South Portland to discuss renter protections

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council will host a workshop Monday to discuss a proposed renter protection ordinance that would establish a rent board and tie rent increases to inflation.

The goal of the proposed ordinance is to protect renters from exorbitant rent increases.
The workshop will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Redbank Community Center, 95 MacArthur Circle West. 
The issue was discussed by the Affordable Housing Committee, an ad hoc panel convened by the council last year to examine the state of South Portland’s housing market. But the proposed ordinance was created by the South Portland Tenants Association.
According to the proposal, the rent board would be made up of seven commissioners who would serve two-year terms and be charged to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants. The board would also hear petitions from landlords who want to increase rent beyond the inflation rate to recover costs from capital improvements to the rental units.
The proposed ordinance says its purpose is “to promote neighborhood and community stability, healthy housing and affordability for renters in the City of South Portland by controlling excessive rent increases and arbitrary evictions to the greatest extent allowable under Maine law, while ensuring landlords a fair return on their investment.”
Chris Kessler, founder of the South Portland Tenants Association, said in a press release that renter protections were a primary focus of the committee.
“The proposal has been modified to address concerns raised by representatives from the Southern Maine Landlords Association and other property owners. We think this is a fair proposal that ensures stability for renters and landlords alike,” said Kessler, who resigned from the ad hoc committee last fall.
Renter protections include tying rent increases to the Consumer Price Index and prohibiting no-cause evictions. The ordinance would also require landlords to give renters at least 120 days’ notice before a property is removed from the rental market. Landlords would also have to return security deposits and moving expenses if a renter is evicted without cause.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or Follow her on Twitter@melaniesochan.