Montana Eviction Process

Last Updated: October 28, 2021 by Elizabeth Souza

Timeline. Evicting a tenant in Montana can take around three to eight weeks, depending on the eviction type. If tenants file an appeal, the process can take longer (read more).

Questions? To chat with a Montana eviction attorney, Click here

Introduction. A Montana landlord may choose to evict a tenant from the rental property if there is legal reason to do so. Below are the individual steps of the eviction process in Montana.

Step 1: Notice is Posted

Landlords in Montana can begin the eviction process for several reasons, including:

  1. Nonpayment of Rent – Once rent is past due, notice must be served giving the tenant the option to pay rent in order to avoid eviction.
  2. Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement – If a tenant violates a provision of a written lease/rental agreement, the landlord is required to give the tenant the opportunity to correct the issue before moving forward with the eviction process.
  3. No Lease / End of Lease Term (Tenant at Will) – If there is no lease or the term of the lease has ended, the landlord does not need any additional reason to end the tenancy as long as proper notice is given.
  4. Material Health / Safety Violation – If the tenant violates a health, building, safety, or housing code, they must be given the opportunity to fix (“cure”) the issue before the eviction process proceeds further.
  5. Illegal Activity – If a tenant is engaged in illegal activity, the landlord must give them written notice prior to beginning an eviction action.
NOTES
  • Retaliatory Evictions. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for complaining to the landlord or to the appropriate local or government agency regarding the property. It is also illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for joining, supporting, or organizing a tenant organization or union.
  • Evicting a Squatter. If the individual occupying the property did not have the permission of the landlord when initially moving in, does not have a lease (or verbal agreement) and has no history of paying rent, then landlords may file a forcible entry and detainer action after giving the party 5 days’ written notice to vacate (read more).

Each possible ground for eviction has its own rules for how the process starts.

Eviction Process for Nonpayment of Rent

A landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time.

According to Montana law, rent is considered late the day after it’s due; grace periods, if any, are addressed in the lease or rental agreement.

Once rent is past due, the landlord must provide tenants with a 3-Day Notice to Pay if the landlord wants to file an eviction action with the court. This notice gives the tenant the option to pay the past due amount in full within three days in order to avoid eviction.

If the tenant does not pay the rent due by the end of the notice period and remains on the property, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

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Eviction Process for Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement

Icons  document     on iPropertyManagement.com A tenant can be evicted in Montana if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of a written lease or rental agreement.

Montana landlords are required to allow tenants to correct a lease violation in these instances, but the amount of notice required depends on the type of lease violation.

Notice to Cure

  • Unauthorized Pet – If a tenant has a pet when there’s a no pet policy, then landlords must provide a 3-Day Notice to Comply giving the tenant three days to correct or “cure” the issue or move out of the rental unit in order to avoid eviction.
  • Unauthorized People – If a tenant has “unauthorized” people in the rental unit, then landlords must provide a 3-Day Notice to Comply giving the tenant three days to correct or “cure” the issue or move out of the rental unit in order to avoid eviction.

Unconditional Quit Notice

  • Reasonable Threat of Damage or Verbal Abuse – If a tenant creates a reasonable threat of damage or destruction to the rental property or verbally abuses the landlord, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement with a written 3-Day Notice to Quit.
  • Property Damage – If a tenant causes excessive property damage, landlords shall provide the tenants with 3-Day Notice to Quit, which does not give the tenant the opportunity to correct or “cure” the issue and shall vacate the property.

If a violation is not listed then the landlord shall provide the tenant with a 14-Day Notice to Comply. If the tenant commits the same violation within a six-month timeframe, the landlord may terminate the tenancy and provide the tenant with a 5-Day Notice to Quit.

Note that illegal activity and material health and safety violations are not included in this category.

If the tenant fails to correct the issue by the deadline or remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

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Eviction Process for No Lease / End of Lease

In the state of Montana, if tenants “holdover,” or stay in the rental unit after the rental term has expired, then the landlord may be required to give tenants notice before evicting them. This can include tenants without a written lease and week-to-week and month-to-month tenants.

Often this type of eviction applies to tenants who are at the end of their lease and the landlord doesn’t want to renew.

The amount of time required in the notice depends on the type of tenancy.

  • Week-to-Week – If rent is paid on a week-to-week basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 7-Day Notice to Quit.
  • Month-to-Month – If rent is paid on a month-to-month basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
  • Fixed Term Lease – If there is a fixed-term lease (a lease with a specific end date), the landlord is not required to give the tenant written notice.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

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Eviction Process for Material Health / Safety Violation

A tenant can be evicted in Montana if they violate a health, building, safety, or housing code. In these instances, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with a 14-Day Notice to Comply, giving the tenant 14 days to correct the issue in order to avoid eviction.

Examples of material health and safety violations could include letting trash pile up inside the rental unit, providing a harbor for rodents or bugs, or even things like damaging the electrical wiring in the rental unit.

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires without correcting the violation, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

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Eviction Process for Illegal Activity

Tenants who are involved in illegal activity must be given three days’ notice before the landlord can proceed with an eviction action.

In Montana, illegal activity includes:

  • Criminal production or manufacture of dangerous drugs
  • Operation of an unlawful “clandestine” laboratory
  • Gang-related activities
  • Unlawful possession of a firearm, explosive, or toxic hazardous substance
  • Any other illegal activity

If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.

Generate an official Montana lease termination letter.


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Step 2: Complaint is Filed and Served

As the next step in the eviction process, Montana landlords must file a complaint in the appropriate court. Filing fees may vary, for example, in Missoula County, the fees cost $50 .

The summons and complaint may be served on the tenant by a sheriff, deputy, constable, or anyone else over the age of 18 who isn’t part of the case, prior to the eviction hearing through one of the following methods:

  1. Giving a copy to the tenant in person
  2. Mailing a copy to the tenant via first class mail with an acknowledgment

If no acknowledgment of mailing has been received within 20 days, the landlord must choose another method of service authorized under Montana law.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.comFive days. For evictions heard in the county court, the summons must be served at least five days prior to the return date.

Step 3: Answer is Filed

In the state of Montana, tenants are required to file an answer with the court if they want to “contest,” or object to, the eviction hearing.

An answer is a written document the tenant files that explains their reasons for believing the eviction should not take place.

Tenants must file their answer within 10 days of the date they were served with the summons and complaint.

If tenants fail to file an answer within the deadline, the court will issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord, meaning the tenant will have to move out of the rental unit without being able to attend an eviction hearing.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com10 days. Tenants must file their answer within 10 days of the date the summons and complaint were served if they want to attend the eviction hearing.

Step 4: Court Hearing and Judgment

For evictions due to illegal activity, the hearing must be held within five business days of the date the tenant’s answer was due.

For all other evictions, the hearing must be held within 14 days of the date the tenant’s answer was due.

If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, the judicial officer may issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord, meaning the tenant would have to move out.

The judicial officer must make a final decision on the eviction (or “ruling”) within five days of the hearing.

If the tenant chooses to appeal, the appeal hearing must be held within five days of the date the case is transferred to the appeals court for illegal activity evictions, or within 14 days of the date the case is transferred to the appeals court for all other evictions.

If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, either through a default judgment or at an eviction hearing, a writ of possession will be issued and the eviction process will continue.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.com5-14 days, depending on the reason for the eviction. If tenants file an appeal, this will add another 5-14 days to the process.

Step 5: Writ of Possession Is Issued

The writ of possession is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit and gives them the opportunity to remove their belongings before the sheriff returns to the property to forcibly remove the tenant.

If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, the writ of possession will be issued immediately.

Montana state law doesn’t specify how quickly the writ must be issued after the judgment in the landlord’s favor. However, the sheriff shall execute the writ of possession within five business days.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.comA few hours to a few days. The landlord must request the writ of possession, but it can be issued the same day as the hearing, depending on what time of day the hearing was held.

Step 6: Possession of Property is Returned

Montana state law doesn’t specify whether tenants have additional time to move out of the rental unit after the writ of possession has been issued. Tenants should be prepared to move out immediately.

The judicial officer will announce in their ruling how much additional time (if any) the tenant has to move out of the rental unit before law enforcement officers return to forcibly remove the tenant.

Clock   on iPropertyManagement.comA few hours to a few days, depending on whether the judicial officer allows tenants to have additional time to move out after the writ of possession is issued.

Montana Eviction Process Timeline

Below is a summary of the aspects outside of the landlord’s control that dictate the amount of time it takes to evict a tenant in Montana. These estimates can vary greatly, and some time periods may not include weekends or legal holidays.

  1. Initial Notice Period – Between 3 and 30 days, depending on the notice type and reason for eviction.
  2. Issuance/Service of Summons and Complaint – A few days to a few weeks, depending on the service method.
  3. Answer is Filed – Within 10 days of the date the summons is served on the tenant.
  4. Court Hearing and Ruling on the Eviction – 5-14 days, depending on the reason for the eviction; if tenants appeal, this will add another 5-14 days to the process.
  5. Issuance of Writ of Possession – A few hours to a few days.
  6. Return of Possession – A few hours to a few days.
Questions? To chat with a Montana eviction attorney, Click here

Additional Information

Tenant’s Abandoned Personal Property. If the tenant leaves personal property behind after 48 hours after the eviction, the landlord must move any valuable property to a safe location. Any hazardous (i.e. flammable or a biohazardous item), perishable (i.e. items that require refrigeration or have an expiration date) or valueless property (i.e. no resale, except for sentimental items) may be disposed of.

The landlord shall inventory all personal property and may charge a reasonable storage and labor fee. The landlord shall send notification via certified mail to the last known address of the tenant that their personal property has been removed and will be kept in safe place. If a tenant does not claim the items within 10 days after the notification was delivered, the landlord may dispose, destroy or sell the property. If the landlord sells the tenant’s personal property, the funds shall be used for any storage costs, any delinquent rent or for payment of damages owed.

Mobile Home Evictions. The tenant may be evicted from the mobile home lot for several reasons. Below are some examples:

  • The landlord shall provide the tenant with a 24-Hour Notice if there is a violation of a rule that creates an immediate threat to the health and safety of another tenant or the landlord.
  • The landlord shall provide the tenant with a 3-Day Notice if the tenant negligently destroys or removes any part of the premises, creates a reasonable potential that the premises may be damaged or creates a reasonable potential to threaten the neighboring tenant’s physical wellbeing.
  • The landlord shall provide the tenant with a 7-Day Notice for nonpayment of rent, nonpayment of common area, nonpayment of maintenance fees, late charges, or disorderly conduct.
  • The landlord shall provide the tenant with a 14-Day Notice if the tenant fails to be in compliance with any health and safety manners (that is not an immediate threat to others), or if the tenant is convicted of violating a federal or state law.
  • The landlord shall provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice if the tenant commits the same violation within a six-month timeframe.
  • The landlord shall provide the tenant with a 180-Day Notice if there is a change in the use of the mobile park land.

Flowchart of Montana Eviction Process

Montana Eviction Process Flowchart on iPropertyManagement.com

For additional questions about the eviction process in Montana, please refer to the official legislation, Montana Annotated Code §§70-24-401 to 70-24-442, §§70-24-301 to 70-24-322, and the Montana Justice and City Court Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4, for more information.

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