Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Maine

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Find out key laws every Maine landlord and tenant needs to know. Both landlords and tenants should be able to deal with many legal questions and problems without a lawyer, once they understand the basics of state law. This overview of key landlord-tenant laws in Maine will get you started.   Required Landlord Disclosures in Maine Under Maine law, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants (usually in the lease or rental agreement), such as the results of a mandatory test for radon and bedbug problems. For a full list, see Maine Required Landlord Disclosures.   Maine Security Deposit Limit and Return Maine state law limits how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit (two months’ rent), when it must be returned (within 30 days after a tenant moves if under a lease or written rental agreement or within 21 days if it is an at-will tenancy), and sets other restrictions on deposits. See Maine Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines for more on the subject.   Small Claims Lawsuits in Maine Tenants can sue landlords in small claims court for the return of their deposit, up to a dollar amount of $6,000. See Filing a Security Deposit Lawsuit in Maine Small Claims Court for advice for tenants filing suit. Landlords defending a security deposit lawsuit should check out Maine Landlord’s Guide to Security Deposit Disputes in Small Claims Court.   Maine Late Fees and Other Rent Rules State law regulates several rent-related issues, including late fees, the amount of notice (at least 45 days in Maine) landlords must give tenants to raise the rent, and how much time (seven days in Maine) a tenant has to pay rent or move before a landlord can file for eviction. For details, see Maine Late Fees, Termination for Nonpayment of Rent, and Other Rent Rules.   Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent in Maine Tenants may withhold rent or exercise the right to “repair and deduct” if a landlord fails to take care of important repairs, such as a broken heater. For specifics, see Maine Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent or “Repair and Deduct”.   Maine Termination and Eviction Rules State laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. For example, a landlord may give a Maine tenant at will who has caused substantial damage to the premises an unconditional quit notice that gives the tenant seven days to move out before the landlord can file for eviction. See State Laws on Unconditional Quit Terminations and State Laws on Termination for Violation of Lease for details on these types of termination notices in Maine.   Landlord Access to Rental Property, Tenant Protection Against Retaliation, and Other State Laws in Maine Several other landlord-tenant laws in Maine affect both property owners...

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The Science of Car Crashes

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From lane departure warnings to automatic emergency braking, drivers today have more technology than ever to help avoid car accidents. But with more cars on the road, the number of traffic fatalities continues to rise, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Taking a scientific approach to what causes car accidents can help us better understand – and potentially avoid – them in the future. Why Are There More Fatal Car Accidents? Americans are covering more miles, and are more distracted, than they were a decade ago. Safety technology can only do so much to offset risky driving behavior. Reducing distractions, from smartphone use to eating while driving, can help drivers remain alert and able to react quickly, giving them a better chance to avoid an accident. What Role Do Drivers Play in an Accident? Despite all of the new safety technology, in 94 percent of car accidents, the crash was related to the driver, according to NHTSA.1 Often, an unexpected event and period of inattention go hand in hand. Maintaining focus on the roadway is important because unexpected events are a part of everyday driving. Even at their most efficient, the interactions between a driver’s perception and a vehicle’s brakes aren’t instantaneous. Responding to an unexpected event happens in three distinct phases: perception, reaction and avoidance. There’s the moment that the driver perceives the potential hazard, the driver’s reaction time and the steps the driver takes to avoid an accident. This sequence of events takes time. Maintaining focus and attention on the road can help provide a driver with the time needed to react and ideally, avoid an accident. What Causes a Car Accident? To a driver, getting into an accident may feel like a stroke of bad luck – a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, perhaps. There’s some truth to the idea of timing. It’s generally safer to drive during daylight hours instead of nighttime, when visibility is lower and other drivers are likely to be fatigued, or perhaps driving under the influence, for example. While there’s an element of chance in an accident, often it’s due to a series of connected events that can be deciphered to discover the root cause of the crash. It can mean that a small mistake, when compounded with another factor, can lead to a serious car accident. But safe drivers who are prepared to react to that root cause can help prevent a more serious accident than drivers who are not prepared. Safe driving is more than simply driving the speed limit; it’s about anticipating other driver’s actions and recognizing when a curve in the road ahead or inclement weather requires drivers to slow down....

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Home and Business Winter Weather Preparedness Checklist

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Prepare for a Power Outage Heavy snow and high winds are a recipe for widespread power outages. It’s important to prepare a plan now before a possible outage. Learn how you can use alternative heat sources and generators safely during a power outage at disastersafety.org/disastersafety/build-a-plan-for-a-power-outage. Have an Emergency Preparedness Kit with three days of food, water, prescription medications, and other supplies ready (ready.gov/build-a-kit). Consider obtaining an NOAA Weather Radio to stay abreast of current weather conditions.   Prevent Roof Collapse  If heavy snow begins to accumulate on your roof, remove the snow with a snow rake and a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing safely on the ground. Find additional guidance at disastersafety.org/freezing_weather/prevent-roof-collapse.   Stay Safe and Warm  Inspect your source of heat for any damage which can cause a fire and result in costly property damage. Also, remove combustible items placed near a heat source. For more information, check IBHS’ guide on alternative heating at disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/alternative-heating.pdf.   Prevent Frozen Pipes Prevent costly water damage caused by frozen pipes by: Providing a reliable backup power source to ensure continuous power to the building; insulating all attic penetrations; ensuring proper seals on all doors and windows, and sealing all cracks and openings in exterior walls. Additional guidance is available at disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/Freezing-Bursting-Pipes_IBHS.pdf.   Know Your Winter Weather Alerts  When severe winter weather is on its way, it’s important to know and understand what each alert means so you can respond accordingly. Learn more about alerts at disastersafety.org/freezing_weather/finding-meaning-in-winter-weather-forecasts. Information courtesy of Insurance Institute for Business and Home...

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Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

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When the chill starts creeping in through the windows and doors, it’s time to get ready for the big freeze. We’ve put together a quick and easy checklist, so you can prepare your home for the cold with confidence.    Inside the Home Indoor preparations focus on two major components: efficiency and warmth. You want to keep as much heat inside the home as you can to use energy more efficiently, which means taking care of leaks and insulation problems. You also want to have the fireplace, heater, wood stove and ventilation system ready to go. Here’s a list to help you get it all done. Fill in cracks around window frames and door frames with caulk. Bob Vila, well-known home improvement guru and host of This Old House, says that this is one of the cheapest and most significant ways you can cut heating costs in winter. Check insulation in attics, garages and basements. If you have a bug or animal problem, you may need to tear out and replace old or chewed up insulation. Make sure any exposed pipes in the attic, basement and garage are properly insulated. Get a check-up for your heating and ventilation system to make sure it’s running as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This can save you a lot of money on utilities. Have a chimney sweep inspect the flue and clean the chimney before starting a fire. There may be bird nests or animals blocking the opening, or a highly flammable buildup of creosote. Either of these can start a chimney fire. Check for cracks and openings in your wood stove. Get a professional to replace compromised glass or crooked vent covers. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Install a carbon monoxide detector, if you have not done so already. Change the batteries on your existing detectors. The winter months are prime time for carbon monoxide accidents. Have a licensed technician inspect your fire sprinkler system, and ensure it is ready for cold weather. Outside the Home To prepare the exterior of the home, you need to focus on protecting it from the elements, especially if you live in a snowy climate. It’s also a good time to start prepping your yard for next spring. Clean out the gutters, spouts and drains around your home. Usually there is a thick accumulation of leaves after fall, and this can cause trouble when you need your roof to shed snow and water quickly. Fill in any cracks in your foundation or driveway with caulk or a patch, to keep moisture out. Inspect the roof for cracks, loose tiles, or other signs of weakness. Get all repairs finished now, before the snow or...

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Boating Safety Tips

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Wear a Life Jacket Always have your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have kids make a “touchdown” signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits a child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose. Infant Appropriate Life Jackets According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety, babies should not travel on a boat — including rowboats, kayaks, motorboats, and sailboats — until they are at the appropriate weight to wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD). Here’s some more information on how to choose the right life jacket. Hold on to your baby while also wearing your own life jacket. Car seats are not a good option. If the boat were to capsize, the seat would sink instantly. Keep Little Kids Warm Infants and young kids are at a higher risk for hypothermia, so if you are taking a baby on a boat, just take a few extra precautions to keep your baby warm. If your children seem cold or are shivering, wrap them tightly in a dry blanket or towel. Don’t Rely on Swimming Aids Remember that swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD). Childproof Your Boat and Develop Some Basic Rules Explain some basic boat rules and have everyone follow them. Children need to understand and follow rules such as keeping their hands and feet inside the boat at all times and not running on a boat. Learn From the Professionals Enroll older kids in a boating safety course. Better yet, enroll with them. Get a vessel safety check every year for free from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons. For more information go to www.uscgboating.org and click “get a free safety check.” Use Your Best Judgment A large portion of boating accidents that occur each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers. To protect your safety and loved ones around you, it is strongly recommended not to drink alcoholic beverages while boating. We know you have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training. Make sure there’s a working carbon monoxide alarm on any motorboat to alert your family...

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The Ultimate Guide to Buying your First Home with Confidence

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Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life. Most of us fake our way through the process, following the lead of a realtor. But before you dial up your real estate agent and start packing your boxes, here are some things you can know in order to feel more informed and in control as a buyer. Consider this your master guide to buying your first home with confidence. In this guide, we’ll cover the home-buying process from start to finish. If you’ve already begun, feel free to skip ahead to the section that best applies to you. Knowing what you can afford Hidden costs to watch out for Understanding the financials Knowing when to buy Staying organized and focused while house-hunting   First, let’s take a look at how to know what you can afford.   Here are some tips for finding a house that you’re comfortable paying for: Consider debt-to-income ratio Your debt-to-income ratio is the amount of debt you have (credit card payments, student loans, auto loans, etc.) compared to your overall income. The ratio helps mortgage lenders evaluate how much additional debt you can handle, helping them to decide whether or not to give you a home loan. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to have a debt-to-income ratio less than 36 percent. Bankrate.com offers a helpful calculator so you can quickly find your ratio. Save for your down payment Once you’ve got a realistic goal based on your debt-to-income ratio, start saving. Set up a savings plan and evaluate your current spending habits to fit your budget. You could even consider earning extra money from a side job, project, or hobby. Build your credit Having a checking or savings account and paying your bills on time are the two most important indicators of good credit. To continue building your credit, try to diminish your outstanding debt and keep existing debt in check. Calculate your mortgage payment Figure out the purchase price you can afford using a mortgage calculator. This calculator factors in the current interest rate for your area and different loan types to help you determine what your payment will be. Investopedia’s Mortgage Calculator is a good one to check out. Factor in PMI If you can’t afford to make a down payment of at least 20% on your home, you’ll need private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI protects your mortgage lender if you default on your home loan. PMI fees depend on the size of your down payment as well as your credit score, requiring a monthly payment though, in some cases, you can pay in a large amount upfront.   But, what about those hidden costs?   You may...

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