Reasons for evicting a tenant in Maine fall under numerous circumstances in accordance with state law. Typically, eviction proceedings are initiated by a landlord for two reasons: tenants may have breached the terms of the lease agreement, or the landlord may simply wish to terminate the tenancy at will. Despite the reasoning, landlords must follow the legal eviction process in order to successfully and lawfully evict a tenant.
By following the coming steps, landlords can navigate evictions in an effective manner that adheres to state requirements. Moreover, tenants in Maine can use this article as a guide to stave off eviction and remain in compliance with their landlord.
Laws – Title 14, Chapter 709: Entry and Detainer
How to Evict
- Step 1 – Selecting a Written Notice to Quit
- Step 2 – Send Eviction Notice to Tenant
- Step 3 – Communicating with the Tenant
- Step 4 – File in Court
- Step 5 – Serving the Tenant
- Step 6 – Appear in Court
- Step 7 – File Writ of Possession
- Step 8 – Repossessing the Property
Step 1 – Selecting a Written Notice to Quit
An eviction notice, also known as a “notice to quit,” must be served before the landlord escalates the matter to court. A tenant must be issued either a written notice specifying the breach of lease terms or one communicating the landlord’s intent to terminate the tenancy.
Landlords in Maine can select one (1) of the following notices in accordance with state law:
- Non-Payment of Rent (7-Day Notice): A landlord must issue this notice when seeking to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time. Rent is considered late if it is not made within fifteen (15) days from the due date.1 Therefore, a landlord must wait seven days after the rent’s due date to issue a 7-day notice to quit. This notice will become void if a tenant pays the total amount owed within the grace period.2
- Non-Compliance (7-Day Notice): This notice serves to notify a tenant that they have breached the rental agreement in any way besides non-payment of rent. Landlords who issue a non-compliance notice are required to show conclusive evidence, or “affirmative proof,” of their allegations against the tenant.2
- Health/Safety Violation (7-Day Notice): If the tenant is engaging in activity that affects the health or safety of other tenants or damages the rental unit, they may be given 7 days to leave.2
- Illegal Activity (7-Day Notice): Illegal activity committed by the tenant including but not limited to drugs, stalking, assault, prostitution, or any other activity that violates the law warrants a 7-day notice to quit whereafter the tenant must leave.2
- Month-to-Month Tenancy (30-Day Notice): Satisfying state requirements, this notice is utilized to terminate an at-will tenancy. Landlords are required to inform tenants their month-to-month lease will come to an end after the minimum thirty (30) days. Tenants will have this time-period to source other means of housing.2
Step 2 – Send Eviction Notice to Tenant
Regardless of the type of eviction notice, landlords will have to ensure the tenant receives the written notice with adequate time. Under Maine law, a landlord must attempt to provide the written notice to the tenant in person; if after three (3) tries, the landlord is unable to hand-deliver the notice, the landlord may mail it to the tenant.
When mailing: It is crucial for the landlord to record their attempts of delivering the notice in person, thus showing proof the landlord exhausted three tries before mailing the form. Landlords should also keep a copy of the mailed notice as potential evidence in court.
Step 3 – Communicating with the Tenant
Tenants must respond to the eviction notice within the stipulated time period. Meanwhile, landlords can assess the tenant’s intentions based on their response and outline the next logical steps. Say, for instance, the tenant has no plans to cure a certain violation; the landlord, in this case, can begin preparing eviction filings to use in court. However, tenants often agree to cure the violation of rental agreement terms. The eviction can be avoided altogether through open communication and transparency.
Communication between the tenant and landlord allows for a smoother process, and it can avoid drawn-out housing court trials or even the eviction itself. It is in the interest of both parties to be as transparent as possible when settling eviction-related disputes.
Step 4 – File in Court
- Average Processing Time (COVID-19 may alter this timeline): 3-6 weeks2,3,4
- Filing Fee: $755
- Where to File: The District Court nearest to where the property is located5
An eviction, known as a “Forcible Entry and Detainer,” must be filed in District Court once a landlord has exhausted measures to solve the issue outside of the court system, as detailed in Steps 1-3. A landlord may commence legal action if and when a tenant does not comply within the time stipulated on the notice to quit.
There are four (4) specific court-ordered forms required when filing for an eviction in the State of Maine:
- Complaint for Forcible Entry and Detainer (CV-007): Sample only. A landlord may use this form to formally petition the court to begin the eviction process due to the tenant breaking their lease terms. The form can be obtained from the Clerk’s Office nearest to the property for a $5 fee.
- Request for Issuance of Writ of Possession (CV-195): Reserved for instances when the tenant refuses to vacate, the landlord may request a Writ of Possession in order to have the tenant physically removed from the premises by a sheriff or other constable.
- Affidavit of Service, Forcible Entry & Detainer (CV-204): A landlord must file this affidavit after the tenant has been served a notice of summons in order to attest the service has in fact occurred.
- Notice of Appeal and Affidavit Forcible Entry & Detainer (CV-206): A tenant may use this form to appeal their eviction judgment.
Step 5 – Serving the Tenant
Once the landlord files the complaint with the court, the tenant must be served with a summons (a written demand to appear in court). A court-authorized sheriff or constable will serve the summons to the tenant through one of three methods, as detailed in Maine Rules of Civil Procedure:6
- Hand-delivering the notice to the tenant;
- By deliverance of the summons in-person to an individual at the tenant’s rental property;
- Mailing a copy of the summons through first-class mail (postage prepaid) and posting a copy of the summons on the rental property. This method can only be sought when other options have failed.
The summons will include a hearing date in which the tenant must appear before a judge in District Court. A tenant must receive the summons at least seven (7) days before the eviction hearing.7
Step 6 – Appear in Court
Both the landlord and the tenant must appear in court on the established date, which will be no later than ten (10) days after the return date written on the summons.8 During the hearing, a judge will likely ask for both landlord and tenant testimonies. Landlords should be prepared to address any questions and justify their reasoning behind evicting the tenant.
One way for landlords to ensure their success during the hearing is by developing responses to common tenant defenses. Some of the most common defenses include:
- Improper notice defense, a tenant will claim the landlord did not follow civil procedure rules when issuing the notice to quit.7
- Unsafe or unfit housing defense, a tenant will claim they did not pay rent due to serious issues with the rental property that the landlord refused to fix.7
- Retaliation defense, the tenant will state the landlord is evicting them due to a dismissal of a tenant’s assertion of rights.7
- Discrimination defense, a tenant will argue the eviction was solely based on their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.7
A default judgment may be issued against the tenant if they fail to appear in court, and they will have to vacate the premises immediately.
Step 7 – File a Writ of Possession
A Writ of Possession must be filed if the tenant fails to vacate the property after the judge’s ruling in favor of the landlord (plaintiff) at the end of the trial. The tenant will be issued one final notice to leave the rental property before the court orders law enforcement to forcibly remove them.
It is illegal for the landlord to serve a writ of possession. Instead, the court will appoint an authorized individual(s) to issue the writ to the tenant. All writ of possession notices will be issued seven (7) days after the judgment is entered.3
Step 8 – Repossessing the Property
If a tenant fails to vacate within 48 hours of receiving the Writ of Possession, the court sanctions an order for a sheriff or other law enforcement constable to physically remove the tenant from the property.3
The landlord will have the property back in their possession once the officer has removed the tenant in a legal manner.