In Montana, a rental agreement is valid when a person pays rent in exchange for living at a property. According to Montana law, (Montana Code Tit. 70 Ch. 24) this relationship automatically gives rights to the tenants, such as the right to a habitable dwelling and the right to due process before eviction.
Landlords have rights too, including the right to collect rent in a timely manner and the right to evict tenants due to any violations to the lease.
Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.
Landlord Responsibilities in Montana
In Montana, landlords are required to keep rented units in a safe and habitable condition and perform requested repairs in a timely manner (14 days). If they do not, the tenants have the right to take at least one form of alternative action: They can make the repairs and deduct the cost from rent.
Here is a list of essential amenities that landlords are or are not responsible for.
|Carbon monoxide detectors||Yes|
Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants in retaliation for exercising their housing rights.
Tenant Responsibilities in Montana
Apart from paying rent in a timely manner and abiding by the terms of the lease, Montana tenants must:
- Keep the unit in a safe and habitable condition
- Remove garbage and keep fixtures clean
- Make small repairs and minor maintenance
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors
Evictions in Montana
Landlords in Montana may evict tenants for any of the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent, then the landlord may issue a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit after any applicable grace period. If the tenant still does not pay then the landlord may begin eviction proceedings.
- Lease violation – In the case of a lease violation, the landlord may issue a Notice to Cure or Quit. Landlords may choose how much time the notice gives tenants to 1, 3, or 14 days, depending on the severity of the infraction. Landlords only have to give a 5-Day notice for repeated infractions.
- Illegal acts – Montana landlords have broad authority to determine which types of illegal activities warrant eviction. The landlord may issue a 5-Day Unconditional Notice to Quit. If the tenant does not vacate the premises, then the landlord can file for eviction.
At-will tenants are entitled to receive notice proportional to how often they pay rent. Week-to-week and month-to-month tenants must receive at least 7 days and 30 days’ notice, respectively.
Montana landlords are not permitted to evict tenants in retaliation or as a form of discrimination.
Security Deposits in Montana
- Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – None.
- Time Limit for Returns – 30 days.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a landlord wrongfully withholds rent, then they may be required to pay up to twice to original values as a penalty.
- Allowable Deductions – Missed rental payments, repairs for damages that exceed wear and tear.
Lease Termination in Montana
Notice requirements. Tenants on a periodic lease in Montana who wish to break lease must give the following amounts of advanced notice.
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Needed|
Early termination. Montana tenants may legally break a lease early for the following reasons.
- Early termination clause
- Active military duty
- Uninhabitable unit
- Landlord harassment
Montana tenants who break a lease early may still be required to pay out the remainder of the term. Landlords are legally obligated to facilitate the re-renting process.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Montana
- Rent control. Rent control policies are neither enforced nor preempted by Montana law. As such, landlords can charge whatever they want for rent, although rent control policies may be instituted in the future.
- Rental increases. Landlords in Montana are not limited in how much they can raise rental prices and they are not required to give notice or justification for hiking rental rates unless that is included in the lease agreement.
- Rent-related fees. The state does not limit late fees but there is a $30 return check fee limit.
Housing Discrimination in Montana
Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex, or disability. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes owned by religious organizations. Montana has further protections based on age and marital status.
Discriminatory acts & penalties. An outside organization known as Montana Fair Housing handles cases relating to housing regulations and discrimination. The following behaviors have been highlighted as potentially discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected class:
- Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
- Offering different terms, conditions, or privileges
- Falsely denying unit availability
- Blockbusting or steering
- Refusing to provide certain financial services
- Discriminating the appraisal of property
- Advertisements that show a preference for one group over another
Montana tenants have 180 days to report potential acts of discrimination through the Montana Fair Housing’s website. It is unclear what kind of penalties landlords face for discrimination.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Montana
Landlord Right to Entry in Montana
Landlords in Montana must give at least 24 hours notice before entering a property although these provisions can be increased (not decreased) by a lease agreement. Landlords are not required to give entry notice in cases of emergencies.
Small Claims Court in Montana
Montana small claims court will handle rent-related disputes totaling up to $7,000 and the court will hear eviction cases. Oral and written contracts have a 3 and 5-year statute of limitations, respectively.
Mandatory Disclosures in Montana
Montana landlords are required to make 2 mandatory disclosures:
- Lead-based paint. For homes built before 1978, landlords must provide information about lead paint concentrations.
- Authorized agents. Landlords must also provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
Changing the Locks in Montana
Montana law forbids tenants from changing the locks without the landlord’s permission. Similarly, landlords are unable to unilaterally change the locks on tenants. Thus, both parties must get permission from each other if they wish to change the locks.
Montana Landlord-Tenant Resources
In addition, check your local county and municipality for additional landlord tenant regulations. To learn more, please refer to the below digital resources.
Montana Small Claims Court – This consumer-friendly primer on Montana’s small claims court system can help you understand this judicial system beyond its bare-bones requirements. This primer includes a glossary of terms landlords and tenants alike should know before filing a case.
Housing Authorities and Tribal Housing Authorities in Montana – This collection of contact info for all of Montana’s local housing authorities can make it easier for landlords and tenants alike to get the support they need. This list includes information on tribal housing authorities, which are more knowledgeable when it comes to the ways specific reservation housing laws differ from that of the state at large.
Landlords and Tenants in Montana – This primer on landlord and tenant responsibilities in Montana includes several useful legal applications based upon the state’s legal precedents. This includes a glossary of words regularly used in lease agreements that new tenants may not be familiar with.