Portland Tenants Union Calls on City to Protect Evicted Residents

On Friday, the newly formed Portland Tenants Union sent out a press release highlighting the difficulties being faced by residents of an apartment building at 188 Darmouth St., owned by Gregory Nisbet.

The scene in November outside of the Noyes St. building that burned in Portland.- Troy R. Bennett | BDN

The scene in November outside of the Noyes St. building that burned in Portland.- Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Nisbet was also the landlord of another Portland building on Noyes St. that burned in a November fire, claiming the lives of six people.

Realizing the seriousness of fire codes and safety, Nisbet’s tenants on Dartmouth St. are now calling attention to the deplorable conditions there, but rather than comply with their basic requests, he has chosen to evict them in the middle of winter.

The Portland Tenants Union formed in large part as a response to the Noyes St. fire, which was Maine’s deadliest fire in decades.

Here is their statement in full:

The organizers of the Portland Tenants Union are calling on the City to provide assistance and support to the soon-to-be evicted residents of 188 Dartmouth Street and create a citywide policy to ensure all evicted tenants are not subject to the threat of homelessness due to landlord malfeasance or neglect.

“Being forced to find adequate housing in the middle of winter in Maine is next to impossible. Portland already lacks safe and affordable housing; what little does exist will certainly not be available with such short notice,” said Tom MacMillan and Grace Damon, two Tenants Union organizers.

The Dartmouth Street residents acted reasonably when they called for a City inspection after repeated calls to their landlord were ignored. However, what came of the inspection was not appropriate action to repair the property, but retaliation. Tenants should never have to worry that asking for the City’s help will result in their own homelessness.

With 188 Dartmouth Street being the most recent example, Portland’s tenants are left to believe that the City will not protect them from predatory landlords and/or unsafe living conditions.

“The residents of 188 Dartmouth Street face an impossible situation: find affordable housing with just a few weeks notice in the dead of winter. The Portland Tenants Union demands that the City ensure that the residents find adequate housing and do not end up homeless as a result of their landlords neglect,” said MacMillan and Damon.

A plastic rose hangs on a post outside the Noyes St. building that burned in November, killing six people. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A plastic rose hangs on a post outside the Noyes St. building that burned in November, killing six people. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

The situation facing renters is an urgent one that must be addressed immediately. The Portland Tenants Union believes that the repercussions of property neglect should fall on the landlord, not the building’s residents. City officials needs to adopt policy changes which will guarantee that tenants will no longer have to choose between safety and accountability.

The Portland Tenants Union held an introductory meeting on January 2 at A Space For Grace at 1 Marginal Way and will hold its next meeting on Thursday, January 29 from 6pm to 8pm in Room 24 of Portland City Hall. From 6pm to 7pm will be a tenants-only meeting. At 7pm the meeting will open to all interested parties.

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.