A Tenant's Rights on Breaking a Lease in the State of Maine

by Jill Stimson J.D. ; Updated July 27, 2017

Title 14, Chapter 709 of the Maine Revised Statutes codifies the respective rights between landlords and tenants in the state. Maine tenants may be able to terminate or break their leases if their landlords refuse to comply with their duties of habitability. Chapter 709 of the Maine Revised Statutes requires landlords to provide their tenants with habitable premises, and if their landlords fail to provide required repairs, they may be able to sue for damages and terminate their leases.

Generally, tenants cannot unilaterally break or terminate their leases in Maine. They must provide their landlords with a written termination notice before termination. Landlords are required to provide their tenants with habitable premises. A landlord's duty of habitability includes keeping common areas free of debris, vermin and health hazards. They must also eliminate lead-based paint hazards and toxic mold from their properties. Furthermore, Maine landlords have a duty to keep their tenants' homes at a constant 68 degrees in the winter.

Landlords' Duties

In addition to the duties of habitability, Maine law also requires landlords to respect their tenants' privacy. Known as the rights to peaceful or quiet enjoyment, tenants have a right to enjoy their rentals without unnecessary intrusions from their landlords. Landlords cannot enter their tenants' homes without consent absent emergencies. Landlords are also required to provide their tenants with safe premises. When landlords fail to comply with their duties of habitability, privacy and safety, their tenants may be able to withhold rent, break their leases and sue them for damages in some states. In Maine, tenants cannot terminate their leases or withhold rent when their landlords fail to comply with their duties. Instead, they must attempt to terminate their leases with written notice, and if their landlords refuse early termination, they must go to court and request it.

Tenants' Rights

Under Maine law, landlords cannot legally enter into leases with their tenants if they know of code violations and have failed to repair them, including the failure to eliminate bed bugs. Landlords cannot legally rent apartments with bed-bug infestations. If a tenant moves and discovers a bed-bug infestation, she can notify her landlord of the infestation within five days of moving in. Her landlord has 10 days to inspect her premises and order extermination. If her landlord fails to comply, she can sue him in court for actual damages of at least $250. The same duties apply to lead paint and failure to warn tenants of their rights.

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Consequences

Tenants who move out by abandoning their apartments can lose their property and pay for storage costs. Landlords have a duty to safeguard their property for 14 days after providing a written notice to tenants of their rights to reclaim their property. Tenants who fail to retrieve their property or fail to provide landlords with a forwarding address may have to pay for storage costs and unpaid rent.

About the Author

Jill Stimson has worked in various property management positions in Maryland and Delaware. Stimson worked for the top three property management companies in the commercial industry and focuses her career on property building logistics and tenant relationships. She holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

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