The Portland City Council has temporarily banned short-term rentals in most circumstances in hopes of preventing the spread of coronavirus and discouraging out-of-state visitors.

That restriction broadens the city’s stay-at-home order. City Manager Jon Jennings announced that order last week, and the City Council voted Monday night to extend it until April 27. Councilors, staff and members of the public joined the virtual meeting via the online conference app Zoom.

People who are currently in a short-term rental in Portland have until April 6 to leave. But the order means that no new bookings can take place until the city’s emergency order expires. The city reported more than 800 registered short-term rentals at one point last year.

“We can’t necessarily count on every single person who is operating them, or every single person who is visiting to abide by social distancing guidance,” Councilor Belinda Ray said.

Councilor Kim Cook, who sponsored the temporary ban, included key exceptions. Rentals will still be allowed for people who are experiencing homelessness, medical providers who are coming to Portland to join the coronavirus response and individuals who need a place to isolate away from their families.

“Quite a number of communities around the country have taken action in the same vein as the amendment that I’m proposing,” said Councilor Kim Cook, who sponsored the proposal.


The council unanimously passed that measure, and some expressed an interest in extending the same restriction to hotels in the future.

“This doesn’t completely address the issue of people coming to Maine because they think it’s less risky and bringing their own risk with them,” Councilor Jill Duson said.

The councilors also amended the stay-at-home order to include a written request to commercial and residential landlords to rescind or suspend evictions caused by financial hardship during the pandemic. Eviction courts are closed until May, and Mayor Kate Snyder issued a proclamation last week that made a similar plea.

The vote did not put a ban on evictions. But Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said he proposed the amendment in hopes of encouraging landlords and tenants to communicate to address the financial hardships that are emerging with the coronavirus.

“We want to force landlords and tenants to the table to try to work through this,” Thibodeau said.

Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order last week that closed all nonessential public-facing businesses. The city announced its stay-at-home order the same day, and while the two are similar, Portland’s rules affect additional business activities.


The governor’s statewide order allows non-public facing businesses to continue operating under conditions to ensure workers are at least 6 feet away from each other. Portland has told all nonessential businesses to shut down workplaces and operate only if they can do so remotely. The order does have some exceptions to that rule; for example, business owners and employees can enter their offices and stores for essential transactions like completing payroll and processing mail.

Ray also pushed to add curbside and delivery services to that list. She said that change would allow retail businesses like bookstores and fabric shops to continue their business in the same way that restaurants and breweries have been allowed to do.

But the councilors ultimately rejected that proposal in a 7-2 vote.

“It truly does break my heart to have businesses suffering and to have people losing jobs, but when it comes to the behavior that we need to abide by, I think we need to be more restrictive rather than less,” Snyder said.

The state and the city had also created slightly different lists of essential and nonessential businesses. For example, the city has been more restrictive of real estate operations than the state. The councilors debated adopting the state’s list Monday evening but decided to hold off on that question until the next meeting in April.

“The governor was trying to draft guidance for the entire state,” Jennings said. “We are dealing with an enormous problem in York and Cumberland counties right now with the community spread in both counties. Therefore, I feel we need to be more restrictive.”

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