What You Need To Know About Eviction in Montana

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Before a Montana landlord can legally evict a tenant, they must provide a legally-required written notice that allows the tenant to correct a problem within a specified amount of time.
Few things can make your heart sink faster than getting an eviction notice in the mail. However, an initial written notice doesn’t necessarily mean your fate is sealed. Your landlord can only evict you for specific reasons and legally has to follow certain procedures. 
Knowing your state’s landlord-tenant laws can help you assert your rights if you find yourself up against an eviction lawsuit. That’s why Jerry, the licensed insurance broker and super app that enables you to save on car and renters insurance, is here to give you a rundown on Montana eviction laws and some tips and resources that could help you avoid eviction.
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Montana eviction 101: four ways you can be evicted

The Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of 1977 outlines the legal responsibilities and obligations for landlords and tenants in Montana, including how and when a landlord can evict a tenant.
Landlords can evict tenants for several reasons, but depending on the circumstances, a landlord must first provide tenants with adequate written notice that gives them an opportunity to correct the problem, if possible.
In Montana, legal reasons to evict tenants include:
  • Nonpayment of rent: Requires a three-day notice, allowing the tenant to pay the amount of rent due in full to avoid eviction
  • Violation of lease agreement: Requires a 14-day notice so the tenant can remedy the problem, if possible
  • Causing damage to rental property: Requires a three-day notice, but the rental agreement can continue if the tenant can complete the repairs or pay for the damages within that time
  • Illegal activity: If illegal activity on the rental property has occurred, like manufacturing or selling illegal drugs, a landlord only needs to give a three-day notice
For repeat violations occurring within the last six months, a landlord only needs to provide five days' notice.
Landlords that don't have a valid reason to evict tenants must wait until the end of the leasing term and non-renew the lease. However, they often still need to provide tenants with proper written notice. The amount of notice required depends on the type of lease:
  • Week-to-week lease: Requires at least seven days’ notice.
  • Month-to-month lease: Requires at least 30 days’ notice.
  • Fixed-term lease: After lease expiration, you might be able to assume the rights of a month-to-month tenant, but check the details of your lease agreement.
Once your landlord has provided you with proper written notice, they can move forward with an eviction lawsuit after the required amount of time. A hearing will occur, and you'll either be evicted or allowed to remain in the rental, depending on the judge's decision.
Key Takeaway Landlord-tenant laws are complicated—not to mention that they can vary from state to state and can be subject to change—so don't hesitate to seek out legal counsel for your specific circumstances.

A timeline of eviction in Montana

Once you’ve received a written notice from your landlord, just how much time do you have before an eviction lawsuit takes place? While different circumstances can affect how long the eviction process actually takes, here’s a look at what a typical eviction timeline in Montana looks like:
StepHow long it typically takesWhat to expect
Written notice from landlordTypically 3-30 days, depending on circumstancesLandlord will issue written notice requiring action within a certain period of time
Summons and ComplaintFive daysOnce an eviction lawsuit has been filed, an authorized person, like a sheriff’s deputy, will serve you with papers going over the details of the lawsuit.
Tenant Answer10 daysAfter receiving the Summons and Complaint, you’ll have 10 days to file an Answer to the complaint (not counting Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays). If you plan to defend yourself at the hearing, filing an Answer is required.
HearingTypically 14 days after filing of AnswerA hearing will take place and a judge will evaluate the landlord’s and tenant’s arguments.
Judge decisionWithin five daysThe judge will issue their decision regarding whether you are allowed to remain in the rental or whether you will be evicted.
EvictionVariesIf the judge has ruled in favor of the landlord, they’ll give you a deadline to vacate the rental in their decision.
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How to resist eviction in Montana

Just because your landlord has filed a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be evicted. Here are a few factors that might be able to help you avoid an eviction:
  • Address the cause of the eviction: The most straightforward way, whenever possible, is to address the problem that caused your landlord to give you your written notice
  • Identify procedure errors: Having a good handle on landlord-tenant laws can also help you identify when a landlord has improperly served a notice, skipped a crucial legal step in the eviction process, or taken illegal measures, like shutting off your utilities or changing locks before an eviction
  • Consider mediation with your landlord: If the dispute between you and your landlord can be settled outside of a courtroom, you can both save time and money—in fact, some Montana courts might require mediation before you can proceed to a hearing. (If you opt to mediate outside of court, it's still a good idea to get whatever agreement you come to in writing) 
  • Prepare for your court date. If a tenant doesn't show up to their court date, it's common for eviction lawsuits to rule in the landlord's favor. You should be ready to clearly and briefly explain why you shouldn't be evicted from a legal standpoint. You'll also want to come to your hearing prepared with all the necessary paperwork—this could include your answer, payment records, or other documents needed to make your case, as well as preparing to include witnesses if applicable. 
  • Argue that your landlord failed to maintain the rental: If your landlord is trying to evict you for something that the law or your lease agreement said was their responsibility to maintain, you might be able to avoid an eviction.
  • Identify discrimination: If you can provide evidence that the reason for your landlord evicting you is discriminatory based on your race, gender, national origin, or another protected class under fair housing laws, you might be able to get your eviction lawsuit dismissed. You might also consider filing a complaint at the state level or with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
You can find additional legal information for tenants regarding eviction from the Montana Judicial Branch online.

How to save money on Montana car and renters insurance

One of the most common eviction reasons in Montana is non-payment. If you're looking for ways to cut back on expenses, the Jerry app can help you search for savings on your car and renters insurance policies.
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The CDC’s COVID-19-related eviction moratorium that would apply in Montana is no longer in effect as of August 2021, but other resources like Montana’s emergency rental assistance program are available.

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