Pro Bono News

A Way to Help Right a Landlord-Tenant Power Imbalance (ME)

Monday, October 01, 2018

A Way to Help Right a Landlord-Tenant Power Imbalance

"It’s common for landlords to share horror stories of tenants: people who destroyed their properties, didn’t pay rent and were hard to deal with. The memories stick out for landlords personally. But when making policy around evictions and homelessness, it’s good to remember that quite often it’s the landlords who hold the power.

There is also a process in place to remedy an unfortunate situation for the landlord: Evictions are not pleasant, but there is legal recourse.

Now think about the reverse situation: the tenant with the bad landlord. What recourse is there for someone without the means to pay for a lawyer?

Most landlords are undoubtedly good people trying to do the right thing. However, some don’t respond to tenants’ requests to fix problems with their heat or water. Some threaten illegal evictions, such as by changing the locks or allowing the utility to turn off the electricity.

For tenants with a criminal record or very little money, what will they do when their landlord tells them they owe $5,000, but they actually just owe $500? Or what will they do if their landlord is evicting them, and they aren’t sure the landlord is following the right steps?

Many tenants will likely do nothing and lose their home. The ramifications are long-lasting: Evictions make it harder to find housing in the future, disrupt children’s educations, increase the likelihood of depression and can mean a job loss, too. All of those things have costs not just for families but society..."

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