Montana Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Maintain in good working order all electrical, plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and other facilities, including any elevators (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within 14 days after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenant can have the repairs made and deduct the cost from the rent (read more).
  • Retaliation. If a landlord is reported to state or federal authorities for housing code violations, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate, such as by threatening lease termination (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Montana does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling TypeLandlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single familyYes
Multi-familyYes
Fraternities/Sororities/ClubsNo
RV parksNot specifically addressed
Mobile home parksYes
CondosOnly if person in condo is renter, not owner
Hotels/MotelsNo

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Montana, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability IssueLandlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair.Not addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks.Not addressed
Provide hot and cold running water.Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment.Yes
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting.Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cookingNot addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet).Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services).Yes
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe.Not addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe.Not addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean.Not addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials.Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectorsYes
Provide a mailbox.Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack.Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances.Yes, “if required”
Provide working carbon monoxide detector.Yes
Provide a working washer/dryer.Not addressed

Pests

Montana landlords are required to keep rental units free from vermin and rodents, which includes extermination.

Making Repairs

When something in the rental unit needs to be repaired, the tenant must give written notice to the landlord. The notice must include the complete address of the rental, the name of the owner, and a detailed description of the needed repair. The notice can be delivered either personally or through certified mail with a return receipt from the post office.

    • Sending notice. After receiving the written notice, the landlord must make the necessary repairs within 14 days.
    • Landlord access. Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, a landlord must give tenants 24 hours’ notice unless it’s an emergency, the tenant has abandoned the property, or there’s a court order granting access.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Tenants may not withhold rent to force the landlord to make the necessary repairs and maintain the premises.
  2. Repair and deduct – Tenants have the right to repair and deduct. If the cost of the repair is less than one month’s rent, the tenant may hire a contractor to have the repair made and deduct the repair cost from next month’s rent.
  3. Lawsuit – Tenants also have the option to file a complaint in the Justice Court specifying the necessary repairs, requiring the landlord to have the repairs completed in a timely manner
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – Landlords can be reported to federal or state authorities if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.

Landlord Retaliation

It is illegal for a landlord to terminate the rental agreement, remove property from the unit, increase the rent, or decrease services because the tenant:

  • Filing a complaint to the landlord about habitability issues,
  • Filing a complaint to federal or state authorities about habitability issues, or
  • Joining a tenants’ union or similar organization.

Sources