Montana
Eviction Process

The CDC issued a halt on evictions until Dec. 31 for qualifying renters. Click here

Timeline. Evicting a tenant in Montana can take around 3-8 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

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/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 3 days in order to avoid eviction.

However, landlords may choose to give month-to-month tenants 30 days’ written notice instead.

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.

Eviction Process for Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement

A tenant can be evicted in Montana if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of a written lease/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.

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

If tenants cause excessive property damage, landlords are also required to provide them with 3 days written notice, giving tenants the opportunity to correct the issue in order to avoid eviction.

For all other lease violations, landlords are required to provide tenants with a 14-Day Notice to Comply giving tenants 14 days to correct the violation or move out of the rental unit in order to avoid eviction.

However, landlords may choose to give month-to-month tenants 30 days’ written notice instead.

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

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

Eviction Process for No Lease / End of Lease

In the state of Montana, if tenants “hold over,” 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.

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

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/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.

However, landlords may choose to give month-to-month tenants 30 days’ written notice instead.

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

Eviction Process for Illegal Activity

Tenants who are involved in illegal activity must be given 3 days’ notice before the landlord can proceed with an eviction action.

In Montana, illegal activity includes :

  • Criminal production/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

However, landlords may choose to give month-to-month tenants 30 days’ written notice instead.

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

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

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. In Missoula County, this costs $50 in filing fees.

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.

5 days. For evictions heard in the county court, the summons must be served at least 5 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.

10 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 5 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 5 days of the hearing.

If the tenant chooses to appeal, the appeal hearing must be held within 5 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.

5-14 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.

Montana state law doesn’t specify how quickly the writ must be issued after the judgment in the landlord’s favor.

A 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, just in case.

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.

A 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.

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

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. With that being said, 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.

Flowchart of Montana Eviction Process

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.