Montana Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Montana Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Last Updated: June 11, 2024 by Roberto Valenzuela

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions Unpaid rent, utilities and late fees

Costs of damage

Cleaning costs

Charges outlined in lease

Return Deadline 10 or 30 days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return 2x Amount Due + Court Costs + Attorneys’ Fees

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Montana, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in Montana

In Montana, the following can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent, utilities, and late fees
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
  • Cleaning costs including labor
  • Other charges as outlined in the lease

Most states, such as Montana, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear and Tear in Montana?

“Normal Wear and Tear” is not defined by Montana law, but is generally understood to mean deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it was designed to be used.

Examples include:

  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

Damage” is defined as “any and all tangible loss, injury, or deterioration of a leasehold premises caused by the willful or accidental acts of the tenant occupying the leasehold premises or by the tenant’s family, licensees, or invitees, as well as any and all tangible loss, injury, or deterioration resulting from the tenant’s omissions or failure to perform any duty imposed upon the tenant by law with respect to the leasehold.”

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Montana?

Landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.


A carpet that is slightly discolored or gently worn will be considered normal wear and tear. A carpet with visible stains, major discoloration and rips will be considered excessively damaged.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Montana?

Landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures.

However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Montana?

Montana law allows landlords to charge for actual cleaning costs, including labor and materials, limited to bringing the unit back to its original condition at the start of the lease.

However, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing and give them 24 hours to clean the rental unit before deductions can be made.

If the notice is delivered by certified mail, it is considered received 3 days after it is mailed. If a tenant vacates the rental unit without giving proper notice, the landlord is not required to send written notice to the tenant before making deductions for cleaning.

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Montana?

In Montana, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

  • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
  • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

Normal wear includes:

  • Minor scrapes from daily use
  • Fading due to sunlight
  • Minor cracks in the original paint

Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Security Deposit Returns in Montana

Landlords must conduct a final inspection upon request and must return a security deposit no later than 10 days after conditions have been met if there are no deductions. If the landlord intends to make deductions, they must return the security deposit within 30 days.

If the landlord wants to make deductions for cleaning, they must first give the tenant written notice and 24 hours to complete the cleaning themselves to avoid the deductions.

Both tenants and landlords have the right to a final inspection completed upon request within the last week of the lease term.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Montana?

Montana landlords have 10 days to return a security deposit if there are no deductions. If deductions are to be made, the landlord must return the unused portion of the security deposit, if any, within 30 days. The period begins once one of the following has occurred, whichever is earlier:

  • The lease terminates
  • Tenant delivers possession of the property to the landlord

If the landlord has a pending lawsuit against the tenant for actual damages, the regular security deposit return timeframes do not apply.

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Montana?

Unlike in some states, such as New Jersey, landlords in Montana do not owe interest on security deposits.

How Do Landlords Give Notice in Montana?

Written notice must be mailed to the tenant’s forwarding address and must include the amount of the security deposit due, if any, to the tenant, plus an itemized statement of deductions, if any.

If a tenant abandons the rental unit without giving notice, the landlord can simply leave a copy of the notice in the rental unit and notify the tenant by email, phone, or text.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Montana?

Montana law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent.

Landlords can include a provision in the lease agreement that the security deposit cannot be used for the last month’s rent until the tenant vacates the rental unit.

Security Deposit Disputes in Montana

If landlords do not return the security deposit within the required time period, tenants can sue for the amount due plus damages equal to the amount wrongfully withheld plus court costs and attorneys’ fees.

However, if the landlord fails to provide an itemized statement when deductions are made, the tenant can recover the full security deposit.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for unreasonable deductions.

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Montana?

If a landlord fails to return the security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in Small Claims Court if the amount of damages is less than $7,000. If the amount is greater, the tenant can file a regular civil case in Justice Court.

A small claims case must be filed within 5 or 8 years depending on whether the lease agreement was oral or written. An attorney is not required or allowed unless all parties are represented by an attorney. Cases are filed in the Small Claims Court where the defendant lives or can be served. The filing fee is $30.