Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling BDN Agree to Disagree bloggers. Credit: Gabor Degre | BDN

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Phil: Almost needed to call 911 when I choked on my bagel whilst reading the Bangor Daily News when they broke the story that your landlord has been trying to evict you for seven months. There are spare bedrooms at my place, but grandchildren have them reserved. Would  a friend-based discount on a flashlight and L.L. Bean sleeping bag get you through?

Ethan: Depends. Do you have a cap on the back of your pickup in case it rains?

Phil: I do. But that accommodation requires a minimum six-month lease. In all seriousness, from the article, it sounds like you believe you are being evicted in retaliation for forming a tenants union and pushing back on some violations by your landlord. Is that about right?

Ethan: Yup. I’ve been a good tenant for almost six years, paying my rent on time and washing my dishes every day. After I helped form a tenants union, my landlord has been forced to  retract and refund illegal rent increases, fix fire hazards, release public documents and inform tenants of their rights. Occam’s razor teaches us the simplest answer is usually the correct one.

Phil: You had time for dishes? It seems to me the simplest answer may be that landlords in Maine have the right to their property. And while I certainly don’t want to see you homeless, as long as they aren’t evicting you because of your ethnicity, gender, orientation or any of the other protected classes, you are likely going to have to move.

Ethan: While I agree with you that the law in Maine heavily favors landlords, it is also illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant because the tenant asserted their rights, complained about legit violations or joined a union. In my case, all three apply.

Phil: No one believes a tenant should be evicted for any of that, and if what you are saying is true, you should win your case. My point is that where a landlord has not retaliated, nor discriminated, they should have every right to do with their property as they see fit.

Ethan: In my opinion, my case aside, no family should have their home taken away from them through no fault of their own. You want to make money off public accommodation, then understand the “public” also has rights.

Phil: What I am talking about is a landlord simply wanting to decide who rents their property, how much they charge, and how long that person will stay. Basic rights of private property that have existed in this country since day one.

Ethan: But we are not talking about a rented office, a car or a piece of machinery. While it may be the landlord’s property, it is the tenant’s home. And they have rights too.

Phil: They do. But those rights are not unlimited. Allowing a renter to take control of someone else’s property, against that property owner’s will, is neither allowed in Maine law, nor should it be.

Ethan: No one is saying the tenant should be able to take ownership of the property against the owner’s will. But the owner voluntarily agreed to rent it to that person. Agreed to enter the public marketplace as a business. At that point there are two parties involved.

Phil: But there is still only one owner. One owner who has all the regulatory compliance and all the risk of their investment.

Ethan: And only one who has all the risk of being homeless.

Phil: Which makes your court case worth following. In the meantime, my discounted rental of a sleeping bag still stands.