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 or tenants of 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:
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, you and the landlord have to follow its terms. Read the lease or rental agreement carefully before you sign or put money down. Ask about anything you don’t understand.
Is rent paid monthly or weekly? Find out 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, and our Lead Paint Project.
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.
Maine law says the security deposit can’t be more than two times the monthly rent.
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.
Be careful about surety bonds. Here are some rules about them:
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.
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.
Are pets allowed? Do you have to pay a pet deposit?
Pet policies do not apply to service animals because service animals are not pets. You don’t have to pay a pet deposit for a service animal but your landlord can charge you for damages caused by your service animal.
If you have a service 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. Learn more about service animals, and get a sample letter here.