An issue based on hear say rather than facts and evidence needs more study before the fledgling Rental Housing Advisory Committee, (RHAC) can vote it up or down and forward the matter on to the Housing Committee for its consideration. It is not known at this time how many new Mainers or old Mainers are adversely affected by landlords collecting multiple application fees with no intention of renting to the applicant – hence profiting from the background check process.
This is the second time the issue has appeared on the agenda, although no new Mainer has appeared before the RHAC to confirm the abuse of the process. The issue was introduced by tenant representative Aaron Berger because he had heard of the abuses happening in the new Mainers community.
Comprehensive discussions have been on-going on whether to cap these fees, eliminating them entirely and other options with no consensus. Nora Graves asked the Committee: “How can a city of this size not have guidelines on application fees?”
Co-chair of the Committee Meredith Cook and a tenant representative asked: “Is this a subject worth pursuing?”
Jenna Dorr told the Committee that last spring she and her partner applied to 40 separate landlords for units they were interested in renting. They spent $500. in application fees – none of which were ever returned to them. This happened last May when a housing purchase that was expected to go to settlement fell through at the last minute – leaving them with no shelter. Dorr is the only witness so far to come forward in support of changes to the application fee.
A communication from State House Representative Christopher Kessler for South Portland/Cape Elizabeth was briefly discussed. Rep. Kessler will be testifying before the Legislative Council in support of LR 2801, An Act to Prohibit Residential Rental Application Fees and Limit Security Deposits on Friday, December 6th. Co-chair Cook asked if the RHAC would lend its support to this legislation. Travis Heyman, of Avesta Housing, squashed that idea because it would be an “advocacy” role which the RHAC does not have.
During the public comment segment, this blogger told the RHAC she hoped that the city Committee would turn its attention to issues that have arisen because of the massive gentrification that has happened, particularly on Munjoy HIll, In response to comments such as the one by Nora Graves above, this blogger said that renters’ issues have long been ignored because the real estate industry rules. “I’m appalled at the lack of protections for renters in Maine,” this blogger said.
The discussion on applicantion fees will continue at the next meeting on Monday, December 16, 2019, in Room 24 (basement) of the City Hall, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Public comment is welcome.
Please see post herein dated October 28,2019 for more background information: Councilor Duson Chair of the “Anti-Housing Housing Committee” May Step Down This Year.