Welcome to the SMLA Blog

  • 22 Jun 2020 7:25 PM | Nicole Burt (Administrator)


    By Samuel M. Sherry, Esq. June 19, 2020

    On June 17, 2020, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development issued Mortgagee Letter 2020-19. The gist of the piece is to extend through August 31, 2020, a ban originally established in Mortgagee Letter 2020-04 on foreclosures of and evictions from properties secured by FHA Single Family mortgages.

    These provisions are in addition to the protections established by the CARES Act (which apply to Section 8 rental evictions), the orders of the Maine Governor’s Office and the standing orders of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

    SMLA members have heard me say this often: Landlords swim in a sea of regulation, and those regulations now change every week. Landlords seeking to oust troublesome tenants are well-advised to avoid the temptation to do-it-yourself until the State and Federal governments begin the process of normalization.

    SMLA will continue to monitor the status of court re-opening and will report news to members as it develops.

    © 2020 Samuel M. Sherry, Esq., PA. This brief essay is not legal advice. 

  • 28 May 2020 4:24 PM | Nicole Burt (Administrator)

    On May 27, 2020, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued its CoViD-19 Phased Management Plan.

    You can find the Plan here:


    The short conclusion: There will be no regular eviction dockets until Phase 4, anticipated for August 3rd. There is no guarantee that Phase 4 will actually begin at that time.

    Eviction based on “urgent and compelling circumstances” remains a theoretical possibility. As SMLA members know, I have tried twice in two different courts without success as of this date.

    SMLA will continue to monitor the status of court re-opening and will report news to members as it develops.

    © 2020 Samuel M. Sherry, Esq., PA. This brief essay is not legal advice.

  • 23 Apr 2020 3:35 PM | Nicole Burt (Administrator)


    On April 22, 2020, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court revised its standing Pandemic Management Order.  The latest version states that absent a special order to the contrary, most civil actions, specifically including Forcible Entry & Detainer cases, “will NOT be heard until May 15, 2020 . . .  An extension of these limitations beyond May 15, 2020 is likely but has not yet been ordered.”

    As discussed in my April 16, 2020 post on the SMLA Forum, landlords are allowed to serve Notices to Quit (with extra requirements in some cases).  Sheriffs are serving eviction cases.  FEDs are getting filed with court.  But absent something truly emergent, those cases are not being heard and it would be no surprise to find that they will not be heard until June or even later.

    Notices to Quit:  Talk with your lawyer, or review my post, or review the Governor’s April 16th CoViD Order, before drafting or serving Notices to Quit.

    Serving FED Complaints:  Maine lawyers are taking extra steps when serving evictions.  Along with the regular package – FED Summons, copy for service, FED Complaint and Electronic Service Notice (if you serve the latter – I do), I have been serving a Motion to Continue to the Court’s next active date.  Instead of a motion, some other lawyers are sending a note explaining that the hearing date shown is a place-holder.  The goal for all of us is to inform the Defendant / tenant that he or she will not be due in court on the date shown on the summons.  Again, landlords should get advice from their attorney before sending FED packages out for service.

    The Bottom Line:  The laws applying to landlords generally, and evictions in particular, are like a constantly-shifting river.  That has never been more true than it is today.  Landlords who are thinking about starting to evict a problematic tenant should make sure that they are entirely up-to-the-moment, or better yet, hire an attorney who is.

    © 2020 Samuel M. Sherry, Esq., P.A.  This post is not legal advice.  As noted above, laws and regulations change constantly.  Anything you read here which is correct today might become incorrect tomorrow.

  • 24 Mar 2020 5:42 PM | Brit Vitalius (Administrator)

    In response to the rapidly changing environment around the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we are providing this immediate guidance to help our community of landlords follow best practices for communicating with tenants during this critical time as outlined by the Southern Maine Landlord Association.\

    1.  Communicate with tenants. Send clear and concise communications to your tenants if you haven’t already done so. This general email should include the following elements:

    • Use reassuring language. Supportive language is best during this unsettling time

    • Communication should emphasize that we are all in this situation together and open and timely communication is critical between all parties.

    • To avoid potential fair housing issues, be sure to incorporate and use  the same language to all tenants based on current, factual information 

    • Ask for anticipated rent payment problems. Ask that anyone who has lost their job and anticipates difficulty or an inability to pay their monthly rent should contact you immediately on an individual-only basis. Be mindful that each tenant’s situation is potentially unique which will require you to  address each circumstance separately.

    2. Respond to tenants who have reached out. Reiterate and reassure that:

    • You are willing to work with them if they do their part to take advantage of resources that will provide them with some income

    • Provide a hardship application to them to complete. We have attached a sample you are welcome to use.

    • Share links to local and federal resources available to them, including how to file for unemployment, anticipated Federal payments related to COVID-19, General Assistance (rental assistance), and any other additional resources. The SMLA will continue to share links to resources as they become available. 

    • Encourage tenants to get in touch with budgeting services, and other agencies to see what support is available.

    3. Be sensitive, be clear and be direct. The goal is to encourage collaborative communication and work together to find viable solutions.  

    • Each tenant and landlord relationship and situation is unique.

    • Clearly communicate that you are understanding of their situation but continue to stress available resources 

    • Repeat that this is a critical time for tenants to act quickly to demonstrate a willingness to work with you. 

    • Check back early and often with your tenants to get updates on their progress. Although you do not want to use threatening language or tones which will only serve to cause additional anxiety, you will need to see that actionable items are in process.

    4. Be realistic and consistent: It is best to avoid terms like  "rent freeze" or any language that implies tenants can wait to “see what happens.”

    • Address short term only issues for now. 

    • Rent is not 'forgiven' but payments or partial payments can be deferred and you will work to get on a payment plan over time as the current situation becomes more clear. 

    • Reiterate that we can’t solve everything today, however, you will continue to communicate and provide updated information and resources when available.

  • 20 Feb 2020 12:39 PM | Nicole Burt (Administrator)

    Many landlords ‘like’ to draft their own Notices To Quit, and I don’t discourage that.  All too often, though, it is my sad duty to tell an unlucky landlord that his or her notice is defective, and that we need to start over again from scratch.  Landlords hate that. 

    In no particular order, the five most common errors I see when clients draft their own notices are:

    1.  Including stuff in a rental NTQ which are not rent.   The purpose of a tenancy-at-will rental default notice is to inform the tenant about the precise amount of rent which is seven or more days late.  Late charges are not rent (unless the lease says they are).  Noisy kids are not rent.  Obnoxious texts are not rent.  Including anything except rent in a rental NTQ is instant failure.

    2.  Improper service of notice.  Unless the lease says otherwise, there are only two ways to serve an NTQ, in hand to a resident or "three tries, nail and mail."  Anything else is not proper.  Nailing without mailing is not proper.  Mailing without three tries is not proper.  Emailing is not proper.  Texting is not proper.

    The statute – 14 MRS § 6002 – says, “Service may be accomplished by both mailing the notice . . . and by leaving the notice at the tenant's last and usual place of abode.”  The best reading of the statute is that your clock does not start until both mailing and nailing occur.  I have successfully run evictions where mailing was delayed, but it’s unwise to rely on that.

    3.  Notice mis-states the deadline.  So often I see, “Your tenancy is terminated on December 7, 1941.”  That would be true if and only if December 7, 1941 happens to be seven or more days after service is finished.  Otherwise, if you put a specific date in your notice and don’t complete service until later, you haven’t actually given seven (or thirty) days’ notice and your paper fails, so your eviction fails.

    The correct language is, “Your tenancy is terminated seven days after this notice is served on you.”

    4.  Notice is missing Magic Words.  An NTQ needs to include this sentence:  “You have the right to contest the termination in court.”  If you don’t say that and the tenant shows up for eviction, no harm and no foul.  If you don’t say that and the tenant defaults at court, the tenant can vacate the judgment without any other reason.

    5.  Failure to provide notice to housing support agency.  If the tenant receives regular support – for example, Sec 8 – copying the NTQ to the agency is required. Although General Assistance is month-to-month help (not a continuing program), if the tenant regularly gets GA then copying notice to GA is the best practice even if it is not required.

    6.  Failure to document providing notice to housing support agency. Don't rely on the agency to keep your records:  Document notice via $1.50 USPS Proof of Mailing or get a signed receipt for hand delivery.

    7.  Notice does not comply with lease or former lease.  Many Mainers become tenants at will because their lease expires.  Many Maine leases say, "If this lease expires it becomes a tenancy-at-will agreement with all other provisions remaining in effect."  If there are terms about providing notice those terms may still be in effect.  If the notice does not comply with an effective agreement there is instant failure.

    There is no part of landlording which is easier to do almost correctly than Notices to Quit.  When drafting NTQs mind all your P’s and Qs!

    © 2020 Samuel M. Sherry, Esq., P.A.  Reprinted by permission.  The contents of this article are not legal advice.  Statutes and rules changes constantly so even if this article is entirely correct when written it could be tragically defective later.

  • 26 Jul 2019 6:02 PM | Nicole Burt (Administrator)

    Let’s get back to basics with a case study in, “What can I do with my security deposit?”

    Here’s a tenant on a lease for $900/mo which expires August 31st.  S/he pays the May rent but nothing comes in for June.  On June 7th the landlord reaches out.  The tenant says that s/he moved out a couple of weeks ago and never got around to notifying the landlord.  Fortunately, the unit only shows normal wear and tear, and a new leasehold tenant moves in on June 16th

    The landlord is holding $1,200 security deposit and asks what to do.  My analysis and advice:

    0.  WHY DIDN’T YOU ALREADY KNOW?  This incident is a gigantic wake-up call to inspect, inspect, inspect!  Your unit is your investment – guard it!

    A.  The Lease Contract:  The lease is a contract requiring the tenant to pay monthly rent through August, subject to the landlord’s duty to take reasonable steps to re-rent the unit if the tenant bails.

    B.  The Security Deposit is the tenant’s money, held by the landlord, as collateral against all actual recoverable damages but subject to applicable law.  That means the security deposit covers all manner of actual recoverable loss – lost rent, property damage (beyond normal wear and tear) and other outstanding allowed charges. 

    C.  The Loss:  In this situation, the landlord has lost one-half month’s rent at $880/month, for a total loss of $440.00.  The landlord is not allowed to “double-dip” for the second half of June – Maine law does not allow residential landlords to include an ‘early termination penalty.’

    D.  Retaining the Security Deposit:  The landlord is allowed to retain $440.00 if and only if the landlord timely sends notice.

    E.  The Notice:  For a leasehold tenant, the landlord must mail, via USPS, a notice to the tenant’s last known address within 30 days unless the lease says something different (which is less than 30 days).

     You astutely ask, ‘Within 30 days of exactly what?’  Unfortunately, 14 MRS § 6033(2)(A) does not say.  The following section, which applies to tenancy at will, say, “21 days after the termination of the tenancy or the surrender and acceptance of the premises, whichever occurs later.”  But that does not apply to a lease, and if the result is longer than 30 days, the lease can’t say that either.  Deep sigh here.

    There is NO REASON TO WAIT TO SEND THE NOTICE.  If you miss the deadline, the landlord loses the legal right to retain any of the deposit, no matter how much it is rightly owed by the tenant.

    The notice is five lines long.  Here it is:

    Dear Tenant:

                I was holding $1,200.00 for security deposit.

                I am withholding $440.00 due to your failure to pay June rent, after applying prorated rent for June 16-30 received from my new tenant.

                I am returning to you $760.00.

                            Love, Your Landlord

  • 02 Jan 2015 9:39 AM | Deleted user

    End of Year Multi-Family Market

    This is a good time to check in on the market activity as the year ends. Rather than give you a bunch of data, which I’ll do in my forecast report later in January, I’ll keep this anecdotal.

    • Buyers are actively looking, both owner occupants and investors.
    • Munjoy Hill values are completely detached from the rest of the market. Recent 3 unit sales all north of $450,000.
    • “Pretty” buildings are commanding a premium and even location can be largely overcome by quality and presentation.  
    • On the other hand, properties that are a little tired, don’t show well, or have some deferred maintenance, struggle to find buyers even when the price appears to account for the deficiencies.
    • Commercial sized multis (5+ units) have increased in value as in and out of state investors accept lower cap rates (which equals higher prices).
    • One out of state investor paid roughly $100/unit for several B/C class properties. While values are increasing, these sales are not strictly reflective of the wider market and appraisers are trying to figure out how to incorporate these sales.

    New Development

    Rising rents and projections for continued strength in the rental market has spurned the first round of new market rate development in Southern Maine for many years. Below are few of the projects currently underway or planned.


    • West End Place – 39 Luxury Apartments is nearly complete
    • East Bayside – Redfern is beginning plans for 56 units in the location of the current 3G’s Auto
    • Midtown – It was recently announced that this project is being scaled back as a compromise with opposition groups. The entire structure is now planned to be built in one phase.


    • Cascade Falls is a new development of 60 – 96 market rate apartments. Rents are project around $1,400++ for 2 bd units.


    Brit Vitalius is the owner of Vitalius Real Estate Group and President of Southern Maine Landlord Association.  He can be contacted at: 306 Congress St, Suite 3, Portland, ME 04101, 541-3755, brit@vitalius.com.

Postal Address:
306 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101

Phone: (207) 358-9853

Email: smlaemail19@gmail.com

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