Montana Eviction Process

Montana Eviction Process

Last Updated: August 30, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

Steps of the eviction process in Montana:

  1. Landlord serves tenant written notice.
  2. Landlord files complaint with court (if unresolved).
  3. Answer is filed.
  4. Court holds hearing issues judgment.
  5. Writ of possession is issued.
  6. Possession of property is returned to landlord.

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.

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

Grounds for an Eviction in Montana

In Montana, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause. Legal grounds to evict include not paying rent on time, staying after the lease ends, violating lease terms or illegal activity. Even so, proper notice must first be given before ending the tenancy.

Grounds Notice Period Curable?
Nonpayment of Rent 3 Days Yes
End of / No Lease 30 Days No
Lease Violation 3/5/14 Days Maybe
Illegal Activity 3 Days No

Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent

In Montana, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. To do so, they must first give 3 days’  notice to pay rent or vacate the premises. If the tenant does neither after that time, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.

Unless the lease states otherwise, rent is due at the beginning of each pay period and is considered late in Montana the day immediately after its due date. So for example, if rent is due on the first of the month, it is considered late starting on the second of the month (if not paid in full). There is no right to a legal grace period (i.e., five days) or exceptions for weekends or court-observed holidays.

Once rent is considered late, the landlord can begin the eviction process by serving the tenant with proper notice.

Eviction for No Lease or End of Lease

In Montana, a landlord can evict a tenant without a lease or with a lease that has ended (known as a “holdover tenant” or “tenant at will”). To do so, they must first terminate the tenancy by giving proper notice to move out (30 days for tenants that pay month-to-month).

Once the tenancy ends, if the tenant remains on the property, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.

Eviction for Violation of Lease or Responsibilities

In Montana, a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the terms of their lease or not upholding their responsibilities under Montana landlord-tenant law. Some violations allow the tenant to fix (“cure”) the issue to avoid removal and other violations do not allow the tenant to fix the issue (“incurable”) and the tenant must move out.

If the issue is curable the landlord can give 3 days’ notice to fix the issue or move out before proceeding with an eviction and if the issue is incurable the landlord must give 3 days’ notice to move out without the chance to fix the issue.

Tenant responsibilities include:

  • Complying with building and housing codes.
  • Keeping the premises clean and safe.
  • Disposing garbage and trash in a clean and safe manner.
  • Using all appliances and facilities in a reasonable manner.
  • Not disturbing neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
  • Using the premises in a reasonable manner.

Curable Violations

For more minor offenses, the tenant is given the opportunity to fix the issue and remain at the property. A landlord can provide a 3 days’ notice to fix the issue or move out.

Examples of curable violations include:

  • Unauthorized pets.
  • Unauthorized guests.

Incurable Violations

For more serious offenses, the tenant isn’t given the opportunity to fix the issue and remain at the property. For incurable violations, a landlord must provide a 3 days’ notice to move out.

Examples of incurable violations include:

  • Creating a reasonable threat of damage or destruction to the rental property.
  • Verbally abusing the landlord.
  • Causing excessive property damage.

If a violation is not listed above, the landlord can provide the tenant with a 14 days’ notice to fix the issue or move out.

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 days’ notice to vacate without the chance to cure the issue.

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

Eviction for Illegal Activity

In Montana, a landlord can evict a tenant for an illegal activity. To do so, they must first give 3 days’ notice to vacate. Tenants are not allowed to fix the issue (“incurable”) and must move out. 

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.

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

warning

Illegal Evictions in Montana

In Montana, any of the below is illegal. If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant up to three months’ periodic rent or triple the amount of actual damages sustained, whichever is greater.

“Self-Help” Evictions

No matter the situation, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by:

  • Changing the locks.
  • Shutting off utilities.
  • Removing tenant belongings.

A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.

Retaliatory Evictions

It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant in response to exercising a legally protected right. These rights include:

  • Complaining about health and safety issues to the landlord.
  • Filing a complaint to a government authority.
  • Joining a tenant’s union or organization.

Eviction notice posted on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 1: Landlord Serves Notice to Tenant

A landlord can begin the eviction process in Montana by serving the tenant with written notice. The notice must be delivered by one of the following methods:

  • Giving a copy to the tenant in person.
  • Leaving a copy of the notice with someone of “suitable” age and discretion at the tenant’s residence or workplace if the tenant cannot be found AND mailing a copy to the tenant.
  • Posting a copy of the notice in a conspicuous place at the rental unit if the tenant cannot be found AND mailing a copy to the tenant.

It is important for a landlord to always maintain a copy of the signed and served notice as proof of proper service of notice. 

3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit

If a tenant is late on paying rent (full or partial) in Montana, the landlord can serve them a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. This notice gives the tenant 3 calendar days to pay the entire remaining balance or vacate the premises.

30-Day Notice to Quit

For a tenant with no lease or a month-to-month lease in Montana, the landlord must serve them a 30-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. This eviction notice allows the tenant 30 calendar days to move out.

For tenants that don’t pay monthly, the amount of notice differs:

Rent Payment Frequency Notice Amount
Week-to-Week 7 Days
Month-to-Month 30 Days

If the tenant has a fixed-term lease (a lease with a specific end date), the landlord is not required to give the tenant written notice and must vacate immediately.

3-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate

In Montana, if a tenant violates the terms of their lease (i.e., has unauthorized pets or guests) the landlord can serve them a 3-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This eviction notice gives the tenant 3 calendar days to fix the issue or move out.

3-Day Notice to Quit

In Montana, if a tenant commits an illegal activity or violates the terms of their lease (i.e., threatening to damage/destroy the premises, or verbally abusing the landlord) the landlord can serve them a 3-Day Notice to Quit. This eviction notice gives the tenant 3 calendar days to move out without the chance to fix the issue.

14-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate

In Montana, for all other lease violations, the landlord can serve them a 14-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This eviction notice gives the tenant 14 calendar days to fix the issue or move out.

5-Day Notice to Quit

In Montana, if a tenant commits the same lease violation within a six-month timeframe, the landlord can serve them a 5-Day Notice to Quit. This eviction notice gives the tenant 5 calendar days to move out without the chance to fix the issue.

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

Eviction Complaint Filed on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 2: Landlord Files Lawsuit with Court

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.com5 days. For evictions heard in the county court, the summons must be served at least five days prior to the return date.

Eviction Answer Filed on iPropertyManagement.com

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.

Eviction Court Hearing on iPropertyManagement.com

Step 4: Court Holds Hearing & Issues 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.

Eviction Writ of Possession on iPropertyManagement.com

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. 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.

Eviction property possession returned on iPropertyManagement.com

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.

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

Montana Eviction Process Timeline

In Montana, an eviction can be completed in 3 to 8 weeks but can take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, which days courts are (or aren’t) in session and other various possible delays.

Below are the parts of the Montana eviction process outside the control of landlords for cases that go uncontested.

Step Estimated Time
Initial Notice Period 5-30 Calendar Days
Court Issuing/Serving Summons 3-21 Business Days
Tenant Response Period 10 Business Days
Court Ruling 5-14 Business Days
Court Serving Writ of Possession ~1-5 Business Days
Final Notice Period ~ 1-3 Business Days

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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