BETHEL — Two local property owners, Don Lawrence of Woodstock and Jarrod Crockett of Bethel weighed in on the long-term rental (or LTR) market in this area. On June 14 voters in Bethel will decide whether to pass a short-term rental ordinance at town meeting. The wording of the ordinance is still being discussed.

Lawrence has been has been renting units in the Bethel area for 30 years. A third of his 37 rentals are trailer lots, “I own the dirt, they own the trailer,” he said. He is retiring and plans to eventually sell all his units. He said at least five of his units have renters that want to buy their apartment. In Bethel, he and his wife, Johanna, own the Bethel Trailer Park and three homes. They own a building in Norway, one in Sumner that they are selling, and two in Woodstock.

Earlier in his career, Lawrence was a property manager, in charge of the condominiums at Mount Abram, and a number of vacation homes on Lake Christopher and Mount Abram. Renting units is a full time job for the Lawrences.

For Jarrod Crockett and many landlords, owning LTR’s is not a full-time job. Crockett works as an attorney and county probate judge. He owns seven units in Gilead, Bethel and Albany. “The long-term landlords here are not making a fortune. I’m just trying to protect my neighborhood,” said Crockett.

LTR shortage

Both Lawrence and Crockett agree that there is a shortage of LTR’s. Lawrence said he has had calls from people that tell him his tenants are going to move before the tenants themselves tell him they are going to move. Such is the demand. Finding tenants is all by word of mouth,  before it ever hits the newspaper, he said. He has never used any online services to rent. “You open yourself up to such a bag of worms there.”


He said the long-term rentals are easier when it comes to the day to day operations. short-term rentals are a lot of work: “cleaning, checking them in and out,” said Lawrence. “However the laws are so much more in favor of the short-term rentals than they are of  the long-terms. A short-term rental falls under the innkeepers laws. If  I have a major problem with a short-term renter it takes me 45 minutes to get rid of them. If I have a major problem with a tenant in a long-term rental it can take six months.”

Crockett said people are fighting over the more affordable rents. People who have regular, middle class jobs can’t afford to rent the nicer houses, but the mortgage the landlord is carrying demands the higher rent.  “The rents are going up to follow it, to cover that payment … I grew up here and it kills me,” said Crockett.


“No sane landlord ever kicks out a good paying good tenant,” said Lawrence. “If the politicians want to solve the rental problem, What they need to do is get off the backs of landlords and give us a little help fighting our biggest foe, the professional deadbeats … [if they did that] I could lower my rents.”

Lawrence named three bills that in his opinion are stupid: The first is a bill that says a landlord is not allowed to take someone’s eviction history into account. Another similar bill, is one where a landlord is not allowed to take someone’s criminal history into account as long as they were fairly adjudicated and thirdly is a bill that says a landlord must give, in writing, the reason a tenant was turned down for a unit.

“If you are a single mother of two kids and you live on the second floor apartment do you want me to be forced to put some convicted pedophile in the first floor apartment because I’m not allowed to check his history?


“Every single law they write, whether it’s bed bugs, whether it’s radon tests … do you realize we have to do radon tests in mobile homes? Radon is a heavier than air gas that is created by the decomposition of granite. It comes out of the ground. Mobile homes are disconnected from the ground by 18” but we still have to do a radon test.

“Fixing this at a state level is a bad idea. this needs to be dealt with at a local level. The town can say to the state don’t make any new laws that govern all rentals, leave that to us. Once a law is in place no one is going to take it off the books, trust me.” said Lawrence.


Crockett calls bad tenants, “professionals,” while Lawrence takes it one step further referring to them as, “professional deadbeats.” Lawrence told story upon story of tenants who knew how play the game and have taken him and other landlords for thousands of dollars in damages and lost rent. Crockett had many stories, too, mostly of landlords he has represented in eviction court.

Lawrence said, people steal “stupid” stuff: doorknobs, smoke detectors or “every lightbulb in the unit”. One tenant kicked in two doors and stole two drawers from a built-in cabinet. He had to go to a cabinet maker to restore the cabinet. “I had to evict her, do you think she’s going to pay a damage bill?” he asked.

“We’ve had tenants who have stripped copper out of the walls.” said Crockett.


“If you’re making a mortgage payment on something and someone doesn’t pay the rent, you’re fronting that mortgage payment,” he added.

Most evictions are resolved in the courthouse but not in the courtroom. In 30 years, only once did Lawrence have to go trial. The tenant got mad because after changing the locks, she refused to give Lawrence a key to his own rental. Then she refused to have her boyfriend fill out an application. “The law says I need to know who’s living in the house,” he said.

Another time, a tenant allowed his girlfriend to move in and three weeks later decided she was crazy. He couldn’t get her to move out so instead he moved out, leaving the woman in the apartment. Under Maine law if someone is there for more than 30 days and receiving their mail at the residence, they are considered an occupant. Said Lawrence, “you can’t just call the sheriff.” He had to go to court to evict her.

Similarly, another tenant, “doing the right thing in his heart,” let a homeless woman live with him. Lawrence, like all landlords, requires an application, “he didn’t even know her last name,” he said.  “I can’t get rid of her … it’s the middle of the winter I’m paying thousands of dollars a month in oil bills. I can’t collect it and I can’t get rid of her. This is why rents go up.”

Said Crockett, “Pine Tree Legal is representing the tenant and Pine Tree Legal makes the landlord look like a slumlord. Some of these landlords have one rental and they are made out to be like some sort of criminal.  I feel bad for some of the landlords.”

Lawrence said good tenants end up footing the bill for the others.  “It’s all about protecting the professional deadbeats … who know just how to play this game.”



The process, explains Crockett, is such that if someone fails to pay their rent, the landlord can do a seven-day eviction or a 30-day eviction. He said the seven-day never really worked. They file the 30-day, and get the ‘notice to quit.’ After that has expired, the landlord files a complaint and a summons to get a court date. “From beginning to end you’re looking at 60 days until you get into court. When you go to court some of the professional tenants that have been evicted five times, they will squeeze out another month or two. Now that landlord has lost three or four months of rent and whatever fees they have put out.”

A lawyer told Lawrence, “You pay, you stay, you don’t, you won’t.” He said, it’s true, if the landlord has done his paperwork. The judges will almost always rule in favor of the landlord, granting the tenant seven days to get out. But by the time he stands before the judge, months have passed costing him lost rent and also the cost for heating oil and other utilities. “You can take half of everything they have, but what’s half of nothing? I can’t recoup my losses,” he said.

Recently, building supply costs and oil prices have risen. The Lawrence’s paid $30,000 a year in oil for their tenants’ apartments during this recent spike. They raised no rents during this time because, he said, they have been in business so long they have a buffer. “If I was a brand new landlord and I was mortgaged up to my eyeballs, I would have been sweating bullets when I saw what oil did,” said Lawrence.

Having worked in the STR business earlier in his career, Lawrence understands that he could flip some of his homes to STR’s, and he would make more money. He said, “If you have a decent house in my area. Why bother with this stuff? Why not just Airbnb it [especially] if you have just a couple of units? The heck with all the screaming and hollering.”

What about property damage by Airbnbers’s?

“Oh sure but we’ve got a credit card on file for that,” said Lawrence.

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