People First Portland (PFP) and the Foreside Tenants Union (FTU) filed a 21 page request in Superior Court on Monday, February 22, 2021, to intervene on behalf of the voters and tenants of Portland in opposition to the baseless attempt by the Southern Maine Landlord Association (SMLA) to block the newly enacted rent control law: “An Act to Protect Tenants.”
Sherri Lysy, the founder of the Foreside Tenants Union said in joining the suit: “That landlords would sue on such thin grounds to continue to raise rents and increase their own passive income in the midst of a pandemic is exactly why we need renter protections in the first place. Our community has a right to safe and secure housing. An ethical standard needs to be implemented because without regulation, corporate landlords will continue to exploit market rates at the cost of stability for struggling renters.”
Ms. Lysy added: “Unfortunately, encouraged by the SMLA’s post-election disinformation campaign, some Portland landlords and property management companies initially refused to comply with the new Ordinance. Faced with these illegal actions, and lacking recourse, tenants were forced to take matters into their own hands, coming together to form tenants’ unions to stand up collectively against their predatory actions.”
The Foreside Tenants Union had to be formed last month to protect residents from rent increases threatened by the management company – Foreside Real Estate Management – in defiance of the new law which was retroactive to June 1, 2021.
In its filings with the Court, PFP and FTU explain the stakes of SMLA’s requested injunction: “If this injunction were granted, tenants, including Intervenor-Defendants would be thrust into immediate uncertainty over their rights under the law and face possible charges from their landlords for back rent…If unable to pay increased rent on time, tenants may be evicted in mid-winter…at-will tenants may immediately receive termination notices with no expectation of receiving inconvenience payments required by the Ordinance. If they are unable to find new accommodations, these tenants will also be subject to eviction.”
Jack O’Brien, an organizer with PFP said: “On election day 2020, the people of Portland overwhelmingly came together to demand an end to unpredictable housing costs, arbitrary evictions and the predations of large landlords. The passage of these new renter protections was a democratic recognition that the status quo in our city is inherently biased to serve the interests of landlords and property management companies. By serving to block this new Ordinance, the SMLA has spoken the quiet part out loud: they wish to maintain their monopoly on power, regardless of their community’s wishes or what is best for the majority of the city’s residents.
Ben Gaines, attorney for People First Portland and Foreside Tenants Union said: “with this intervention, the FTU and PFP are standing up for the rights of every renter in Portland to be secure in their homes and for the rights of the voters in this city to make law. We are confident that those rights will prevail.”