Maine Forcible Entry and Detainer Law


Landlord Tenant – Forcible Entry and Detainer Law – Maine

CHAPTER 709
ENTRY AND DETAINER (HEADING:  PL 1999, c. 192, §1 (rpr))
SUBCHAPTER I
RESIDENTIAL LANDLORDS AND TENANTS (HEADING: PL 1999, c. 192, §1 (new))

Availability of remedy

1.  Persons against whom process may be maintained. Process of forcible entry and detainer may be maintained against a disseisor who has not acquired any claim by possession and improvement; against a tenant holding under a written lease or contract or person holding under such a tenant; against a tenant where the occupancy of the premises is incidental to the employment of a tenant; at the expiration or forfeiture of the term, without notice, if commenced within 7 days from the expiration or forfeiture of the term; against a tenant at will, whose tenancy has been terminated as provided in section 6002; and against mobile home owners and tenants pursuant to Title 10, chapter 951, subchapter VI.  When there are multiple occupants of an apartment or residence, the process of forcible entry and detainer is effective against all occupants if the plaintiff names as parties “all other occupants” together with all adult individuals whose names appear on the lease or rental agreement for the premises or whose tenancy the plaintiff has acknowledged by acceptance of rent or otherwise. [1995, c. 372, §1 (amd).]
2.  Persons who may not maintain process. The process of forcible entry and detainer may not be maintained against a tenant by a 3rd party lessee, grantee, assignee or donee of the tenant’s premises, unless a tenant at will has received notice of termination in accordance with section 6002 by either the grantor or the grantee of the conveyance.   [1985, c. 638, §4 (amd).]
3.  Presumption of retaliation. In any action of forcible entry and detainer there shall be a presumption that the action was commenced in retaliation against the tenant if, within 6 months prior to the commencement of the action, the tenant has:

A.  Asserted his rights pursuant to section 6021; [1981, c. 428, §1 (new).]
B.  Complained as an individual, or a complaint has been made in that individual’s behalf, in good faith, of conditions affecting that individual’s dwelling unit which may constitute a violation of a building, housing, sanitary or other code, ordinance, regulation or statute, presently or hereafter adopted, to a body charged with enforcement of that code, ordinance, regulation or statute, or such a body has filed a notice or complaint of such a violation; [1989, c. 484, §1 (amd).]
C.  Complained in writing or made a written request, in good faith, to the landlord or the landlord’s agent to make repairs on the premises as required by any applicable building, housing or sanitary code, or by section 6021, or as required by the rental agreement between the parties; or    [1989, c. 484, §1 (amd).]
D. [T. 14, §6001, sub-§3, paragraph D (rp).] No writ of possession may issue in the absence of rebuttal of the presumption of retaliation. [1989, c. 484, §§1,2 (amd).]

4.  Membership in tenants’ organization. No writ of possession may issue when the tenant proves that the action of forcible entry and detainer was commenced in retaliation for the tenant’s membership in an organization concerned with landlord-tenant relationships.  Chap. 709, 14 § 6001. [1981, c. 428, §1 (new).]

Tenancy at will; buildings on land of another

Tenancies at will must be terminated by either party by a minimum of 30 days’ notice, except as provided in subsection 1, in writing for that purpose given to the other party, but if the landlord or the landlord’s agent has made at least 3 good faith efforts to serve the tenant, that service may be accomplished by both mailing the notice by first class mail to the tenant’s last known address and by leaving the notice at the tenant’s last and usual place of abode.  In cases when the tenant, if liable to pay rent, is not in arrears at the expiration of the notice, the 30 days’ notice must be made to expire upon the date rent is due.  Either party may waive in writing the 30 days’ notice at the time the notice is given, and at no other time prior to the giving of the notice.  A termination based on a 30-day notice is not affected by the receipt of money, whether previously owed or for current use and occupation, until the date a writ of possession is issued against the tenant during the period of actual occupancy after receipt of the notice.  When the tenancy is terminated, the tenant is liable to the process of forcible entry and detainer without further notice and without proof of any relation of landlord and tenant unless the tenant has paid, after service of the notice, rent that accrued after the termination of the tenancy.  These provisions apply to tenancies of buildings erected on land of another party.  Termination of the tenancy is deemed to occur at the expiration of the time fixed in the notice. [1995, c. 208, §1 (amd).]

1.  Causes for 7-day notice of termination of tenancy. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter, in the event that the landlord can show, by affirmative proof, that the tenant, the tenant’s family or an invitee of the tenant has caused substantial damage to the demised premises that the tenant has not repaired or caused to be repaired before the giving of the notice provided in this subsection, has caused or permitted a nuisance within the premises, has caused or permitted an invitee to cause the dwelling unit to become unfit for human habitation or has violated or permitted a violation of the law regarding the tenancy, or when the tenant is 7 days or more in arrears in the payment of rent, the tenancy may be terminated by the landlord by 7 days’ notice in writing for that purpose given to the tenant, and in the event that the landlord or the landlord’s agent has made at least 3 good faith efforts to serve the tenant, that service may be accomplished by both mailing the notice by first class mail to the tenant’s last known address and by leaving the notice at the tenant’s last and usual place of abode.  If a tenant, who is 7 days or more in arrears in the payment of rent, pays the full amount of rent due before the expiration of the 7-day notice in writing, that notice is void.  Thereafter, in all residential tenancies at will, if the tenant pays all rental arrears, all rent due as of the date of payment and any filing fees and service of process fees actually expended by the landlord before the issuance of the writ of possession as provided by section 6005, then the tenancy must be reinstated and no writ of possession may issue.  Payment or written assurance of payment through the general assistance program, as authorized by the State or a municipality pursuant to Title 22, chapter 1161, has the same effect as payment in cash.   [1999, c. 248, §1 (amd).]
2.  Ground for termination notice. A notice of termination issued pursuant to subsection 1 must indicate the specific ground claimed for issuing the notice.  If a ground claimed is rent arrearage of 7 days or more, the notice must also include a statement indicating the amount of the rent that is 7 days or more in arrears as of the date of the notice.  A termination notice issued on the ground of rent arrearage must also state the following:  “If you pay the amount of rent due as of the date of this notice before this notice expires, then this notice as it applies to rent arrearage is void.”  For all residential tenancies at will, a termination notice issued on the ground of rent arrearage must also state:  “After this notice expires, if you pay all rental arrears, all rent due as of the date of payment and any filing fees and service of process fees actually paid by the landlord before the writ of possession issues at the completion of the eviction process, then your tenancy will be reinstated.”  If the notice states an incorrect rent arrearage the notice can not be held invalid if the landlord can show the error was unintentional. [1999, c. 248, §2 (amd).]
3.  Breach of warranty of habitability as an affirmative defense. In an action brought by a landlord to terminate a rental agreement on the ground that the tenant is in arrears in the payment of rent, the tenant may raise as a defense any alleged violation of the implied warranty and covenant of habitability, provided that the landlord or the landlord’s agent has received actual or constructive notice of the alleged violation, and has unreasonably failed under the circumstances to take prompt, effective steps to repair or remedy the condition and the condition was not caused by the tenant or another person acting under the tenant’s control.  Upon finding that the dwelling unit is not fit for human habitation, the court shall permit the tenant either to terminate the rental agreement without prejudice or to reaffirm the rental agreement, with the court assessing against the tenant an amount equal to the reduced fair rental value of the property for the period during which rent is owed.  The reduced amount of rent thus owed must be paid on a pro rata basis, unless the parties agree otherwise, and payments become due at the same intervals as rent for the current rental period.  The landlord may not charge the tenant for the full rental value of the property until such time as it is fit for human habitation.   [1995, c. 208, §1 (amd).] Chap. 709, 14 § 6002.

Jurisdiction

The District Court shall have jurisdiction of cases of forcible entry and detainer. The court shall schedule and hold the hearing  as soon as practicable, but no later than 10 days after the return day except that the court may grant a continuance for good cause shown.  Any defendant requesting a recorded hearing shall file a written answer enumerating all known defenses on or before the return day. [1997, c. 151, §1 (amd).]  Chap. 709, 14 § 6003.

Commencement of action

The process of forcible entry and detainer shall be commenced and service made in the same manner as other civil actions. When the plaintiff lives out of the State and a recognizance is required of him, any person may recognize in his behalf and shall be personally liable. Chap. 709, 14 § 6004.

Writ of possession; service

When the defendant is defaulted or fails to show sufficient cause, judgment must be rendered against the defendant by the District Court for possession of the premises.  Seven calendar days after the judgment is entered, the court shall issue the writ of possession to remove the defendant.  The writ may be served by a sheriff or a constable.  If at least 3 good faith efforts on 3 different days have been made to serve the defendant, service may be accomplished by both mailing the notice by first-class mail to the defendant’s last known address and leaving the writ of possession at the defendant’s last and usual place of abode.  A writ of possession may not issue in any case in which the ground for termination of the tenancy at will was rent arrearage and the defendant paid the amount necessary to reinstate the tenancy as provided by section 6002. [1999, c. 248, §3 (amd).]  An additional writ of possession may be issued by the clerk at the request of the plaintiff after issuance of the first writ. [1989, c. 452, §2 (new).]

When a writ of possession has been served on the defendant by a constable or sheriff, and the defendant fails to remove himself or his possessions within 48 hours of service by the constable or sheriff, the defendant is deemed a trespasser without right and the defendant’s goods and property are considered by law to be abandoned and subject to section 6013. [1981, c. 428, §6 (new).]  Chap. 709, 14 § 6005.

Claim of title (REPEALED) Chap. 709, 14 § 6006.

Allegation that defendant’s claim is frivolous (REPEALED) Chap. 709, 14 § 6007.

Appeal

1.  Right to appeal. Either party may appeal on questions of law from a judgment to the Superior Court as in other civil actions.  Either party may appeal on any issue triable by right by a jury to a trial de novo in the Superior Court as provided in this section.  The time for filing an appeal of the judgment of the District Court expires upon the issuance of the writ of possession pursuant to section 6005 or 30 days from the time the judgment is entered, whichever occurs first. [1997, c. 336, §2 (amd).]
2.  Appeal by defendant; record; stay. When the defendant appeals, the defendant shall pay to the plaintiff or, if there is a dispute about the rent, to the District Court, any unpaid portion of the current month’s rent or the rent arrearage, whichever is less.  The District Court shall promptly transmit the record and any such payments to the Superior Court without waiting for the preparation of a transcript of recorded testimony.  The Superior Court may stay the issuance of a writ of possession pending disposition of the appeal.

A.  The Superior Court shall condition the granting and continuation of the stay on the defendant’s payment of rent for the premises as required by this subsection at the time of appeal and on payment of any rent that has accrued since the filing of the appeal to the plaintiff or, if there is a dispute about the rent, into an escrow account to be administered by the clerk of the Superior Court.  Upon application of either party, the Superior Court may authorize payments from the escrow account for appropriate expenses related to the premises.  The appeal decision or an agreement of the parties must provide for the disposition of the escrowed rent. [1997, c. 336, §2 (amd).]
B.  The Superior Court may condition the granting and continuation of the stay, in appropriate cases, on the defendant’s agreement to refrain from causing any nuisance or damage. [1995, c. 448, §2 (new).] [1997, c. 336, §2 (amd).]

3.  Vacation of stay; security; remedial order. Upon finding a violation of the conditions for granting the stay, the Superior Court shall vacate the stay and may issue a writ of possession.  The Superior Court may require the plaintiff to provide security as may be necessary to protect the defendant’s interest while the appeal is pending.  If the defendant prevails, the Superior Court may issue a remedial order as necessary to make the defendant whole, including damages. [1995, c. 448, §2 (new).]
4.  Claim of title. In disputes involving a claim of title, the District Court may provide for discovery on an expedited schedule. [1995, c. 448, §2 (new).]
5.  Security. For the purposes of this section, “security” may include a bond, an escrow account, a lien, a mortgage, an order to make payments under a lease or contract as they become due or any other financial protection as is reasonably necessary to protect the interests of a party.  The District Court and the Superior Court may make any necessary orders with respect to the provision of security, revise the orders when required by the interests of justice, sanction a party for failure to comply with a security requirement and waive or modify the requirement of security for good cause shown and recited in an order. [1995, c. 448, §2 (new).]

Chap. 709, 14 § 6008.

Judgment for plaintiff; possession on recognizance; damages (REPEALED)

Chap. 709, 14 § 6009.

Sums due for rent and damages

Sums due for rent on leases under seal or otherwise and claims for damages to premises rented may be recovered in an action, specifying the items and amount claimed, but no action shall be maintained for any sum or sums claimed to be due for rental or for any claim for damages for the breach of any of the conditions claimed to be broken on the part of the lessee, his legal representatives, assigns or tenant, contained in a lease or written agreement to hire or occupy any building, buildings or part of a building, during a period when such building, buildings or part of a building, which the lessee, his assigns, legal representatives or tenant may occupy or have a right to occupy, shall have been destroyed or damaged by fire or other unavoidable casualty so that the same shall be thereby rendered unfit for use or habitation; provided that nothing herein shall render invalid or unenforceable an agreement contained in a lease of any building, buildings, or part of a building used primarily for other than residential purposes or in the case of any lease securing obligations guaranteed by the Maine Guaranty Authority or in any written instrument to pay the rental stipulated in said lease or agreement or any portion of such rental during a period when the building, buildings or part of a building described therein shall have been destroyed or damaged by fire or other unavoidable casualty so that the same shall be rendered unfit for use or habitation, in whole or in part. [1973, c. 633, § 21 (amd).] In any action for sums due for rent, if the court finds that: [1977, c. 401, § 3 (new).]

1.  Notice of condition. The tenant, without unreasonable delay, gave to the landlord or to the person who customarily collects rent on behalf of the landlord written notice of a condition which rendered the rented premises unfit for human habitation; [1977, c. 401, § 3 (new).]
2.  Cause of condition. The condition was not caused by the tenant or another person acting under his control; [1977, c. 401, § 3 (new).]
3.  Failure to take steps. The landlord unreasonably failed under the circumstances to take prompt, effective steps to repair or remedy the condition; and    [1979, c. 127, § 112 (rpr).]
4.  Rental payments current. The tenant is current in rental payments owing to the landlord at the time written notice was given. [1979, c. 127, § 112 (rpr).]

Then the court shall deduct from the amount of rent due and owing the difference between the rental price and the fair value of the use and occupany of the premises from the time of written notice, as provided in subsection 1, to the time when the condition is repaired or remedied. In determining the fair value of the use and occupancy of the premises, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the rental price is the fair value of the rented premises free from any condition rendering it unfit for human habitation. Any agreement by a tenant to waive the rights or benefits provided by this section shall be void. A written agreement whereby the tenant accepts specified conditions which may violate the warranty of fitness for human habitation in return for a stated reduction in rent or other specified fair consideration shall be binding on the tenant and the landlord. [1979, c. 127, § 113 (new).]  Chap. 709, 14 § 6010.

Landlord’s duty to mitigate

1.  Scope of section. If a tenant unjustifiably moves from the premises prior to the effective date for termination of his tenancy and defaults in payment of rent, or if the tenant is removed for failure to pay rent or any other breach of a lease, the landlord may recover rent and damages except amounts which he could mitigate in accordance with this section, unless he has expressly agreed to accept a surrender of the premises and end the tenant’s liability.  Except as the context may indicate otherwise, this section applies to the liability of a tenant under a lease, a periodic tenant or an assignee of either. [1985, c. 293, § 3 (new).]
2.  Measure of recovery. In any claim against a tenant for rent and damages, or for either, the amount of recovery shall be reduced by the net rent obtainable by reasonable efforts to rerent the premises.  “Reasonable efforts” means those steps which the landlord would have taken to rent the premises if they had been vacated in due course, provided that those steps are in accordance with local rental practice for similar properties.  In the absence of proof that greater net rent is obtainable by reasonable efforts to rerent the premises, the tenant shall be credited with rent actually received under a rerental agreement minus expenses incurred as a reasonable incident of acts under subsection 4, including a fair proportion of any cost of remodeling or other capital improvements.  In any case, the landlord may recover, in addition to rent and other elements of damage, all reasonable expenses of listing and advertising incurred in rerenting and attempting to rerent, except as taken into account in computing the net rent.  If the landlord has used the premises as part of reasonable efforts to rerent, under subsection 4, paragraph C, the tenant shall be credited with the reasonable value of the use of the premises, which shall be presumed to be equal to the rent recoverable from the defendant unless the landlord proves otherwise.  If the landlord has other similar premises for rent and receives an offer from a prospective tenant not obtained by the defendant, it shall be reasonable for the landlord to rent the other premises for his own account in preference to those vacated by the defaulting tenant. [1985, c. 293, § 3 (new).]
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. [1985, c. 293, § 3 (new).]
4.  Acts privileged in mitigation of rent or damages. The following acts by the landlord shall not defeat his right to recover rent and damages and shall not constitute an acceptance of surrender of the premises:

A.  Entry, with or without notice, for the purpose of inspecting, preserving, repairing, remodeling and showing the premises; [1985, c. 293, § 3 (new).]
B.  Rerenting the premises or a part of the premises, with or without notice, with rent applied against the damages caused by the original tenant and in reduction of rent accruing under the original lease; [1985, c. 293, § 3 (new).]
C.  Use of the premises by the landlord until such time as rerenting at a reasonable rent is practical, not to exceed one year, if the landlord gives prompt written notice to the tenant that the landlord is using the premises pursuant to this section and that he will credit the tenant with the reasonable value of the use of the premises to the landlord for such a period; and  [1985, c. 293, § 3 (new).]
D.  Any other act which is reasonably subject to interpretation as being in mitigation of rent or damages and which does not unequivocally demonstrate an intent to release the defaulting tenant. [1985, c. 293, § 3 (new).] [1985, c. 293, § 3 (new).] Chap. 709, 14 § 6010-A.

House of ill fame; lease void at landlord’s option

When the tenant of a dwelling house is convicted of keeping it as a house of ill fame, the lease or contract by which he occupies it may, at the option of the landlord, be deemed void and the landlord shall have the same remedy to recover possession as against a tenant holding over after his term expires. Chap. 709, 14 § 6011.

Personal property

1. Action to resolve dispute. If 2 or more persons claim rights in, title to or possession of personal property, any claimant may bring an action in District Court to resolve a dispute among the claimants. [1995, c. 448, §4 (new).]
2.  Evidence; discovery. When the plaintiff claimant serves a copy of the complaint on the defendant claimants, the plaintiff shall include with the complaint a copy of any security instrument, bill of sale or other evidence of title.  In the court hearing, the plaintiff shall produce the best available evidence under which the plaintiff claims an interest in the personal property.  The defendant then shall show why possession of the property should not be delivered immediately to the plaintiff.  The District Court may provide for discovery on an expedited schedule. [1995, c. 448, §4 (new).]
3.  Court authority. The court has equitable power to make all appropriate orders, including but not limited to turnover orders, in relation to the personal property and the parties to the action, to compel obedience to its judgment and orders. [1995, c. 448, §4 (new).]
4.  Appeal. Any party may appeal within 30 days of the judgment.  Any issue triable by right by a jury may be appealed to a trial de novo in the Superior Court.  Security may be required in accordance with the provisions of section 6008, subsection 5. [1995, c. 448, §4 (new).]
5.  Rules. The Maine Rules of Civil Procedure governing forcible entry and detainer apply in actions under this section as applicable. [1995, c. 448, §4 (new).]
6.  Equity. The remedy provided in this section is a remedy in equity and is in addition to and not in lieu of other remedies.  There is no right of removal. [1995, c. 448, §4 (new).] Chap. 709, 14 § 6012.

Property abandoned by tenant

Any property with a total value of $500 or more that is abandoned or unclaimed by a tenant following the tenant’s vacating the rental unit must be disposed of according to Title 33, chapter 41. [1997, c. 508, Pt. A, §3 (aff); Pt. B, §3 (amd).]

The landlord shall place in storage in a safe, dry, secured location any property with a total value of less than $500 that is abandoned or unclaimed by a tenant following the tenant’s vacating the rental unit.  The landlord shall send written notice by first class mail with proof of mailing to the last known address of the tenant concerning the landlord’s intent to dispose of the abandoned property. The notice must include an itemized list of the items and containers of items of property abandoned.  If the tenant claims the property within 14 days after the notice is sent, the landlord shall continue to store the property for at least 10 days after the tenant’s response to allow the tenant time to take possession of the property.  The landlord may condition the release of the property to the tenant upon the tenant’s payment of all rental arrearages, damages and costs of storage.  If the property remains unclaimed after the 14th day after notice has been sent or after the 10th day after the tenant claims the property, the landlord may sell the property for a reasonable fair market price and apply all proceeds to rental arrearages, damages and costs of storage and sale.  All remaining balances must then be forwarded to the Treasurer of State. [1991, c. 265, §1 (amd).] Chap. 709, 14 § 6013.

Remedies for illegal evictions

1.  Illegal evictions. Except as permitted by Title 15, chapter 517 or Title 17, chapter 91, evictions that are effected without resort to the provisions of this chapter are illegal and against public policy. Illegal evictions include, but are not limited to, the following.

A.  No landlord may willfully cause, directly or indirectly, the interruption or termination of any utility service being supplied to the tenant including, but not limited to, water, heat, light, electricity, gas, telephone, sewerage, elevator or refrigeration, whether or not the utility service is under the control of the landlord, except for such temporary interruption as may be necessary while actual repairs are in process or during temporary emergencies. [1981, c. 428, §8 (new).]
B.  No landlord may willfully seize, hold or otherwise directly or indirectly deny a tenant access to and possession of the tenant’s rented or leased premises, other than through proper judicial process. [1981, c. 428, §8 (new).]
C.  No landlord may willfully seize, hold or otherwise directly or indirectly deny a tenant access to and possession of the tenant’s property, other than by proper judicial process. [1981, c. 428, §8 (new).] [1995, c. 66, §1 (amd).]

2.  Remedies. Upon a finding that an illegal eviction has occurred, the court shall find one or both of the following.

A.  The tenant is entitled to recover actual damages or $250, whichever is greater. [1991, c. 666 (amd).]
B.  The tenant is entitled to recover the aggregate amount of costs and expenses determined by the court to have been reasonably incurred on the tenant’s behalf in connection with the prosecution or defense of such action, together with a reasonable amount for attorneys’ fees. [1991, c. 666 (amd).] [1991, c. 666 (amd).]

3.  Good faith. A court may award attorneys’ fees to the defendant if, upon motion and hearing, it is determined that an action filed pursuant to this section was not brought in good faith and was frivolous or intended for harassment only. [1981, c. 428, §8 (new).]
4.  Nonexclusivity. The remedies provided in this section are in addition to any other rights and remedies conferred by law. [1981, c. 428, §8 (new).]  Chap. 709, 14 § 6014.

Notice of rent increase

Rent charged for residential estates may be increased by the lessor only after providing at least 30 days’ written notice to the tenant. A written or oral waiver of this requirement is against public policy and is void. Any person in violation of this section is liable for the return of any sums unlawfully obtained from the lessee, with interest, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. [1985, c. 293, § 4 (amd).] Chap. 709, 14 § 6015.

Rent increase limitation

Rent charged for residential estates may not be increased if the dwelling unit is in violation of the warranty of habitability. Any violation caused by the tenant, his family, guests or invitees shall not bar a rent increase. A written or oral waiver of this requirement is against public policy and is void. Any person in violation of this section shall be liable for the return of any sums unlawfully obtained from the lessee, with interest and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. [1985, c. 293, § 5 (amd).]  Chap. 709, 14 § 6016.

SUBCHAPTER II

COMMERCIAL LANDLORDS AND TENANTS (HEADING: PL 1999, c. 192, §2 (new))

Commercial leases

1.  Definitions. As used in this subchapter, unless the context otherwise indicates, the following terms have the following meanings.

A.  A “commercial tenancy” or “commercial lease” means a nonresidential tenancy of premises by a for-profit business entity.  Nonprofit entities, charitable institutions and religious organizations who are tenants may not be construed to have commercial tenancies. [1999, c. 192, §2 (new).] [1999, c. 192, §2 (new).]

2.  Commercial lease relationship. Notwithstanding the provisions of subchapter I, commercial landlords and tenants are governed by the following provisions, and if any of the following provisions conflict with provisions in any other statutes governing the relationships between landlords and tenants, this section controls all commercial lease relationships, whether written or oral.

A.  After termination of a commercial lease, and after a complaint for forcible entry and detainer is filed, the defendants shall, no later than the return date and as a condition of maintaining a defense, appear on the return day to pay the agreed-upon rent, including all arrears.  If rent or arrears are disputed, the disputed rent, including all claimed arrears, must be paid to the court at the time of the hearing.  In addition to deciding the right of possession, the District Court shall also decide the amount of rent owed, if disputed.  In establishing the amount of rent owed, the District Court may consider offsetting claims to the extent appropriate.  If undisputed, the rent and arrears must be paid to the court prior to the hearing.  Upon final decision by the District Court, that court shall order such sums as it determines proper to be turned over by the clerk to either or both of the parties.  Any order of the District Court for payment of rent, whether to the landlord or to the court, continues in effect through any appeal of the District Court’s decision.  The landlord may apply for turnover of rent money held by the court prior to final judgment by the District Court or prior to final decision on appeal by the Superior Court, upon a showing of hardship and reasonable likelihood of success on the merits.  Failure of the tenant to pay rent to the court when due causes the writ of possession to issue immediately. [1999, c. 192, §2 (new).] [1999, c. 192, §2 (new).]

3.  Right of possession on bond for damages. When judgment is rendered for the plaintiff, a writ of possession may issue immediately in the District Court or from the Superior Court during appeal, if the plaintiff provides the defendant with a surety bond conditioned to pay all such damages and costs as may be suffered by the defendant if final judgment is rendered for the defendant.  In setting the amount of the required surety bond, the court may consider any offsetting claims between the parties. [1999, c. 192, §2 (new).]
4.  Arbitration. A commercial landlord and tenant may agree in their lease or in a separate agreement to arbitration of disputes as to termination, the right of possession arising under the lease between landlord and tenant and amounts owed for rent before an arbitrator or arbitrators chosen in advance pursuant to the lease or other written agreement.  The decision of the arbitrator is final.  If the arbitrator rules in favor of the landlord, the landlord may, by presentation of an attested copy of the arbitrator’s decision, and after docketing of the arbitrator’s decision by the Superior Court, immediately obtain a writ of possession from the clerk of the Superior Court.  The arbitrator’s decision may be stayed or appealed from only upon such grounds as generally lie for stay or appeal of an arbitration decision pursuant to the Uniform Arbitration Act, Title 14, section 5949. [1999, c. 192, §2 (new).]
5.  Jury trial. A commercial landlord and tenant may agree in the commercial lease or in a separate agreement to waive jury trial of disputes arising under the lease. [1999, c. 192, §2 (new).]
6.  Jurisdiction. The District Court has jurisdiction to hear, decide and award rent and arrears allegedly owing, regardless of the amount. [1999, c. 192, §2 (new).]  Chap. 709, 14 § 6017.