LEWISTON — The city has revived its rental registration program after the pandemic forced city officials to postpone its rollout just as it began.

The program, approved in late 2019, requires owners of buildings with three or more units to register with the city, providing up-to-date contact information and other data on the city’s housing stock.

The system is non-fee-based, meaning landlords will not pay a fee to register each rental unit, but failing to register a building will come with a fine.

The penalties, at a scale of between $50 to $200 per month, were not enforced during the pandemic, but officials said 80% compliance during the first round of registrations in 2020 signals that the city can move forward in enforcing the ordinance in the coming months.

During a City Council workshop Tuesday, city staff said there are about 1,000 properties in Lewiston that fall into the multiunit category.

City Clerk Kathy Montejo said her office sent out renewal notices to property owners in February, and a few weeks later had roughly 200 buildings registered. She said registration forms are arriving daily and being processed, and that staff is able to work with landlords to clear up any confusion. The forms can be submitted online or in physical copies, she said.


Most councilors agreed Tuesday that the city should continue the restart, perhaps with an extended period before the penalties kick in for those who fail to register.

Montejo said if compliance does not reach an acceptable level, the city would issue another round of notices before implementing the fines.

Councilor Scott Harriman, who owns a three-unit building and sits on Lewiston’s housing committee, said he supports the program, adding that he recently registered his property and it was a “simple” process.

The registration program was implemented after years of discussions in Lewiston about housing safety, particularly in response to devastating fires in multiunit buildings that had been condemned or abandoned. A subcommittee was formed to discuss the issue, including a potentially fee-based model, which led to debate among committee members and landlords.

Montejo said the information included in the registration is a disclosure of ownership, who is responsible for maintenance, and emergency contact info. She said a final goal of the program, to make the data available to the public, has not been implemented yet.

Councilor Rick Lachapelle said he was concerned for how the data would be used, particularly in disclosing landlord information to the broader public. He said landlords have been “vilified for way too long,” and owners shouldn’t have personal information disclosed if tenants aren’t held to the same standard.


“We can vilify a landlord but we’re not able to put down in a database that Mr. Jones has been thrown out of five different apartments and trashed the place,” he said.

He also said he’s concerned for city staff to be ‘overburdened” by the program, but City Administrator Heather Hunter said an additional fire inspector was hired as part of the initial rollout.

Fire Chief Mark Caron said the department is in the middle of updating its checklist for building inspections, and plans to send out a mailer to property owners to streamline the inspection process.

For more information on the program, or to register go to www.lewistonmaine.gov/rental.

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