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Tenants in Bangor will have greater notice of rent hikes under new housing rights measure

Micky Bedell
Bangor Daily News

After months of debate, the Bangor City Council has unanimously passed a new tenants' rights ordinance.

The measure requires that landlords give their tenants at least 60 days' notice of any rent increase, instead of 45.

City officials said the ordinance is intended to address housing insecurity and better protect tenants who have experienced sudden and dramatic rent increases. The council had heard stories from tenants in Bangor who had recently experienced sudden and dramatic rent increases.

Several landlords said the ordinance wouldn't drastically change their current practices, but some objected to the measure, particularly the new limits on application and screening fees.

The ordinance, for example, prohibits landlords from charging a fee to a prospective tenant for the purposes of simply applying for a unit. It also caps the fees that a landlord can charge to check an applicant's background and criminal history at no more than $75. Only those applicants who successfully pass a background check and agree to rent the unit will be charged, and the fees will be included in the first month's rent.

"This is not a revenue stream," Bob Alexander, a longtime landlord and the treasurer of the Greater Bangor Apartment Owners and Managers Association, said of screening fees. "This is just keeping people honest and being good to the people who you want."

Landlords will have to keep records for at least two years of screening fees charged to tenants and returned to unsuccessful applicants, according to the new ordinance.

The debate among landlords and housing advocates was compelling, said Councilor Dina Yacoubagha, but she called the ordinance a "step in the right direction."

"In the end, we had to do this to protect tenants, to achieve some — because we are not there yet — equity and equality in accessing housing," she said.