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Renter Information
Affordable Housing and Services

Assistance for Maine people to obtain and maintain decent, safe, affordable housing and services suitable to their unique housing needs.


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MAOMA's Top Ten Tips for Renters Seeking Housing

With the improving Maine economy, and new jobs coming to this area, there is an increasing demand in the housing market.

Just because there is high demand does not mean that units are not available. These tips are designed to assist renters with finding better housing, even in a highly competitive market.

  • Approach your rental-housing search like you would a job search. Be organized, serious, professional, and make sure you stand out as the best applicant.
  • Let all your friends and associates know that you are looking and what you are looking for. Explore newspaper classified ads, renter magazines and the Internet for listings. Post notes on bulletin boards at public places you frequent.
  • Know what you really want and don't want. Be flexible with the rest of your criteria. Be prepared to decide on the spot and to leave a deposit and/or credit check fee.
  • "The early bird gets the worm"! Check the latest listing first thing every day, and call early. Respond quickly when a landlord calls you back. If you have a cellular phone or pager, leave those numbers and have the phone or pager with you while you are out looking at other apartments.
  • If you leave a message on an answering machine, be sure to speak slowly and clearly, and repeat your name and phone number. Be available to accept or return calls, or state in you message; when you will be available.
  • Keep your credit in good standing. Obtain a free copy of your credit report, correct any errors, and make sure what you say in the rental application is consistent with what the landlord will see on the credit report.
  • Be prepared with all the information you need to complete a rental application (prior addresses, bank account and credit card numbers, a list of references with phone numbers). Landlords will not respond to incomplete applications.
  • Contact your references ahead of time to be sure your information on them is current and they are aware that you will use them as a reference.
  • Consider preparing a renter's resume. You may have to repeat the information on the application, but you will stand out as well organized and prepared.
  • Make a good impression. Demonstrate that you will be a good steward for the landlord's property.
Renter's Bill of Rights
1. A renter has the right to be treated fairly and equitably when applying for or living in a rental unit.

2. Except in an emergency, a renter has the right to be given reasonable notice prior to any entrance into a rental unit by a rental property owner or manager. Twenty-four hours is presumed to be a reasonable notice in the  absence of evidence to the contrary.

3. A renter has the right, upon request to the rental property owner or  manager, to a prompt response to a request for repairs, especially if there is any condition that endangers or materially impairs the health or safety of the  tenants.

4. Under certain specific circumstances, provided under Maine law, the renter  may fix dangerous and unhealthy conditions and deduct the cost from the rent. Caution: Renters should read Maine law as there are numerous requirements and limitations to this right to repair and deduct. Some of the restrictions are:

      A. The defect must be related to habitability. In other words, the problem must  be serious and directly related to health or safety. For example, a broken  heater, stopped-up toilets or broken windows.

      B. The defect must not have been caused by the careless or intentional act of  the resident or guest.

      C. The amount you withhold must be less than $250 or an amount equal to ½ the  monthly rent, whichever is greater.

      D. Before having the work done, the renter shall notify the landlord in writing  of the renter's intention to correct the condition as the landlord's expense. If  the landlord fails to comply within 14 days after being notified by the tenant  in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, or as promptly as  conditions require in case of emergency, the renter may cause the work to be  done with due professional care with the same quality of materials as are being  repaired.

      E. Installation and servicing of electrical, oil burner or plumbing equipment  must be by a licensed professional.

      F. If a landlord, who by agreement is responsible for heat, fails to maintain a  minimum temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit at a distance of 3 feet  from the exterior walls, and 5 feet above floor level, due to no fuel in the  tank, then the purchase of heating fuel by the tenant shall be deemed to be a "cost of compliance".

5. Prior to any rent adjust ment, a renter has the right to a 45 days'  written notice from the rental property owner or manager. In the case of a written lease agreement, rent may not be increased during the lease's term,  unless there is explicit authorization for an increase in the lease.

6. A renter has the right to the return of any security deposit that may have  been collected by the rental property owner or manager and a good faith written accounting of any charges against that deposit: a) in the case of  a written rental agreement, within the time, not to exceed 30 days, stated in  the agreement; and b) in the case of a tenancy at will, within 21 days after the termination of the tenancy or the surrender and acceptance of the premises,  whichever occurs later.
Renter's Responsibilities
Comply with your lease or rental agreement. Your most important responsibility as a resident is to comply with the rental contract and policies relating to rental housing rules. If you do not, you may be asked to move out. Be sure to read and understand what is expected of you before you sign the rental agreement.

Before moving in, make a move-in checklist of conditions in the apartment and of any furniture that comes with it. Your landlord may have a form that the both of you can complete and sign. Then, upon move-out, fill it out and sign it again. This should help to avoid any disputes over deductions upon move out.

Keep a signed copy of the rental agreement, housing rules, and the move-in/move-out checklist. This might come in handy in case of a disagreement.

Purchase renters insurance. This gives you, the renter, protection for your personal belongings in case of fire, flood, burglary or other disasters. A landlord's insurance policy does not cover a renter's personal belongings. Also if it was your negligence that caused the disaster, you could be held liable for any damage to the property of others. A renter's insurance policy normally provides personal liability coverage.

Pay rent on time. You should pay your rent on the day it is due. If you are a tenant at will and are seven (7) days or more in arrears in the payment of rent, the landlord may terminate the tenancy with a written notice demanding that you pay the rent or move out of the unit within seven (7) days. If you still fail to abide by the notice, eviction proceedings may begin. If you are tenant under a lease, and in arrears in the payment of rent, the lease provisions for termination apply.

Notify your landlord when things go wrong. It is very important to notify your landlord, when things in your unit or in common areas are not operating properly or are broken. If necessary, put the notice in writing. In most cases, your landlord will be responsive to your request and fix the problem as soon as possible.

Properly maintain your unit. State law requires your landlord to maintain the property in a habitable condition. It also requires you to properly maintain the property and keep it clean. Specifically, Maine law requires the resident to:
  • Keep the premises clean and sanitary
  • Properly operate gas, electrical and plumbing fixtures
  • Refrain from damaging or defacing the premises or allowing anyone else to do so
  • Use living and dining rooms, bedrooms and kitchens for their proper purposes. For example, the living room should not be converted into a makeshift bedroom.
  • Also, the resident is prohibited from disturbing their neighbors' peaceful enjoyment of their property. This is known as refraining from creating or allowing a nuisance.

Do not tamper with your smoke detector and test it monthly to ensure it continues to operate properly. The owner cannot arbitrarily enter your apartment to physically inspect and test the detector on a monthly basis. The act of tampering with a smoke detector, such as removing a battery, disconnecting the electrical power supply, or in any other way interfering with it's ability to detect smoke may place all occupants of an apartment building at risk. If a tenant tampers with a smoke detector and interferes with it's functioning, the tenant could be charged with a Class E criminal offense, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to 6 months incarceration.

Give your landlord a duplicate key if you change the lock. You may not change the lock to your dwelling unit without giving notice to the landlord and giving landlord a duplicate key within 48 hours of the change. If you do not provide your landlord with a duplicate key, in the event of an emergency, he may gain admission to the unit through whatever reasonable means necessary and may charge you reasonable costs for any damage caused as a result. Also, if you fail to provide a duplicate key, the landlord may terminate the tenancy with a 7-day notice.

Give proper termination notice. If your rental contract is a month-to-month tenancy you are required to give a written 30-day notice when you wish to terminate the contract. You are responsible for paying rent through the notice period. Your security deposit cannot be used in place of the last month's rent.
If, when you move out, you plan on leaving any articles behind and you do not want them to be considered abandoned, you should give notice of this wish to the owner or manager of the real estate, in writing, prior to the effective termination date, and make arrangements with the owner for their removal or storage. If any articles are not promptly removed, the owner may charge for costs associated with removal and storage and deduct such costs from your security deposit.