The Montana eviction process has different notice requirements depending on how long the tenant has been renting and the landlord’s reasons for evicting you. Most reasons for evictions concern nonpayment of rent or breach of a material term in the lease agreement.
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In no event may a landlord take the law into his or her hands and forcibly remove a tenant, change the locks, turn off the heat and electricity or enter and remove the tenant’s personal possessions. Such actions could result in the landlord being liable to the tenant for all damages or 3 times the rent, whichever is greater.
Otherwise, the landlord can bring an action for possession once the appropriate written Montana eviction notice is given and a court order is obtained. Evictions may occur during the winter months.
A 3-day eviction notice to vacate can be served under the following circumstances:
- A tenant fails to pay rent when due.
- The tenant substantially damages any part of the unit or premises.
- An unauthorized pet is being kept.
- Unauthorized people are living in the unit.
- The tenant commits a criminal offense that could endanger neighbors or which involves production or manufacture of illegal drugs.
- Gang-related activities.
- Refusal to give landlord lawful access.
A tenant can cure or remedy the violation if rent is paid, the pet is removed or the non-tenant leaves the property within 3 days. If property is damaged, the landlord may choose to give the tenant no opportunity to repair the damage and the tenant must leave within 3 days or face court action.
A mobile home owner renting space from a landlord must be given 15-days notice.
Should the tenant have removed or corrected the lease term violation but commits the identical offense again within 6 months, the landlord may irrevocably terminate the lease relationship after giving a 5-day notice.
For non-compliance with the rental agreement that do not include nonpayment of rent or having an unauthorized pet or person living on the property, the landlord must give a 14-day written notice to quit or repair. Remedying the violation within this time halts any court action, however, if the same violation occurs within the following 6-months, a 3-day notice may be served with no opportunity for the tenant to cure the violation.
For month-to-month tenancies, the landlord can evict a tenant for any reason, other than for a discriminatory reason or in retaliation for a tenant exercising his or her rights,
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Montana Eviction Notice Requirements
All written notices must contain the specific statute under which it is being issued as well as the address of the unit, to whom the notice applies, how the notice was delivered, that the tenant may dispute the claims, and notice of the lease violation in question.
A notice can be personally served or mailed. A tenant is presumed under the Montana eviction process to have received the notice 3-days after it was mailed. Also, Montana law allows a landlord to verbally give the tenant ‘notice,” which is considered actual notice.
Summons and Complaint
Should the tenant fail to pay rent or remedy the lease term violation, if appropriate, and does not leave the premises, the landlord may continue the Montana eviction process by filing and serving a summons and complaint for an “action of possession.” The tenant is given 10 business days to file and serve by mail to the landlord or landlord’s attorney an Answer. If an Answer is filed denying the material allegations, a hearing will be held within 20-days of filing the Answer.
An eviction hearing date will be mailed to the parties by the court clerk. The hearing is held before a judge with the landlord given the opportunity to explain the reasons for the eviction and the tenant to offer any defenses.
Some Montana courts require mediation of any landlord-tenant disputes before the hearing is held. All parties must attend and meet with a mediator who will see if there are grounds for a settlement without a court appearance.
Otherwise, at the hearing the landlord has the burden of proving that he or she properly terminated your tenancy before filing the summons and complaint, meaning that appropriate and sufficient notice was given and there is a valid reason for the eviction. A tenant has the opportunity to present witnesses and documentary evidence in defense.
Defenses to Eviction
A tenant may offer a defense at the hearing. Some of the more common defenses include:
- Retaliation for exercising rights under the law such as filing a complaint against the landlord or joining a tenant’s union.
- The eviction is for a discriminatory reason such as pregnancy, race, religion, sexual orientation, age, national origin, sex or disability. If the tenant is disabled, the landlord must have attempted to provide a reasonable accommodation so the tenant could live on the property.
- Breach of warranty of habitability. A rental property must be safe and free of hazards. This includes keeping the electrical, plumbing, heating, running water and other facilities in safe working condition. The tenant must have alerted the landlord to the unsafe or inhabitable situation who refused to fix or remedy the hazard.
- Eviction for a reason not specified in the lease.
Writ of Assistance
Should the landlord prevail, the court will order the tenant to vacate the property within a set time. If the court determines that the tenant stayed beyond the rental term in bad faith, it can order the tenant to pay damages of up to 3 times the rent or the landlord’s costs and legal expenses, whichever is higher.
If the tenant refuses to vacate, a Writ of Assistance is issued and the Sheriff is directed to remove the tenant from the property and to place his or her personal items in storage at the tenant’s expense.
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