On a snowy Thursday in Presque Isle, it’s -17 degrees and the phones won’t stop ringing for staff attorney Matt Dyer. In one case, the temperature of an apartment is well below the 68 degrees required by law. In another, the low temperatures have caused frozen pipes to burst, leading to leaks in the apartment and there is no one available to fix them.  

During the heart of the winter, these calls were familiar to Matt, who sees multiple calls of this type a day during the coldest weeks of the year. All across the state, and especially in the most northern parts, tenants live daily without adequate heat in their homes. These cases are frequent and can be life threatening. Even with spring days on the horizon, Mainers know the cooler temperatures, snow, and ice can continue to linger.

With few options, this is where attorneys like Matt step in. While tenants often face additional burdens or don’t want to stir the pot by complaining to their landlords, Pine Tree attorneys can step in and hold landlords accountable, some of whom might not even be aware that the law requires the temperature in housing units to be at 68 degrees. In these cases, having a fierce advocate to ask the right questions can make all the difference.  

Additional resources, especially in more isolated areas of the state, are scarce. Below are some community resources – please join us in sharing this information. 

Jonathan Selkowitz
Managing Attorney, Foreclosure & Consumer Unit
Portland Office
5 years at Pine Tree

Where did you go to law school?
Temple University

What is your most memorable case, or favorite memory from working at Pine Tree?
I represented a mother of three school-aged kids in a foreclosure suit. She had defaulted on her mortgage loan due to the death of her husband. The plaintiff had misbehaved during the case and also lacked the proof to foreclose. By aggressively litigating the case, we were able to secure a very favorable settlement that included a loan modification with an affordable monthly payment and loan forgiveness of over $300,000. The client's home went from being under water to having substantial equity, which she then tapped into to make essential repairs on the roof. I check in periodically with the client and she and her kids are thriving.

Why did you want to work at Pine Tree? What brought you to Pine Tree and what did you do before?
I always wanted to pursue a career in public interest law. I had developed a particular interest and expertise in consumer finance law through my work as a predatory lending investigator with the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia and as a clerk for a federal district court judge in Philadelphia who had a few very interesting consumer cases. After my clerkship, I cut my teeth for two years defending financial institutions in litigation brought by consumers, and was then able to make the jump to representing consumers after I moved to Maine in 2015. When a foreclosure staff attorney position opened up at Pine Tree in 2016, it was a no-brainer to apply given Pine Tree's leadership in the field and the amazing opportunity to make a career helping low-income consumers.

What is your favorite board game?
Wits and Wagers

Tell us about your pet(s)!
No pets, but I really got into bird watching during the pandemic

Where is your favorite place in Maine?

What are some hobbies you enjoy outside of work?
Cooking, watching the NBA, skiing, wrastling with my kids

If you could pick one song to play every time you enter a room, what would it be?
"No Escapin' This" - the Beatnuts

On October 15, 2010 this photo of a house in Maine appeared on the cover of the New York Times. The article, “From This House, a National Foreclosure Freeze,” detailed how Tom Cox, an attorney with Pine Tree Legal Assistance’s Maine Attorneys Saving Homes project uncovered the practice known as “robo-signing” and brought about systemic changes to foreclosure practices.  
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Pine Tree Legal Assistance is a non-profit, is a 501(c)(3) organization incorporated on June 14, 1966. Our tax ID number is 01-02 79387. Pine Tree Legal Assistance is funded in part by the Legal Services Corporation (“LSC”). As a condition of the funding received from LSC, Pine Tree Legal Assistance is restricted in certain activities in all of its legal work, including work supported by other funding sources. Pine Tree Legal Assistance may not expend any funds for any activity prohibited by the Legal Services Corporation Act, 42 U.S.C §2996 et. seq. or by Public Law 104-134. Public Law 104—234 §504(d) required that notice of these restrictions be given to all funders or programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation. For a copy of these laws or any further information, please contact: Executive Director, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, PO Box 547, Portland, Maine 04112; Tel. 207-774-4753.