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This article talks about the rights of renters in Maine. Each state has different laws protecting renters - this article only covers the law in the state of Maine. If you live outside of Maine and are looking for help or information, try the LSC Legal Aid Finder or search for rights of tenants or renters in your state.
Here’s Pine Tree Legal’s checklist of questions to ask about any house, apartment, or mobile home you might rent: Rental Checklist
Lease or Rental Agreement
Is there a lease?
You have rights as a renter under Maine law even if you don’t have a lease. But if there is a lease or rental agreement, both you and the landlord have to follow what it says. Read the lease or rental agreement carefully before you sign anything or give the person money. You have the right to ask about anything you don’t understand, so ask questions.
How much is the rent?
Does the landlord want you to pay monthly or weekly? Find out when and how the landlord wants you to pay. Will they come pick it up? Do you have to drop it off somewhere? If you pay cash they have to give you a receipt.
If you share the rent, remember that the landlord can charge you for all of the rent if your roommates don't pay their share.
- The maximum late fee in Maine is 4% of the monthly rent.
- Your landlord can’t charge you a late fee unless it is in your lease or rental agreement.
- For late fees, rent is only considered late if it is not paid within 15 days of the due date.
How can you get in touch with the landlord?
Make sure you get the landlord’s contact information. Write down their phone number and mailing address. Find out how they want you to contact them in case of an emergency.
How do you ask for repairs to be made?
Make sure you ask the landlord who to contact if you need something fixed. Some places have a maintenance person in charge of fixing things, but others do not. The landlord may want you to contact maintenance directly, or they may want you to put a request in through a website online, or they may have a different way. Find out who to contact and how to contact them if you need something fixed at your home.
Find out who pays for the below utilities and other costs:
- Hot water
- Snow removal
- Trash disposal
Find out how the utilities (heat, hot water, electricity) are controlled:
- Where are the breakers? A circuit breaker is an electrical safety device. It looks like a box on the wall with switches in it.
- Where is the thermostat? A thermostat can look very different from place to place. The thermostat controls how hot or cold it is in your home. It has numbers that show you the temperature in your home, and it can be set to a higher or lower temperature. Some landlords do not let you change the temperature. It is important to find out who controls it.
- Does every unit in the building have its own meter or fuel tank? It is against the law for your landlord to make you pay for other tenants’ utilities or utilities in common areas. Learn more about utilities.
Health and Safety
What are the conditions of the rental unit?
- Appliances (stove, oven, refrigerator, washing machine, dryer): Do they work? If not, will your landlord agree in writing to fix or replace them?
- Windows and doors: Are there locks? Are there screens?
- Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors: Do they work? Where are they? How many are there?
- Damages: Are there any damages to the walls, doors, floors, or ceiling? You can write these down using the Rental Checklist.
Write notes and take pictures before you move in so you can show that you didn’t cause these damages. If your landlord agrees to fix something and it really matters to you, get it in writing. Don’t rely on their word.
Have there been bedbugs in the building?
It is against the law for a landlord to rent an apartment, house, or mobile home with bedbugs. If you ask when the building was last treated and declared free of bedbugs the landlord has to tell you. Learn more about bedbugs.
Are there any lead paint hazards?
If the building was built before 1978 your landlord should warn you about lead-based paint problems and hazards with this notice. Kids have a higher risk of lead poisoning. Learn more about lead paint in our article: Lead Paint in Maine - Know the risks, know your rights.
Does the landlord want you to give them money to "hold the apartment"?
Be careful about putting money down to “hold the apartment.” If you decide not to rent it the landlord can refuse to return the money. You will have to sue them in Small Claims Court to try to get it back.
How much is the security deposit?
Maine law says the security deposit can’t be more than two times the monthly rent.
Where does your landlord keep the security deposit?
Security deposits are your money that a landlord is just holding. They can only use it after you move out to cover rent owed or damages you cause to the apartment.
While you live there your landlord has to keep your security deposit in a special bank account. If their business goes under or they declare bankruptcy your security deposit would be safe in this account.
What if my landlord wants me to buy a surety bond?
Be careful about surety bonds. Here are some rules about them:
- Your landlord can’t force you to buy one. It’s your choice.
- You will not get the money back that you paid for the bond, even if you don’t owe the landlord anything when you move out.
- If you do owe money for rent or damages when you move out, the surety company can choose to sue you for money it pays to your landlord.
Is there a smoking policy?
This tells you where you can and can’t smoke. You have the right to know this information before you pay a deposit or sign a lease or rental agreement.
What is the parking policy?
Do you need a sticker to park in a lot or driveway? Where can your guests park?
If there is only street parking make sure you learn about the town’s street parking policy. If your car gets towed during a snow ban or street cleaning, your landlord probably won’t pay the bill.
What is the pet policy?
Are pets allowed? Do you have to pay a pet deposit?
Pet policies do not apply to service or assistance animals because service or assistance animals are not pets. You don’t have to pay a pet deposit for a service or assistance animal but your landlord can charge you for damages caused by your animal.
If you have a service or assistance animal or if you need to get one while you live somewhere, you should give your landlord written notice. You should also give them a letter from your doctor or therapist.
To learn more about service and assistance animals in general, read our article: Service and Assistance Animals in Maine: What's the difference, and what are my rights?