When Is It Illegal for Landlords to Retaliate in Montana?
It’s illegal for Montana landlords to retaliate withraised rent,reduced services,orthreatened evictionagainst tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions in the past six months:
Complaining to the landlord or the government about failure to maintain the property.
Participating in a tenant organization.
Pursuing rights or remedies given by the law or lease.
The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord can evict a tenant who is damaging the property, even if the tenant reports the damage to code compliance authorities.
What Can Tenants Do in Response in Montana?
Montana tenants can respond to landlord retaliation bysuing for quiet enjoyment of the property.The tenant might also end the rental agreement. In either case, the tenant can recover court costs and attorney fees, plus either triple the monthly rent or triple the costs associated with the retaliation (whichever is greater).
“(1) Except as provided in this section, a landlord may not retaliate by increasing rent, by decreasing services, or by bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession after the tenant: (a) has complained of a violation applicable to the premises materially affecting health and safety to a governmental agency charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building or housing code; (b) has complained to the landlord in writing of a violation under 70-24-303 [legal duties of landlord to the tenant]; or (c) has organized or become a member of a tenant’s union or similar organization. “(2) If the landlord acts in violation of subsection (1) of this section, the tenant is entitled to the remedies provided in 70-24-411 [recover possession, recover greater of 3x rent/damages] and has a defense in any retaliatory action against the tenant for possession.”
“In an action by or against the tenant, evidence of a complaint within 6 months before the alleged act of retaliation creates a rebuttable presumption that the landlord’s conduct was in retaliation. The presumption does not arise if the tenant made the complaint after notice of a proposed rent increase or diminution of services. For purposes of this section, ‘rebuttable presumption’ means that the trier of fact is required to find the existence of the fact presumed unless and until evidence is introduced that would support a finding of its nonexistence.”
“(4) Subsections (1), (2), and (3) [prohibiting landlord retaliation] do not prevent a landlord from bringing an action for possession if: (a) the violation of the applicable building or housing code was caused primarily by lack of reasonable care by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s family, or any other persons on the premises with the tenant’s consent; (b) the tenant is in default in rent; or (c) compliance with the applicable building or housing code requires alteration, remodeling, or demolition that would effectively deprive the tenant of use of the dwelling unit.”