Time is Running Out to Protect Maine's Renters (RESOURCES)
The COVID-19 federal moratorium on evictions is set to expire on July 31. Many Mainers who risked eviction because they couldn’t pay their rent during the pandemic now face the devastating possibility of having to pay back any unpaid rent, long before the economy has recovered.
So what options are available to Maine renters? Unfortunately, the rules regarding evictions vary by county, and even by town. Rest assured, no Mainer will find their lease ended suddenly. Maine recently passed a law that requires landlords to include with eviction notices a straightforward letter about what the process entails, as well as options for legal assistance and rent relief.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Many states are taking bold steps to save renters from potential financial ruin, and Maine could join them.
California is preparing to launch the biggest rent forgiveness program in U.S. history. Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to use over $5 billion of the state’s federal COVID-19 stimulus funds to help the state’s most vulnerable renters, forgiving 100 percent of rent for tenants make less than 80 percent of the median income where they live and can provide proof of financial hardship from the pandemic.
Minnesota’s legislature passed a housing budget bill this week that eases the burden of the moratorium’s end. Renters will have 15 weeks after the July 31 deadline to secure rental assistance, to be paid directly to landlords. Meanwhile, tenants who have claimed, but not yet received, rental assistance from the state will be protected from eviction through June 1, 2022. The Oregon legislature, meanwhile, passed a bill giving renters until February 2022 to complete their back rent payments.
Until the Legislature returns to session to address this crisis, there are resources available to help people keep their homes:
The Maine State Housing Authority offers an Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The program provides tenants with rental and utility relief payments. If you meet the program’s income limits (use this calculator), experienced unemployment or financial challenges during the pandemic, and you are at risk of losing your housing, you may be eligible for rent and utility assistance.
Additionally, Pine Tree Legal Associates is urging anyone receiving eviction notices to call their offices. They have created a comprehensive FAQ that can help you make sense of the eviction process and your options. PTLA hosts weekly eviction information sessions on Tuesday mornings, where you can learn more about the eviction process, your rights and responsibilities as a renter, your options for resolving your case, your possible defenses, and what happens when your case is over.
Every Mainer deserves the security of a roof overhead. Our leaders must ensure that no one loses access to safe and affordable housing.