How to Evict a Tenant (Process)
Evictions in Maine are governed by State law and the tenant’s written lease agreement. When the tenancy is not detailed in a written lease, or if there is a written lease which does not explicitly outline the termination and notice procedures for evictions, the landlord must reference Title 14 of the Maine Revised Statutes to determine the proper eviction procedures.
Step 1 – Draft a Notice to Quit
The process of terminating a lease or rental agreement begins with the landlord providing the tenant with a written eviction letter known as a “Notice to Quit.” The eviction notice will inform the tenant of the reason their tenancy is being terminated, what actions might permit them to retain their tenancy (e.g., paying rent, fixing damages), and the notice period in which they must either move out or correct their violations.
The type of Notice to Quit chosen by the landlord will be determined by the cause of termination. The following circumstances are grounds for eviction in Maine:
Failure to Pay Rent – The landlord must draft a Notice to Pay or Quit. If the tenant has a written lease with provisions regulating evictions for non-payment, the landlord must adhere to the lease terms when deciding on the earliest date the notice can be delivered to the tenant. If the lease does not specify such information, or if there is no written lease, the landlord must wait seven (7) days after rent is due before delivering the notice to the tenant.
After receiving the Notice to Pay or Quit, the tenant will have a notice period of seven (7) days in which they must either pay the full amount due or vacate. However, if there is a written lease that mentions a different notice period, the landlord must provide a notice period equal to the one specified in the lease.
Non-Compliance With the Lease or Tenant Law – A Notice to Comply or Quit must be served to the tenant. This notice can be used when the tenant violates a specific provision of their written lease. If the lease does not define any lease violations, or if the tenant does not have a written lease, the Notice to Comply or Quit may be used if the landlord has proof that the tenant, their family, or anyone on the property with their consent has committed a violation listed in section § 6002(1) or § 6025(3).
The written lease shall be referenced when establishing the notice period in which the violations must be corrected. If there is no lease, or if there is a written lease but it does not specify a notice period for violations, the tenant shall receive seven (7) days’ notice to either correct their violations or vacate.
Month-to-Month Lease Termination Without Cause – The landlord can terminate a month-to-month rental agreement without cause by serving the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit. The tenant will have thirty (30) days to vacate. If they do not move out after the thirtieth (30th) day, the landlord can seek an eviction order by filing a Forcible Entry and Detainer lawsuit.
Step 2 – Serve the Tenant with the Notice to Quit
The completed Notice to Quit must be served to the tenant before the notice period becomes effective. Maine landlord-tenant law demands that landlords (or their agents) personally serve the notice to the tenant at the rented property. Three (3) good-faith attempts at personal service must be made. If personal service is not possible after three (3) good-faith attempts, the notice must be posted to a visible location of the dwelling AND sent by first class mail to the individual’s last known residence.
Step 3 – File a Forcible Entry and Detainer
It will be the tenant’s duty to comply with the Notice to Quit by either paying rent, curing their violations, or vacating the premises. If they do not comply with the terms by the final date of the notice period, their tenancy will be terminated and the landlord can proceed by initiating the Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) action.
To start the FED, the landlord must fill out the Complaint for Forcible Entry and Detainer and submit it to the district court in the division where the rented property is located. A $75 filing fee will be required at the time of submission. The original Complaint will then be returned to the landlord.
Step 4 – Serve the Forcible Entry and Detainer Summons
Next, the landlord must purchase a Forcible Entry and Detainer Summons from the clerk’s office ($5 per copy). There must be one (1) Summons for each tenant being evicted. The landlord must ask the clerk to schedule a hearing date for the eviction. The clerk will fill out the Summons with the hearing information and return it to the landlord.
A copy of the Complaint and the original Summons will need to be served to the tenant by the sheriff or a deputy. Both documents must be taken to the sheriff’s department and submitted for service (there will be a service fee for each Summons).
Note: The Summons must be served to the tenant at least seven (7) days before the trial date.
Step 5 – Submit Filings to Clerk’s Office
After the papers have been served to the tenant, the original Summons and a certificate of service will be returned to the landlord. These documents, along with a copy of the Notice to Quit and the original Complaint, must be filed with the clerk’s office at least one (1) day before the trial (weekends and holidays excluded).
Step 6 – Eviction Trial
A trial will be held in the district court of the county where the residence is located. Both parties must appear before the judge and present their evidence including copies of all relevant documents, photographs, and witnesses. If the landlord is awarded the eviction, the tenant will be issued seven (7) days to vacate the property.
Step 7 – Request a Writ of Possession
In the event that the tenant continues to possess the dwelling past the seventh (7th) day, the landlord must submit a Request for Issuance of Writ of Possession to the district court and obtain a Writ of Possession. With the Writ in hand, the landlord must bring it to the sheriff’s department and ask for it to be served on the tenant (a fee may be required). The tenant will have forty-eight (48) hours to vacate after being served with the Writ. If they fail to vacate past the forty-eight (48) hour notice period, the sheriff’s department will be permitted to enter the rental unit and remove the tenant by force.
Note: If the tenant does not have a written lease and they are being evicted for failure to pay rent, they can stop the eviction at any point before the Writ is issued by paying the total rent due along with the court costs paid by the landlord (not including attorney fees).