Sunday, December 5, 2021
Landlords

Lawsuit filed to block rent control

Lawsuit

The rent control ordinance set the rent of most units in Portland to what was charged in June

Portland (US) residents voted in favour of a rent control ordinance, but now a group wants to block it. The Southern Maine Landlord Association has filed a lawsuit against the city.

The measure on the November ballot passed with 57 percent of the vote, but the group filing the lawsuit says the language is complex, confusing and unconstitutional.

It’s just a bad policy and bad policy is bad for everyone, Southern Maine Landlord Association President Brit Vitalius said.

The rent control ordinance set the rent of most units in Portland to what was charged in June. It also capped the amount that landlords can raise it each year.

It’s created significant problems for the entire rental community, including tenants and landlords, Vitalius said. The lawsuit from the Southern Maine Landlord Association lays out how key details are missing from the ordinance, like standards to guide a rent board’s decisions.

The rent board may be unconstitutional, it’s not clear whether rents can roll back or what happens if you have a lease, Vitalius said.

People First Portland organizer Jack O’Brien doesn’t buy the argument.

Grasping at straws, an attempt to make fussy quivering into arguments, Jack O’Brien said.

People First Portland wrote and advocated for the ordinance.

The working class has been subject to extraordinary rental increases with absolutely no check, O’Brien said. He argues it is needed for thousands of renters across the city. This ordinance basically says that while landlords are absolutely guaranteed a fair rate of return, they can no longer gouge tenants.

O’Brien hopes the case is dismissed.

I think the courts have strongly showed that municipal referenda are an established part of Maine and United States traditions, O’Brien said.

But Vitalius says it’s a bad policy and is disappointed it has come to this.

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