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EVICTIONS IN CAMPGROUNDS

STATUTORY GUIDANCE When ejecting a camper from a campground premises, the campground owner does not always need to comply with the rigid, time-consuming, and costly eviction (forcible entry and detainer) process set forth in Maine’s landlord/tenant laws. For instance, Title 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3837 provides that a campground owner may request that any person leave the campground premises if they are “causing unnecessary disturbance to other persons on the premises” or if they are “damaging or destroying property belonging to [the owner].” If the camper refuses to leave, the law allows the owner or manager to use “a reasonable degree of force against that person to remove that person from the premises.” Owners should be very careful, however, exercising this right, as one does not want to be in the position of having to argue about what constitutes “reasonable force.” The law also provides that “the owner or manager may request a law enforcement officer to remove that person from the premises.” Requesting the assistance of law enforcement is the safest procedure for handling someone who refuses to leave the premises, especially if dealing with a disorderly camper or one under the influence of alcohol, or if the owner or manager suspects illegal activity. In fact, a campground owner has a duty to prohibit “any reveling, riotous or disorderly conduct, drunkenness or excess” on the premises. See 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3834. It is important for campground owners to recognize when the expedited process applies, and to follow the correct process to avoid delay and help minimize costs. Maine courts have determined that, in order to avoid the general landlord...

MUNICIPAL LAW UPDATE: TAX ACQUIRED PROPERTY

Increasing the Value of Tax-Acquired Property It is not surprising that when municipalities acquire title to real estate as a result of the expiration of a tax lien, the property is usually returned to the delinquent taxpayer by filing a tax lien discharge or delivering a quit claim deed.  Ordinarily the value of the real estate subject to the tax lien greatly exceeds the amount owed in real estate taxes.  However, municipal officials are often reluctant to pocket a windfall at the taxpayer’s expense, being mindful of the fact that the failure to pay the taxes in a timely manner may have been the result of unfortunate circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control. The municipality’s reluctance to assert its title under an expired tax lien may also result from concern about the taxpayer’s ability to find an alternative place of residence if evicted from his property.  If the taxpayer is evicted, his or her family may be obliged to apply for welfare assistance in order to obtain substitute housing. Municipal tax collectors may also be concerned about the difficulty of complying with statutory eviction procedures and incurring the legal expense of doing so.  Such concerns may lead to procrastination in the hope that threatening letters will motivate the taxpayer to beg or borrow the money to pay the delinquent tax bill. Sometimes municipalities enter into installment payment arrangements with delinquent taxpayers which allow them to repay the back taxes in installments.  However, such arrangements can bring about unintended consequences.  Such agreements would ordinarily be subject to state laws regulating “land installment contracts” and therefore be subject to burdensome disclosure[1] and...

LANDLORD TENANT LAWS IN MAINE

The past year or so has brought a number of changes to the landlord tenant laws in Maine, including a round of amendments that became effective September 28, 2011.   The notable changes affecting residential leases and rental properties are summarized below. Termination of Leases Without Termination or Notice Language Leases without specific termination or notice language may now be terminated with proper notice.  This change was the result of a delayed reaction to an almost 30-year-old Law Court case, Rubin v. Josephson, 478 A.2d 665 (Me. 1984).  The Rubin case held that, when a residential lease does not contain termination language, the landlord may not use the tenancy-at-will provisions of state law to terminate the lease.  The new law overturned this decision.  Although the bill for this amendment was entitled, “An Act to Provide a Remedy to Property Owners When a Tenant Defaults on a Lease,” the law provides relief to both landlords and tenants with leases that do not contain termination provisions or notice language.  Under the new law, a landlord may terminate a lease with 7 days’ notice and appropriate for-cause grounds, even if the lease does not contain language providing for termination in such circumstances.  Similarly, a tenant may terminate a lease lacking termination language upon 7 days’ notice to the landlord in cases where the landlord has materially breached a provision of the lease.  14 M.R.S.A. §6001(1-B). Although the amendment attempts to “remedy” problems with terminating certain leases, unfortunately the statute does not automatically fix all problems with leases not containing termination provisions.   If you are going to use a lease, you may wish to have an attorney...

MAINE REAL ESTATE FORECLOSURES

Maine Real Estate Foreclosures Given the current state of the economy, Maine real estate foreclosure has been on the rise.  In 2010. the Maine legislature revised the residential mortgage foreclosure laws in Maine to address the foreclosure crisis facing our state and the rest of the country.  Part I of this Article summarizes the largest change – the foreclosure diversion mediation program – and the ways in which the program may reduce mortgage foreclosure sales.  Part II discusses investment opportunities that may arise when real estate foreclosures do result in public auctions of the property, and provides tips for interested bidders. I. FORECLOSURE MEDIATION SYSTEM IN MAINE COURTS Part of the 2010 law revisions is a court-facilitated real estate foreclosure mediation program in which homeowners are given the opportunity to meet with trained mediators and their bank to discuss the possibility of a loan modification or other alternative to foreclosure.  As an attorney with a foreclosure practice and a former foreclosure mediator, Attorney Buck has seen the benefits of Maine’s real estate foreclosure mediation process play out over the last year. When homeowners are served with a complaint for foreclosure of their personal residence, they are also provided standard “mediation request” forms and financial paperwork to complete and provide to the mortgage holder to consider prior to mediation.  Homeowners requesting mediation attend an informational session at the courthouse.  At the informational session, representatives from Pine Tree Legal Assistance and other community resources are available to assist homeowners in completing the financial paperwork and preparing for mediation.  Then, individual mediation sessions are held at the courthouse.  The homeowners (defendants) and the foreclosing bank’s...