Sen. Carney bill to help prevent avoidable evictions signed into law
AUGUSTA — On Monday, Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill from Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, to help make sure tenants facing eviction know their rights and have legal help. An amended version of LD 1508, “An Act To Reduce Homelessness by Reducing Evictions,” will create a program to help ensure renters have access to legal assistance and know what legal protections they have under Maine law.
“Even before the pandemic, we saw how vital access to affordable, stable housing is for people’s overall wellbeing. When a tenant is facing an eviction, we should make sure they know their rights and have sound legal advice to help them navigate the process and hopefully come to an agreement with their landlord,” said Sen. Carney. “This bill, along with a new partnership between MaineHousing and Pine Tree Legal, will do so much to make sure renters don’t get thrown out of their homes when other legal avenues are available to them.”
In response to LD 1508 and a recent report on eviction from the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, MaineHousing, which has run rental assistance programs throughout the pandemic, is partnering with Pine Tree Legal Assistance to ensure that every tenant who needs help remaining stably housed has access to legal assistance, understands their rights and the eviction process, and if eligible, receives rental assistance. The two organizations also plan to continue to work with cultural brokers to ensure that Maine’s communities of color – who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and face eviction at a higher rate – have access to resources and assistance in their language of choice. MaineHousing will use federal Emergency Rental Assistance funds to help support this work.
“As the eviction moratorium ends, we know that many Mainers may face eviction – and we need to do what we can to help,” said Daniel Brennan, Director of MaineHousing. “Over the last year, many people are in unforeseen circumstances beyond their control, and in response we’ve stood up rental assistance and housing stability programs. Now we are providing funding to Pine Tree Legal Assistance to make sure that all tenants have the resources and education they need to remain stably housed.”
“Data collected by the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition shows that tenants are less likely to have legal representation than landlords, and that lack of legal representation has a negative impact on their ability to avoid eviction and homelessness,” said Nan Heald, Executive Director of Pine Tree Legal. “By increasing legal representation for tenants, we will level the playing field and ensure that state and federal laws are upheld.”
Pine Tree Legal Assistance is a nonprofit law firm that helps Mainers meet their basic needs and protect their human rights by providing free civil legal assistance. Pine Tree helps more than 6,000 Maine households each year. More than half of their cases are related to housing issues. Mainers anywhere in the state facing eviction can contact their regional Pine Tree office by phone. More information is available on their website: https://www.ptla.org/contact-us.
LD 1508 will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns sine die.