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RealEstateAnswer, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience:  10+ years in handling Leases, Landlord-Tenant, Foreclosures,Mortgages, and Eviction cases
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We rented a house for one year in Brunswick Maine on 1 June.

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We rented a house for one year in Brunswick Maine on 1 June. After three weeks we were attacked by bed bugs (my son was bitten 100 times on the leg). and so we vacated on 5 July. I took photographs of the bites as well as of bugs crawling the walls etc. We had paid six months advanced rate for a discount (plus security deposit). Between 20 June and 5 July, while we moved out, we had cleaned the entire house (sprayed alcohol all over, and even put oil on floor to wall crevices, put suspected mattress where my son was bit -in garage, bought and used a steamer on all sofas, etc.) to control the attack while we stayed there and organized a place to live. The first inspection from Modern Pest was while we were in the house. The inspector made the comment" it looks like someone has fumigated here before", as he saw a dusting all over basement bed area.Indeed there was caked blood (assume from bed bugs) all over the doors of the clothes dryer. We checked the lease we had signed and landlord had changed it to say we were responsibility for fumigation of infestation found. It was not the standard lease and he had changed it so we had no way to cancel the lease with notice, and reduced our rights as compared to Attorney General of Maine suggested lease. This made me think he knew about the infestation before renting, as well as comment by inspection. We understand laws of State are taken over lease in a dispute and he is not allowed to change a lease to diminish our rights. So he has broken state laws by tampering with a standard lease. He had dog inspection finally and like previous - they found no sign of bed bugs (but even with dog, it is only 48% effective). He wrote us that as they had found no bed bugs, that he had a lawyer, that they would now attempt to rent house and would return all money unspent from our lease when it was rented. However he is attempting to rent it as a vacation home now (advertised in VRBO) and not on same terms as we rented (year long which is much easier to rent at lower rent). Maine laws states that he should return rent paid if he makes a reasonable attempt to rent the property. However, if he is not advertising rental on the same terms (but much more expensive as a vacation on a weekly basis and at $450 a day this turns out to be $12,600, whereas to us, he rented at $2300 per month), thus if it does not rent at this price, he takes no risk, and keeps our money? We vacated for health reasons (my son is highly allergic and reacted badly in the house after being bit, even is in hospital now) on 5 July and expected our rent back from that time. I see now he has no intention of returning our pre paid rent, and will just advertise at a high rental, and if he does not rent, keep our money. What laws would help us ensure he gives us our money back? Is it worthwhile to hire a lawyer and sue for damages (although unfortunately we sought treatment and are residing now in another state). Any ideas ?
Hi! I will be the professional that will be helping you today. I look forward to providing you with information to help solve your problem.

Maine law gives tenants an "implied warranty of habitability." This means that your landlord must promise that your home is safe and fit to live in. The issue with bedbugs is common and I have provided below for your review, the steps which should have been taken to resolve the problem.

1)After you notify your landlord, he must inspect your apartment within 5 days.
2)Next, your landlord must contact a state certified pest control expert within 10 days of inspecting and finding bedbugs.
3)Then your landlord must take all reasonable steps to treat the problem, based on the expert’s advice.
4)Your landlord and the pest control expert will probably need access to your bed, furniture and other belongings. They must be respectful of your privacy but at the same time do whatever inspections are needed to take care of the problem. You need to cooperate to get rid of the bedbugs. Your landlord must tell you the costs of your participation in the process.

In addition, the landlord has no legal right to change the lease after you signed it and if you have a copy to show he did this or you did not initial the change, then he would certainly be in breach for failing to correct the problem and also fraud, for changing it after you signed it. Both actions would afford you protection and a possible right for a refund.

Here is also a link to the statute which addresses the landlords duty to mitigate damages and what you can use to show he has failed to do so, as a result of trying to rent the subject property as a vacation home at this time.

If the landlord is unwilling to cooperate and settle, then it would be worth it to retain an attorney, sue for damages and the fees and costs as well.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

All you have given me I already looked up and know. Note: a) BEFORE we signed the lease - he had modified it to reduce our legal rights as according to State Attorney sample lease. b) he did do an inspection and did not find beg bugs. Thus we do not have a way to sue for damages I think as he fulfilled all he had to (had place inspected within 5 days). My question is about where the law states that he returns our money if he makes a "reasonable" attempt to rent property again. It is unreasonable it seem that he now advertises on a daily rental basis (worth 10,000 USD) a month, where he rented on a monthly basis to us at USD 2300 a month. How would this stand legally? The law does not state that he has to attempt to rent again at same price or terms as he rented for us, but it seem that in fairness the law intended for this.

Thank you for the follow up question. I have provided subsection 3 of the statute which I shared with you below. As you can see, it clearly states that the burden would be on you to show that the efforts on the landlord were NOT REASONABLE. Everything you stated above, in regard to the efforts made to re-rent it, are not different, since the terms, conditions and cost of the lease are completely different. If he had made an effort to lease it for the same or similar price and was not having any success, it would be a different story. Here, he is not trying to market and offer the property in a completely different way, which would not attract the same type of tenant.

3. Burden of proof. The landlord must allege and prove that he has made efforts to comply with this section. The tenant has the burden of proving that the efforts of the landlord were not reasonable, that the landlord's refusal of any offer to rent the premises or a part of the premises was not reasonable, that any terms and conditions upon which the landlord has in fact rerented were not reasonable and that any temporary use by the landlord was not part of reasonable efforts to mitigate in accordance with subsection 4, paragraph C. The tenant shall also have the burden of proving the amount that could have been obtained by reasonable efforts to mitigate by rerenting
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