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Eviction filings in Maine jumped more than 25% last year

Virus Outbreak Evictions Rising
Gerald Herbert
Jada Riley goes through her possessions in the trunk of her car near her former apartment, Thursday, July 28, 2022, in New Orleans. Two months behind on rent, Riley made the difficult decision last month to leave her apartment rather than risk an eviction judgment on her record. Now, she's living in her car with her 6-year-old son, sometimes spending nights at the apartments of friends or her son's father.

More than 4,900 eviction were filed in Maine last year — the highest number since before the pandemic.

According to newly published data from the State of Maine Judicial Branch, filings were up by more than 25% in 2022.

Chris Marot, the managing attorney for the eviction prevention project at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, said the numbers reflect the trend of developers buying up large apartment buildings, renovating them, and then using "no-cause" evictions to remove tenants.

"It's not that they haven't paid their rent. It's not that they've caused a problem," Marot said. "It can be for, as the name says, no cause at all. No reason at all. And that is a tool that some of these folks who are buying up apartment buildings, and want to renovate and turn over, are using, in order to go through that process. And it does displace quite a number of people."

Marot said the state has seen a notable increase in filings over the last few months, as federal rental relief funding dries up.

"We've seen an increase in non-payment filings. Which would mean, folks who aren't able to afford their current month's rent, and are falling behind, once were supported by that rent relief program. Now they are having to turn to either alternative resources or face eviction," Marot said.

Gov. Janet Mills included $21 million for a range of housing supports as part of an emergency heating relief package passed by the legislature earlier this month.

Marot says he hopes the new package will help families, but he fears that despite the short-term funding, many will still face an uncertain future.