Changes to Maine‰'s Eviction Process

The Maine Legislature is currently considering two bills to amend the forcible entry and detainer laws. LD 1070, “An Act to Expedite the Eviction Process and Lower the Eviction Workload of the Courts,” would require tenants to pay all unpaid, accrued rent to the court clerk on or before the date on which the tenant’s answer to the landlord’s complaint is due. If the tenant contests the amount of rent that is owed, the court will hold a hearing and make a determination as to the amount due from the tenant. The court may also order the tenant to pay the rent that accrues during the pendency of the FED action. The tenant’s failure to pay the back rent is deemed a waiver of the tenant’s defenses and entitles the landlord to an automatic default judgment, without further notice or hearing. LD 1199, “An Act to Expedite the Eviction Process in Certain Types of Cases,” would establish an expedited process for resolving cases in which the tenant has paid rent for 2 or fewer months and is at least 7 days behind on the payment of rent. The Act would allow the court to issue the writ of possession at the same time that a judgment is issued in favor of the landlord. Current law delays the issuance of the writ of possession for 7 days after the date of the judgment. A public hearing on both acts was held by the Judiciary Committee on April 28, 2011. Maine Equal Justice Partners, the Disability Rights Center, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, and the Maine Bar Association have all voiced opposition to these Acts due to the restrictions they place on a tenant’s right to be heard at an FED hearing and to appeal an FED decision. The Judiciary Committee will discuss both bills at their work session scheduled for May 12, 2011.