The Eviction Process in Montana: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers

An overview of Montana eviction rules, forms, and procedures.

A landlord who wants to evict a tenant in Montana must file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. In order for the eviction to be valid, the landlord must follow specific rules and procedures set forth by Montana state law. This article will explain the basics of those rules and procedures.

Notice for Termination With Cause

A landlord who decides to evict a tenant before the tenant’s lease or rental agreement has expired must have legal cause. Montana law provides several different types of legal cause, including failing to pay rent or violating the lease or rental agreement. Before proceeding straight to court, though, for one of these reasons, the landlord must first terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant notice. The length of the notice will depend on the reason for the eviction.

  • Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent: If the tenant fails to pay rent, then the landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice to pay rent. This notice must inform the tenant that the tenant has three days to pay rent or the landlord will terminate the tenant’s lease or rental agreement. If the tenant does not pay rent in full within three days, then the landlord can go to court and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see  Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-422(2)).  Eviction Notices for Nonpayment of Rent in Montana  has more information.
  • Three-Day Notice to Remedy: In certain situations, the landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice to remedy. This notice must inform the tenant that the tenant has three days to fix certain behavior or the landlord will terminate the tenancy and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. The landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice to remedy in the following situations (see  Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-422  for details):
    • the tenant has an unauthorized pet living in or at the rental unit
    • the tenant has unauthorized people living in the rental unit
    • the tenant has destroyed or damaged the rental unit or surrounding premises, or
    • the tenant threatens to destroy or damage the rental unit or injure another tenant.
  • Fourteen-Day Notice to Remedy: For all other lease or rental agreement violations, the landlord can give the tenant a 14-day notice to remedy. Under this notice, the tenant will have 14 days to fix the violation or the landlord can terminate the tenancy. If the tenant does not fix the violation within 14 days, then the landlord can go to court and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see  Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-422(1)(d)).
  • Five-Day Unconditional Quit Notice: If the landlord has given the tenant one of the above notices and the tenant commits the same lease violation again within six months of receiving the first notice, then the landlord can give the tenant a five-day unconditional quit notice. Under this notice, the landlord is not required to give the tenant any time to correct the violation. At the end of five days, the landlord can terminate the tenancy and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see  Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-422(1)(e)).

Notice for Termination Without Cause

A landlord who wants a tenant to move, but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, must wait until the tenant’s tenancy has ended before expecting the tenant to move. In some instances, the landlord will still need to give the tenant written notice to move.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

A landlord who wants to end a month-to-month tenancy, but does not have legal cause for eviction, can give the tenant a written 30-day notice. This notice must inform the tenant that the landlord is ending the month-to-month tenancy and that the tenant must move out of the rental unit by the end of 30 days. If the tenant does not move out in time, then the landlord can proceed with an eviction against the tenant (see  Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-441).Montana Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy  has more information.

Fixed-Term Lease

A landlord who wants a tenant with a fixed-term lease (that is, a lease with a specified end date) to move, but does not have legal cause for eviction, must wait until the lease has ended before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord is not required to give the tenant written notice to move unless the terms of the lease specifically require the landlord to do so. If the tenant does not move out of the rental unit by the end of the lease term, then the landlord should stop accepting rent from the tenant and proceed with an eviction lawsuit.

Tenant Defenses to Eviction

Even though a landlord might have a valid legal cause to evict a tenant, the tenant could still decide to fight the eviction. The tenant could also have a valid legal defense against the eviction, such as the landlord discriminating against the tenant or failing to maintain the rental unit. If the tenant chooses to fight the eviction, there could be unexpected consequences, such as increased legal costs for both the landlord and the tenant or the tenant being allowed to remain living in the rental unit for a longer period of time.  Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Montana  has more information on this subject.

Removal of the Tenant

The only legal way a landlord can remove a tenant from a rental unit is by winning an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. Even then, the landlord is not the one who will actually evict the tenant. This can only be done a law enforcement officer with a court order. It is illegal for the landlord to try to force the tenant to move out of the rental unit, and the tenant can sue the landlord for trying.  Illegal Eviction Procedures in Montana  has more information.

After the tenant has been evicted, the landlord might find personal property left behind in the rental unit. If the personal property has any value, then the landlord cannot just throw it away. The landlord must wait for 48 hours after the eviction has occurred before moving the personal property to a safe location. The landlord must make reasonable efforts to notify the tenant in writing that the tenant has ten days to claim the property before the landlord disposes of it. If the tenant responds within this ten-day period, then the tenant will have another seven days to actually remove the property from the landlord’s storage. The landlord can charge the tenant for the costs of storage and can prohibit the tenant from taking the personal property until the tenant has paid the landlord the storage costs. If the tenant does not claim the property in time, then the landlord can dispose of it (see  Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-430).

Rationale for the Rules

Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Montana law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction may not be valid. Although these rules and procedures may seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, and the end result is serious: the tenant has lost a place to live. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new home.

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