Legislation

This LEGISLATION page is an attempt to help keep MAOMA members informed on some of the more pressing issues important to the Maine rental housing industry.

MAOMA is active in the Maine State Legislature, supporting a lobbyist (Dan Bernier) and making sure that our collective voices are heard. When we hear of an issue that we feel would severely impact our membership, we will include an article about it in the SMLA, GBAOMA and MCAHA Newsletters.

We encourage our members to contact us by phone or e-mail, with issues that are important to you.

Each Legislature covers a two-year period. In the first year, many bills are introduced. There are hearings and workshops. After compromises and revisions, numerous bills, in one form or another, will be approved by the House and Senate and signed into laws by the Governor. The second session of each Legislature, generally deals with held-over bills from the first year, plus emergency bills.The second session of each Legislature is limited by the Constitution to budgetary matters, the Governor’s legislation, legislation of an emergency nature approved by the Legislative Council, legislation submitted pursuant to authorized studies, and legislation submitted by direct initiative petition of the electors.

 

PLEASE SEE YOUR LATEST CHAPTER NEWSLETTER

FOR UPDATES FROM OUR LEGISLATIVE LIAISON

CARLETON WINSLOW AND LOBBYIST DAN BERNIER.

 

September  2012

The days are getting shorter and that means that fall is just around the corner. Along with the colder weather comes not only the dreaded heating season but also a new legislative session. The 126th Maine legislature will be sworn in this December and we don’t know yet which political party will control the House and Senate. Every legislator is up for reelection in November.

The number one priority this coming legislative session is to try and change the radon testing requirements.

MAOMA passed legislation extending the implementation of the Radon law until 2014, now we need to actually change the language of the law to something that is not so onerous to apartment owners. We have talked about treating radon testing as we do many other tests and only do the testing on the sale of a property. We hope to have all the groups affiliated with the rental housing market supporting a positive change in the radon law.

This upcoming legislative year new legislators can put in any legislative proposals they desire so that usually generates over two thousand new legislative bills. You can be sure that of that two thousand there will be a couple of dozen that directly impact apartment owners, some for the better some for the worst. That is why MAOMA exists, not only to propose positive legislation but also to protect your interests against negative legislation.

Enjoy the rest of the short summer season.

 

June 2012

The 125th Maine Legislative session is now part of history. This session was marked by budget shortfalls and a great deal of financial turmoil in Augusta. The legislature did cut municipal revenue sharing 30% which means your local municipality will have a little less revenue coming from the state. Hopefully  local communities will find areas to cut instead of just passing along the added costs to the property tax payer.

It is now time to look toward the elections this November and legislative proposals that will help us run a more efficient and profitable business. These are challenging times with energy costs near record highs and most all of our other costs going up.

The good news is that the rental market is quite strong with the collapse of the housing market. Lets hope that we will soon be able to increase our rents to the point of covering the increased costs of doing business.

MAOMA has a legislative priority of dealing with the radon issue this coming legislative session as I have mentioned in  my past articles. I hope that the newly elected 126th Maine Legislature will listen to our concerns  and be willing to accept our recommendations.

Here’s wishing you all great tenants.

 

May 2012

This legislative session is almost over. The Appropriations committee is still meeting, trying to close a shortfall in the Mainecare budget. The full legislature is slated to come back into session on May 15th to take up the budget proposals from the Appropriations committee. Lets hope for compromise and agreement between the political parties. Certainly our system of government works much better here in Maine than what is currently going on in Washington DC.

I’m pleased to report that LD 1708 AN ACT TO PREVENT THE THEFT AND ILLEGAL SALE OF COPPER AND OTHER METALS has been passed by both bodies and signed into law by the governor. LD 1708 was passed as an emergency so it became law upon the governors signature. Most bills have to wait 90 days after the last day of the legislative session to become law. The legislature wanted to act immediately to try and curb the huge problem of illegal copper theft. I have talked with several apartment owners who have experienced this problem first hand. The new law increases the effort a business buying scrap metal must make to identify and record information about sellers. It also allows law enforcement to put a 7 day hold on metal they think might be stolen. All interested parties worked to forge a compromise on this legislation and I feel the new law will be a big help in stopping the illegal theft of copper

MAOMA now has to look to the next legislative session and decide what we would like to propose for our own legislation. We are strongly looking at new ideas to make the radon law more workable for landlords. We have talked about the idea of only doing radon tests on the sale of a property which is currently how other tests are handled. You might remember that last year we passed a bill that delayed the implementation of the radon law for two years. This coming legislative session will be the time to try and make changes for the better.

 

April  2012

This legislative session is rapidly approaching the statutory adjournment date of April 18th. Massive budget issues have dominated this session and the budget is still a major issue to be dealt with. Money has been in extremely short supply in the last few years.

LD 1680  Act to Amend the Circuit breaker Program to include Claimants Occupying Property Pursuant to a Trust and Require Proof of Payment of Rent. This legislation has now been passed by both the House and the Senate and been signed by the Governor.  The section of LD 1680 we are interested in reads as follows:

Sec 2 Adoption of rules. The state tax assessor shall adopt routine technical rules, pursuant to the Maine revised statutes, title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-a to require, for application filed on or after August 1 2012, proof of rent paid when a claimant makes a claim under the Circuit breaker program based on rent paid in the amount of $9000.00 or more for the year and to establish a process and provide instructions for providing proof.

This legislation should address a fairness issue that a claimant has to provide proof that he or she actually paid rent to be eligible to receive money from the Circuit breaker program.

 

LD 1708 An Act to Prevent the Theft and Illegal Sale of Copper and other Metals. This legislation has been a product of compromise between all interested parties. It has not been completely finalized but by the next newsletter I feel strongly that it will be passed and signed into law by the Governor.

 

March  2012

This month there was a meeting of several groups representing apartment owners.  We discussed ideas for legislation that would expedite the eviction process.  We also discussed ideas to make the Radon Law more acceptable and less costly for apartment owners.  The meeting was held at the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and facilitated by Civil Deputy Harry McKenna.  Mr. McKenna would like to see the service changed so that we would not have to serve a person 3 times.  It was nice to have MAOMA, Waterville, Augusta and Lewiston apartment owners working together for the common interest of all.

I testified in favor of LD 1680, An Act to Amend the Circuit Breaker Program to Include Claimants Occupying Property Pursuant to a Trust and Require Proof of Payment of Rent.  We had two workshops on this bill and the Taxation Committee voted a majority report out that says if your rent is over $9000.00 you must show proof in order to get money from the Circuit Breaker Program.  The proof can be either rent receipts or a note from the landlord.  We will have to wait and see if LD 1680 passes both houses of the legislature.

Carleton Winslow and I attended the hearing on LD 1606, An Act to Provide Magistrates to Assist the Court in Handling Small Claims and Landlord – Tenant Cases.  A representative of the courts testified that the courts have now been fully funded and that each court would be having at least two days a month where they would deal with evictions.  You all know how frustrating it has been when the courts would only have one or no forcible entry and detainer hearings a month.  Because of the new commitment from the courts, the sponsor felt the legislation was unnecessary at this time and withdrew the bill.

Carleton Winslow and I also attended the hearing on LD 1708, An Act to Prevent the Theft and Illegal Sale of Copper and Other Metals.  This legislation had a very lengthy hearing and the Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development set up an interested parties group to try and come to some compromise.  MAOMA is part of that group and we have had two meetings so far.  I believe we will reach a compromise shortly on legislation that will address this very serious problem.

Respectfully,

John W. Royce

 

February 2012

Last week I testified on behalf of MAOMA in support of LD 1680 “An Act to Amend the Circuit Breaker Program to Include Claimants Occupying Property Pursuant to a Trust and to Require Proof of Payment of Rent”.

This legislation was submitted by Senator Debra Plowman on behalf of a landlord that was a constituent. The landlord testified that a particular tenant owed him a considerable amount of money and was still able to collect money from the circuit breaker program even though the tenant had not paid rent. This is simply a matter of fairness, if a tenant has not paid rent he or she should not be given money from the state to be reimbursed for rent that was never paid.

There was considerable opposition to LD 1680 from low income groups and others. I think a possible compromise would be to allow a tenant to only be able to apply for the circuit breaker program on the amount of rent actually paid.

I talked with Representative Charles Priest who is sponsoring LD 1606 “An Act to Provide Magistrates to Assist the Court in Handling Small Claims and Landlord Tenant Cases”. He stated that the court has said it would have to hire extra security personal and an extra clerk if LD 1606 passed. This would add a very large expense to the process and make passage of this

legislation difficult. We discussed possibly changing the legislation to permit magistrates to hear only uncontested cases so security would not be necessary. If we can keep the costs down then a reasonable filing fee increase would be manageable. We really need to speed up the eviction process and LD 1606 would be a big help in avoiding delays.

Respectfully,

John W. Royce

 

January 2012

Another legislative session is now upon us. The second session of the one hundred twenty fifth Maine legislature has begun and it’s time to look forward to improving the lot of landlords here in Maine.

One bill that could do that is LD 1606  “An Act To Provide Magistrates to Assist the Courts in Handling Small Claims and Landlord Tenant Cases”.  We have all experienced delays in eviction cases at one time or another because the courts were not hearing those cases on a timely basis. Money has been scarce for the courts over the past years and timely justice has suffered because of that problem. LD 1606 would allow Magistrates to hear and dispose of cases. The idea is to hear more cases on a timely basis.

This proposed legislation has bipartisan support and has an emergency preamble which means it would take effect immediately upon the Governors signature. Any legislation that is not an emergency takes effect 90 days after the last day of the legislative session. The fact that LD 1606 has both Democrats and Republicans as sponsors shows that both political parties

understand the problems of delaying the judicial process. We can hope that LD 1606 will be another step forward for the delivery of a more timely eviction process.

Respectfully,

John Royce

 

December 2011

We all know that some courthouses in Maine are experiencing difficulty in getting timely forcible entry and detainer, or eviction, (FED) hearings. Peter Flaherty from Bath-Brunswick emailed the Governor on this issue and got two responses from Mary Ann Lynch who is the Director of Court Information.

Mary stated that the courts agree there is a problem and have decided that beginning in January 2012 each courthouse will have at least 2 FED dockets a month. The courts are also working on a standard set of instructions for calling the FED docket in district courts. This will give the courts a uniform approach throughout the state.  MAOMA has been aggressive in complaining about the lack of timely FED dates and it’s nice they are listening to our concerns.

One piece of legislation that will definitely be in this legislative session is AN ACT TO PROVIDE MAGISTRATES TO ASSIST THE COURTS IN HANDLING SMALL CLAIMS AND LANDLORD-TENANT CASES. This is another attempt to speed up the FED process and again goes to addressing MAOMA’s concerns about a very slow FED process.

Another piece of legislation that will be considered will be AN ACT TO PREVENT THE THEFT AND ILLEGAL SALE OF COPPER. I know several apartment owners who have had copper thefts from their buildings. MAOMA will be looking to help stop these thefts.

I had the opportunity to meet with Rep. Richard Malaby from Hancock who is an apartment owner. He stated he would be willing to sponsor legislation for MAOMA to help improve the FED process. We had a good meeting and I appreciated his willingness to help MAOMA however he could.

Respectfully,

John W. Royce

 

 

For more detailed information:

Details on general rental of living quarters:
http://www.maine.gov/revenue/salesuse/Bull32.pdf

KNOW THE LAW

Ignorance of state and federal laws is no excuse! If you are in the apartment rental or management business, you need to stay informed.

To contact the governor, and/or any of your state or federal legislators, go to:http://www.maine.gov/portal/howdoi/government.html