Montana Landlord Tenant Law

Looking for clear and concise information on Montana landlord tenant law? Get all your answers from this plain English guide to the Montana Landlord Tenant Act.

MT Landlord Tenant Law:

  • Montana Code Title 70, Chapter 24 - Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Tenant Application

Application Fees

The landlord can ask prospective tenants for application fees to cover the costs of background and credit checks. The fee amount should be reasonable - We recommend charging $25 to $30 per applicant. If the landlord did not run any tenant screening checks, the fees should be refunded.

Background and Credit Check

Before running background or credit checks on tenant applicants, landlords must first obtain the applicant's written permission. [Fair Credit Reporting Act § 604(a)(3)(F)]

For landlords to run background and credit checks, the tenant application form needs to ask for the applicant's:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • social security number or ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number)
  • current address
  • signed consent (e.g. "I authorize the use of the information and contacts provided to complete a credit, reference, and/or background check.")

Avoiding Discrimination

The federal Fair Housing Act disallows landlords from rejecting prospective renters based on their race, color, religion, nationality, sex, *familial status or physical/mental disability. *Familial status means landlords cannot reject someone for having one or more children under 18. Familial status also includes pregnant women and people planning to have (or adapt) children under 18.

In addition, Montana landlord tenant law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of his or her age, creed, marital status (or change in marital status).

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Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement (also known as a lease agreement or rental agreement) can be written or verbal.

The landlord and tenant can choose between a month to month tenancy or fixed term lease. For a month to month tenancy, the landlord or tenant can change its terms and conditions at the end of every month. For a fixed term lease, the landlord and tenant CANNOT change the lease terms and conditions during its duration... unless there is written consent from both parties.

If the landlord is changing the terms and conditions of a week to week tenancy, he has to inform the tenant in writing seven days in advance. [MT 70-24-311.(3)]

If the landlord is changing the terms and conditions of a month to month tenancy, he has to inform the tenant in writing 30 days in advance.

Required for Tenancy Agreement

Montana landlord tenant law requires all tenancy agreements to contain the following details:

  • Name and address of person authorized to manage the property [MT 70-24-301.(a)]
  • Name and address or property owner or owner's agent (person authorized to act on behalf of owner) [MT 70-24-301.(b)]
  • Terms and conditions for security deposit deductions
  • Disclosure and information of lead-based paint in the property (for housing built before 1978)

Recommended for Tenancy Agreement

  • Name and address of tenant(s)
  • Number of people (occupants) staying on the property
  • Type of tenancy: month to month tenancy or fixed term lease
  • How much is the rent
  • When, how and where the rent is to be paid
  • When is rent is considered late and the penalties for late rent payment
  • How much is the security deposit and pet deposit (if any)
  • Who holds the deposit(s) and where will it be held
  • What utilities and services are provided and who pays for them
  • What are the landlord's and tenant's duties for property maintenance
  • Can the tenant sublet the property or assign the lease
  • When to inform the landlord if tenant will be away for a long time
  • Prohibited activities and items

Disallowed for Tenancy Agreement

According to Montana landlord tenant law, your lease agreement CANNOT:

  • make the landlord or tenant give up any legal rights or remedies under the Montana Landlord and Tenant Act [MT 70-24-202.(1)]
  • permit the landlord to get a confession of judgment against the tenant. [MT 70-24-202.(2)]
  • limit the landlord or tenant's liability when they have failed in their duties [MT 70-24-202.(3)]
  • make the tenant pay for the landlord's attorney fees (unless ordered by the courts)
  • make the tenant pay for rent when the landlord fails to maintain the property (as required by the law)
  • make the landlord or tenant provide an email address before they can enter into a rental agreement [MT 70-24-202.(4)]

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Security Deposit

As long as the tenant is agreeable, Montana landlord tenant law doesn't limit the maximum amount of security deposit the landlord can ask for. Both the landlord and tenant have to agree on the security deposit amount, and this amount must be stated in the written tenancy agreement.

Deductions and Returns

Montana landlord tenant law requires the landlord to inform the tenant of the terms and conditions for security deposit deductions.
  
Valid reasons for security deposit deductions (under Montana landlord tenant law) include [MT 70-25-201]:

  • Rent, utility fees, late fees and penalty fees owed to the landlord
  • Property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by tenant, occupants or tenant's guests
  • Costs and losses incurred by landlord due to the tenant failing in his or her duties [MT 70-24-321] - See Tenant Duties and Responsibilities below
  • *Cleaning expenses to return the property to its original condition before the lease begun

*Before making deductions for cleaning expenses, the landlord has to give the tenant a written notice stating what are the cleaning required to return the property to its original condition. If the tenant fails to do the required cleaning within 24 hours, the landlord can deduct money from the security deposit to pay for cleaning. If the tenant abandoned the property or did not give proper notice to quit, then the landlord won't have to give this notice for cleaning charges.

The landlord is NOT allowed to take money from the security deposit due to damage from *normal wear and tear. [MT 70-25-201.(4)] *Normal wear and tear is the natural deterioration of the property (and its contents) from normal everyday use.

The landlord or tenant can request to inspect the rental property one week before the lease terminates.

Once the lease terminates and the tenant returns the property, the landlord must send the tenant a list of security deposit deductions and refund any remaining deposit within 30 days. This list has to individually account for all damages, cleaning charges and rent owed in writing. [MT 70-25-202]

If there are no security deposit deductions, the landlord has to return the security deposit to the tenant within 10 days.

If the landlord fails to follow Montana landlord tenant law for deducting and returning security deposit, the tenant can recover the amount of security deposit that was wrongfully withheld. [MT 70-25-204]

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Billings, Montana MT

Montana Landlord Tenant Law

Rent

The tenant has to pay the rent without demand or reminders. As long as the landlord and tenant are agreeable, they can choose the time, place and method of rent payment.
   
By default, rent is payable once the tenancy begins and shall be paid on the same day of every month, at the beginning of every month. Rent is to be collected at the rental property or by using electronic funds transfer to a bank account designated for rent payments.

Late Rent

There are no Montana landlord tenant statutes on imposing charges for late rent payments.

If the landlord wants to impose late rent charges, it has to be specified in the tenancy agreement. While there are no state laws on late fees, landlords cannot overcharge or impose unfair terms. Otherwise the tenant can refuse to pay and challenge the late fees in court.

Most states consider reasonable late fees to be around 3 to 5% of the rent amount. In addition, landlords should wait until rent payment is at least three days late before charging late fees.

Raising Rent

There are no specific Montana landlord tenant statutes on raising rent.

We recommend that the landlord and tenant work out the following details and include them in the rental agreement:

  • When can the landlord raise the rent?
  • How many days notice does the landlord have to give before raising the rent?
  • How many days notice does the tenant have to give if he or she is moving out due to the rent increase?
  • Maximum amount or percentage of rent increase (optional)

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Property Maintenance

Landlord Duties and Responsibilities

The Montana Landlord Tenant Act requires the landlord to maintain the property in a safe and habitable condition [MT 70-24-303]:

  • Compliance: Obey all building and housing codes that affect health and safety
  • Repairs: Make all repairs to keep the property safe and habitable
  • Maintenance: Maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, kitchen facilities in safe working condition
  • Common Areas: Keep all common areas clean and safe (includes removing snow and ice from common areas)
  • Waste Disposal: Provide outlets for waste disposal and arrange for waste removal
  • Heating: Supply running water, hot water at all times. Supply heating from 1 Oct to 1 May (as far as conditions allow)
  • Smoke Detectors: Provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Tenant Duties and Responsibilities

Montana landlord tenant law also requires the tenant to keep the property in a clean and safe condition [MT 70-24-321]:

  • Compliance: Obey all building and housing codes that affect health and safety
  • Cleanliness: Keep the property clean and safe (as far as conditions will allow)
  • Waste Disposal: Dispose all waste from the property in a clean and safe manner
  • Proper Usage: Use all facilities and appliances properly. This includes all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, kitchen and common area facilities (e.g. elevators)
  • Property Damage: Avoid property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by the tenant, occupants or tenant's guests
  • Neighbors: Avoid disturbing neighbors and also disallow others from disturbing neighbors
  • Security: Obtain the landlord's permission in writing before changing door locks. Give the landlord a copy of the new keys immediately after changing locks [MT 70-24-312.(5)]

If Landlord Fails to Maintain Property

If the landlord fails to maintain the property, the tenant can give the landlord a written notice stating the problem and giving the landlord 14 days to fix it... or else the tenant will move out in 30 days. If the problem is fixed within 14 days (of the landlord receiving this notice), the tenancy shall continue.

If a similar problem occurs AGAIN within six months due to lack of maintenance, the tenant can terminate the tenancy with a written 14 day notice stating the problem and termination date. In this case, landlord won't be given a second chance to fix it.

If there is an emergency due to lack of maintenance, the landlord must fix it within three days after receiving the tenant's written notice. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant can terminate the tenancy. [MT 70-24-406.(a)]

In addition, the tenant can sue the landlord in court for damages and obtain a court order (that requires the landlord to do, or stop doing something). If total damages are less than $7000, the tenant may sue the landlord in small claims court. [MT 25-35-502]

If Landlord Fails to Provide Essential Services

If the landlord fails to provide an essential service (such as heat, water, electricity, plumbing or sanitation), the tenant has three choices [MT 70-24-408]:

1. The tenant can make repairs and deduct the cost from rent
   
The tenant has to inform the landlord in writing that he or she intends to fix the problem and deduct the expenses from next month's rent. The tenant should keep the receipts for all related costs. [MT 70-24-408.(a)]
   
2. The tenant can move to substitute housing for the time being 

The tenant can give the landlord written notice that he or she is moving into substitute housing. The tenant doesn't have to pay rent until the problem is fixed. [MT 70-24-408.(c)]
   
3. The tenant can sue the landlord for damages
   
If the problems are severe and diminish the property's rental value, the tenant can sue the landlord to recover damages. [MT 70-24-408.(b)]

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Property Access

When Tenant's Permission is Required

According to Montana landlord tenant law, the landlord is only allowed to enter the property for the following reasons [MT 70-24-312]:

  • Performing property maintenance or repairs
  • Supplying essential (or mutually agreed) services and utilities
  • Inspecting for damages
  • Showing the property to prospective buyers, tenants or contractors
  • Removing landlord's belongings (that are not part of the tenancy agreement)

In the above situations, the landlord must inform the tenant at least 24 hours in advance before entering the property. The landlord can only enter the property with the tenant's consent and during reasonable hours.

When Tenant's Permission is NOT Required

According to Montana landlord tenant law, the landlord may enter the property without permission in the following situations:

  • Emergencies such as smoke, fire, flooding or explosion [MT 70-24-312.(2)]
  • Tenant cannot be contacted by normal means
  • Tenant has been away from the property for more than seven days without notice [MT 70-24-312.(4)(c)]

If Tenant Refuses Landlord's Valid Request to Enter Property

The tenant cannot deny access if the landlord has a valid reason to enter the property. Otherwise the landlord can EITHER

  1. obtain a court order that requires the tenant to let the landlord in OR
  2. terminate the lease agreement by giving the tenant a written notice.

In addition, the landlord may also sue the tenant for one month's rent. If actual damages exceeds one month's rent, the landlord may sue for the full amount. [MT 70-33-424]

If Landlord Enters Property Illegally

The landlord must have a valid reason and obtain the tenant's permission (whenever required) to enter the property. If the landlord fails to do so or harasses the tenant, the tenant can EITHER

  1. obtain a court order that stops the landlord from entering the property illegally or harassing the tenant OR
  2. terminate the lease agreement by giving the tenant a written notice.

In addition, the tenant may also sue the landlord for one month's rent PLUS court costs and attorney fees. If actual damages exceeds one month's rent, the tenant may sue for the full amount. [MT 70-24-410]

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Subletting

There are no specific Montana landlord tenant laws on subletting.

We recommend that the landlord and tenant work out the following details and include them in the rental agreement:

  • Is the tenant allowed to sublet the property? If yes, is the landlord's written consent required before the tenant can sublet?
  • Is the landlord allowed to screen and reject every prospective subtenant?
  • Can the landlord ask for additional rent and security deposit if the tenant sublets?

Rejecting Subtenants

The landlord can reject subtenants by giving the tenant a written notice within 30 days. This notice has to contain one or more of the following valid reasons:

  • Subtenant's bad credit report or financial standings
  • Too many people in the household
  • Subtenant is unwilling to follow existing lease agreement terms
  • Subtenant's pets
  • Subtenant's proposed commercial activity
  • Unsatisfactory rental history according to subtenant's previous landlord

If the landlord doesn't give a written rejection within 30 days, it is assumed that the landlord has consented to the sublease.

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Missoula, Montana MT

Missoula, Montana MT

Termination of Tenancy

Number of Days for Notice to Quit

Montana landlord tenant law requires you to give the other party a written notice to quit before terminating a tenancy.
   
For a week to week tenancy, you must give this notice at least 7 days before the termination date. [MT 70-24-441]
   
For a month to month tenancy, you have to give this notice at least 30 days in advance. [MT 70-24-441.(2)]

TENANT

If you are the tenant, the following are the minimum number of days for giving your landlord a notice to quit:

Landlord failed to maintain property

30 days

Landlord entered property illegally

Immediate

Property damage due to fire, disaster or unavoidable accident

14 days

Property Damage Due to Fire, Disaster or Unavoidable Accident

If the property is badly damaged by fire, disasters or unavoidable accidents, the tenant can immediately move out and stop paying rent. The tenant must inform the landlord that he or she intends to terminate the tenancy within 14 days, and the tenancy will be terminated once the tenant moves out.
   
After the tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit (after any deductions) to the tenant. The tenant won't have to pay rent starting from the date of the fire or natural disaster, so the landlord must also return any prepaid rent to the tenant.
   
If only part of the property is damaged, the tenant should move out of the damaged area. The rent amount will be lowered based on how much of the property is still livable.

Notice to Quit Contents

If you are the tenant, your notice must contain the following:

  • Address of rental property
  • Termination date and time
  • Signature of person giving the notice

If you are the landlord, your notice must ALSO contain the following: [AS 09.45.105.]

  • Why the tenancy is being terminated
  • Any corrective action that tenant may take to avoid termination of tenancy and when it must be completed (if applicable)
  • Landlord may sue to remove tenant from the property if tenant doesn't move out by termination date

Giving Notice to Quit

The tenant can deliver the notice to the landlord in person or mail it to the address where the rent is paid.

The landlord can serve the notice to the tenant in the one of following ways:

  • Deliver the notice to the tenant in person
  • Leave the notice at the property if the tenant is absent
  • Send the notice by registered or certified mail

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Eviction

According to Montana landlord tenant law, he following are valid reasons for evicting tenants and the minimum number of days for giving them a notice to quit [MT 70-24-422]:

Tenant did not pay rent

3 days

Person staying on property without landlord's permission

3 days

Pet staying on property without landlord's permission

3 days

Tenant caused property damage

3 days

Tenant created a hazard that may cause injury or property damage

3 days

Tenant violated tenancy agreement or didn't perform duties

14 days

Tenant Did Not Pay Rent

If the tenant did not pay rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a three day written notice to terminate the tenancy. This notice must state the amount of rent owed and inform the tenant that he or she can choose to pay or move out.

If the rent is paid within three days, the tenant may stay. If the tenant tries to pay rent after three days, the landlord may refuse the rent and continue with eviction. [MT 70-24-321.(2)]

Tenant Caused Property Damage

If the tenant destroys, defaces, damages, impairs, or removes any part of the property, the landlord can send the tenant a three day written notice to terminate the tenancy. This notice must state the problem(s) and give the tenant three days to fix it. [MT 70-24-422.(3)]

If the tenant fixes the problem(s) within three days, the tenancy shall continue.

In addition, the landlord can sue the tenant for actual damages and obtain a court order (that requires the tenant to do, or stop doing something). If the tenant caused property damage on purpose, the landlord can sue him or her for three times actual damages. [MT 70-24-422.(6)]

Tenant Violated Tenancy Agreement or Didn't Perform Duties

If the tenant violates the tenancy agreement or fails to perform his or her duties (as required by Montana landlord tenant law), the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day written notice to terminate the tenancy.

This written notice has to state what is the tenant's violation or failure in duty. If the tenant corrects the problem within 14 days, the tenant may stay. [MT 70-24-422.(1)(d)]

However if the tenant violates the tenancy agreement (or fails in his or her duty) in a similar manner within six months, the landlord can evict the tenant by sending him or her a written five day notice. In this case, the tenant must move out.

In addition, the landlord can sue the tenant for actual damages and obtain a court order (that requires the tenant to do, or stop doing something). If the tenant violated the lease agreement or Montana landlord tenant law on purpose, the landlord can sue him or her for three times actual damages. [MT 70-24-422.(6)]

Eviction Notice

Also known as "Notice of Termination of Tenancy" or "Notice to Quit", Montana landlord tenant law requires all eviction notices to contain the following:

  • Reason(s) for termination of tenancy
  • Date and time that tenancy will terminate
  • State that the tenant must move out of the property by the termination date and time
  • State that the landlord may sue to remove the tenant from the property if the tenant doesn't move out by termination date and time

If Montana landlord tenant law allows the tenant to avoid eviction by correcting the problem(s), the eviction notice must also contain:

  • Corrective action(s) to be taken by the tenant
  • Date and time that the corrective action(s) must be completed

The landlord can serve an eviction notice to the tenant with any following method:

  • Give the notice to the tenant in person
  • Leave the notice at the rental unit if the tenant isn't home
  • Send the notice by registered or certified mail

Unlawful Eviction

According to Montana landlord tenant law, the landlord CANNOT force the tenant to move out by shutting off utilities (electricity, water, gas, sanitation), changing the locks, taking the tenant's belongings or taking possession of the property by force without a court hearing. [MT 70-24-428]

If the landlord forces the tenant to move out with (the unlawful methods above) or shuts off utilities, the tenant can EITHER

  1. regain possession of the property OR
  2. terminate the tenancy agreement

In addition, the tenant may also sue the landlord for three times actual damages or three month's rent (whichever is greater). [MT 70-24-411]

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Abandonment

When is it Abandonment?

According to Montana landlord tenant law, the tenant has abandoned the property when ALL three conditions are met  [MT 70-24-426]:

  1. Tenant is late in paying rent
  2. Tenant has been absent from the property for more than seven consecutive days, but has left his or her belongings in the property
  3. Tenant did not inform the landlord that he or she will be away from the property for more than 7 days

Once the property is abandoned, the landlord may enter it, clean it, and re-rent it.

As long as the landlord makes a proper effort to re-rent the property at a fair rate, the abandoning tenant will be responsible for paying rent until the tenancy ends. If a new tenant is moving in before the tenancy ends, then the abandoning tenant can stop paying rent once the new tenant moves in. [MT 70-24-426.(3)]

Dealing with Abandoned Belongings

After confirming that tenant has abandoned the property, the landlord has to wait 48 hours before disposing abandoned belongings that are hazardous, perishable or valueless. [MT 70-24-340]

If there are abandoned belongings of value, the landlord must send a written notice to the tenant's last known address by certified mail. This notice has state where the tenant's belongings are stored and give the tenant at least 10 days to remove them... or else the landlord shall sell or dispose them.

If the tenant wants recover his or her belongings, the tenant has to do the following:

  1. Respond to the landlord's notice within 10 days
  2. Collect the belongings within seven days (after responding)
  3. Pay for the costs of moving and storing the belongings

While the landlord has to make a reasonable effort to store the abandoned belongings, the landlord isn't responsible for any damage or losses... unless it's due to the landlord's abuse or neglect.

If the tenant did not recover the belongings, the landlord can sell them to pay for the following:

  • Cost of moving and storing the abandoned belongings
  • Cost of informing the tenant and holding the sale
  • Any remaining rent owed or damages that the tenant is responsible for (after deducting from the security deposit first)

Any leftover revenue shall be paid to the tenant. If the tenant cannot be contacted, the leftover revenue must be given to the county treasurer.

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Resources

Montana Landlord Tenant Law: Montana Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Montana Landlord Tenant Handbook: Montana Landlords’ Rights and Duties

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