicted. You will have 7 days to move. At the end of the 7 days, you will be served with a “Writ.” A ‘writ’ is a legal document telling you you have 48 hours to leave. After 48 hours, you can be removed from your unit and the landlord can change the locks.
If you miss the second court date and do nothing, your landlord will get a judgment and you can be kicked out in 9 days. You should call Pine Tree Legal for help if you think you shouldn’t be evicted.
Should I pay my rent?
Yes. If you can afford to pay your rent, you should pay it. There are no special COVID rules that say you don’t have to pay your rent. If you can't afford to pay your rent or owe back rent or utility bills, you should apply for assistance. Apply to Maine State Housing's Emergency Rental Assistance program.
What if I can’t afford to pay my rent?
What if my landlord does not bring me to court and asks or demands that I leave?
Your landlord cannot force you to leave without going to court. If your landlord tries, tell them you have a right to the eviction process. Call your local police department and let them know that you are a tenant and your landlord is trying to lock you out.
If your landlord continues to threaten to remove you, call Pine Tree Legal for assistance.
Where can I get help if I’m being evicted?
Call Pine Tree Legal Assistance for help.
- Mondays 12:00 – 2:30
- Tuesdays 9:00 – 11:30
- Thursdays 9:00 – 11:30
- Aroostook (207) 764-4349
- Washington and Hancock (207) 255-8656
- Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Waldo (207) 942-8241
- Kennebec, Somerset, Knox, and Lincoln (207) 622-4731
- Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin (207) 784-1558
- Cumberland, York, and Sagadahoc (207) 774-8211
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