Portland residents could be faced with another referendum relating to rental costs in the next year.
The proposed referendum would allow landlords to set new rental rates as high as they choose after a tenant voluntarily leaves a residence, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Under Portland’s rent control referendum passed in November 2022, landlords can only raise the rent of a unit by 5 percent once it is voluntarily vacated by a tenant.
Portland also allows landlords to raise rents every 12 months based on inflation, so for 2023 they can hike the fee 7 percent of the current rent. Landlords can go to the city’s rent board to get increases for major upgrades, but the annual rent hikes are capped at 10 percent or less.
The Rental Housing Alliance of Southern Maine, an association of landlords, is seeking to collect 1,500 signatures by Feb. 17 to get the proposal in front of voters on the June ballot. Because a rent control measure was approved through referendum in November, it cannot be changed for at least five years — or through another referendum question.
If the group can gather enough signatures, the referendum will appear on the June 13 ballot.
The proposed referendum would allow rents to be dictated by comparable market rates, Brit Vitalis, president of the landlord group, told the Portland newspaper. He also said it would help prevent landlords from seeking gradual rent increases from new tenants.
But Ethan Strimling, former mayor and a proponent of a number of rent control initiatives, told the Press Herald the referendum is moving the city away from the goals of the original rent control referendum.