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Maine eviction restrictions could soon lapse as more courts reopen

The population center of Jay, Maine, is seen April 15, 2020.

(The Center Square) – With Maine courthouses starting to reopen, eviction hearings could begin as early as Aug. 3, the Kennebec Journal reported.

While some residents facing job loss or other hardships have been unable to pay rent, landlords also say some tenants have used the situation to forgo their rent obligations, which has made it more difficult for them to keep up their responsibilities.

“We still have property taxes to pay, insurance, fuel, utilities, repairs, mortgages. If we’re not collecting rent, these things can’t be taken care of and it puts properties in jeopardy,” Royce Watson, a real estate agent who owns roughly 100 rental units in the Augusta area, told the Journal.

It’s possible thousands of cases could go to court, Maureen Boston, a lawyer and intake manager with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, told the Journal.

“We anticipate that there will be a large number of eviction cases to be heard once the courts reopen to eviction hearings on Aug. 3,” Boston said. “We are working on preparing ourselves for the deluge, and plan to be as present as possible in Maine’s eviction courts in order to help prevent a large wave of homelessness.”

In an agreement with the state, MaineHousing has been offering one-time rent assistance payments of $500, which are paid directly to property owners. As of July 1, the program has provided $3.1 million.

It’s hoped landlords and tenants can arrive at mutually agreeable terms, Daniel Brennan, director of MaineHousing, told the Journal.

“We feel for landlords that are in a pinch, as well,” Brennan said. “The pandemic – nobody wished that on anybody. Everybody is a victim of the pandemic. We all need to work together.”

MaineHousing has been in discussion with state officials, as well as advocates for tenants and landlords, with the goal of avoiding a wave of evictions, Brennan said.

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