What You Should Know If You Own A Rental Property

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Published 10/24/16

When you rent out a property you own, there are some things you should know, particularly if you rent in Portland, Maine.

Some of the items you must be aware of include rental registration, bed bugs, energy efficiency, lead paint, radon testing, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and smoking policies...

PORTLAND RENTAL REGISTRATION

Must do it every year.

With recent events like the Noyes Street fire, the City of Portland has put more regulations in place to help protect tenants from negligent or uneducated rental property owners. So from January 1, 2016, all Portland rental units (single family, multi family, casual rentals, AirBnB, vacation homes, weekend rentals, etc) must be registered annually with the City of Portland's Housing Safety Office. Registration fee is $35 per unit. The fine for failing to comply is $100 per unit per day!Following registration, inspections will be scheduled with the owner or property manager. You can prepare by using the pre-inspection checklist found on the registration form.

Bed Bugs

Must disclose if you have them.

Bed bugs have become an issue in some part of Maine. It is illegal for a landlord to rent an apartment that they know (or suspect) to have bedbugs. They must also tell you whether other nearby apartments in the building have bedbug problems. Here’s some more info about bed bugs.

Energy Efficiency

Must disclose if the tenant will pay for the utilities.

A tenant who will be paying energy costs has the right to get information on the last 12 months of energy use from the energy supplier(s). Before a tenant enters into a contract or pays a deposit to rent or lease a property, the landlord shall provide the Energy Efficiency Disclosure Statement, obtain a signature, and keep a copy on file for three years.

Lead Paint

Must disclose what it is and whether or not there is any.

Landlords must include a Lead Paint Disclosure Statement and a pamphlet called "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home" at same time you present the Lease Agreement.

Radon Testing

Must test and disclose.

Landlords are required to have the air in each building with rental units tested for the presence of radon as of March 1, 2014. The testing must be done by a State registered radon tester and must be repeated every 10 years. The landlord must provide written notice about radon and the results of the radon testing to each potential tenant before the tenant signs a lease or pays the deposit to rent and also to existing tenants. The tenant must sign the notice. Radon mitigation is recommended, but not required, for radon levels of 4 pCi/l or higher. However, if radon levels of 4.0 pCi/l or higher are not mitigated, the landlord or tenant have the option to end the lease after providing at least 30 days notice. Here’s some more info about radon, and an FAQ for Rental Building Radon Testing from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Must have working alarms in or near bedrooms.

Landlords are required to provide working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors at the time a property or unit is rented. Tenants are required to keep the batteries in the detectors charged and to test the detectors. Tenants are prohibited from disabling the smoke detectors. Landlords are required to repair or replace a smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector if a tenant provides written notice to the landlord that the detector is not working properly. Pine Tree Legal Assistance provides the following info on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.

Smoking Policy

Must have in the lease.

Landlords are required to provide written notice to tenants and potential tenants about whether or not smoking is allowed. The notice must state whether smoking is prohibited on the premises, allowed on the premises, or allowed in limited areas. If the landlord allows smoking in limited areas, the notice must identify where smoking is allowed. A landlord may notify a tenant of the smoking policy in a written lease agreement, or provide a separate written notice. The landlord must provide this written notice before a tenant enters into a contract or pays a deposit to rent or lease the property. Here’s a sample lease provision for a smoke-free policy.

Lease Template

The Maine Attorney General provides landlords and tenants with a Model Landlord-Tenant Lease and Guide. However, the Attorney General does not guarantee that this model lease accurately reflects current Maine or federal housing laws. If you would like additional information on landlord and tenant rights and obligations go to Chapter 14 of the Attorney General Consumer Law Guide, or contact the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, Consumer Information & Mediation Service. Also, be sure to include the documents and disclosures regarding Energy Efficiency, Lead Paint, Radon, and the Smoking Policy as outlined in the above paragraphs.

Disclaimer - We Are Not Attorneys

While we’ve done our best to compile a list of the items you should be aware of as a landlord, please note that we are not the official source of these laws, and we are not attorneys. Although we are familiar with the landlord/tenant laws and receive updates on the major law changes in the business of real estate, we do not know the details of all the laws. So please, do your due diligence, and consult with an attorney if you need more clarity or guidance.

Resources

Resource / Article

Why It’s Helpful

Maine State Housing Authority Landlord Obligations & Information

General breakdown of Maine landlord/tenant laws.

Maine State Housing Authority - Rental Housing Guide

Provides information pertaining to subsidized housing, housing-related resources, and Maine rental housing laws.

Portland Landlords Get Deadline to Register and Pay New Fee as Part of Safety Effort

Portland Press Herald article explaining the new requirement for Portland rentals to be registered and inspected to ensure tenant safety.

City of Portland's Housing Safety Office

General info about the new rental registration & inspection requirements.

Register your Portland rental and avoid fees!

More resources for landlords and tenants in Maine and Portland.

City of Portland’s Housing Information & Resources

Even more resources for landlords and tenants in Maine and Portland.

Pine Tree Legal Assistance - Rights of Tenants in Maine

This guide gives you a quick look at Maine's landlord-tenant laws. The law is always changing. So you may need more information.

Office of the Maine Attorney General - Attorney General’s Model Landlord-Tenant Lease

Provides landlords and tenants with a model lease and a guide to each section of the model lease.

Southern Maine Landlord Association

You can register to receive a newsletter with valuable content and updates on state and federal rules, network with other landlords, get access to monthly meetings, and enjoy discounts on oil & heating equipment.