Legal FAQs for Renters in Montana

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information.

This page was last updated on Aug 26th, 2022. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

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Emergency Protections during COVID

Emergency Protections during COVID


Are there any special protections for renters during the emergency? How long do they last?

Montana's statewide emergency protections for renters have expired.

Landlords may now try to sue tenants to evict them. If you are worried about an eviction, reach out as soon as possible to your local legal aid group. The lawyers may be able to help you find protections and services to deal with your eviction.

Earlier Protections

Earlier, Governor Bullock had issued an Eviction Moratorium through May 24, 2020 that stopped landlords from evicting renters who cannot pay their rent based on COVID-19 related hardships or who must quarantine.

This order also stopped utilities from shutting off services based on nonpayment. This order went into effect on March 30, 2020 and lasted through May 24, 2020 for most people.

Vulnerable people also had additional protections. People in a vulnerable population (like those over 65, with high blood pressure, or compromised immune systems) and people who must remain sheltered-in-place are protected against eviction for at least 30 days after they stop sheltering in place, or for 30 days after the state's emergency period ended in June 2021. Members of a vulnerable population or those who must remain sheltered-in-place must inform their landlord.

Check the Governor's Coronavirus Task Force page to see if there are any extensions to the end date.

What do the protections mean for Montana renters?

Since most emergency protections have expired, then in Montana:

  • Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit.
  • Your landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against you.
  • The court may allow the eviction trial to move forward.
  • The court can still issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
  • Law enforcement can enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.
  • Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?

    Yes, Montana renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.

    You may have been protected from eviction, but now that those protections are over, you may be sued and you still owe all your rent.

    If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

    • Apply for rent help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs like rent or utility bills, you may be able to get help.
    • Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
    • Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
    • Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
    Can my landlord evict me during the emergency?

    Montana landlords can sue tenants for eviction since the statewide protections ended.

    If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.

    Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency?

    Utilities may be shut off in Montana again. Emergency protections have expired.

    During the emergency period through June 2021, Montana renters had been protected from utility shutoffs and late fee charges if they cannot pay their utility bill.

    Governor Bullock ordered that no customer will have home utilities shut off during the emergency, based on an inability to pay.

    Also, the utility companies will not be allowed to charge any penalties, late fees, or interest for unpaid utility bills during the emergency. These protections have been extended through May 24, 2020. They may be extended further, check here for more updates.

    Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.

    Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.

    What if I need repairs?

    Tell your landlord about any repairs needed, particularly if they affect your health and safety.

    The emergency may delay your landlord's ability to make repairs, but if they are urgent you should call your landlord to make the repairs as soon as possible.

    Emergency repairs could be for problems with:

    • Running water or hot water
    • Heat
    • Stove, refrigerator, or oven
    • Electricity
    • Bathroom use
    • Missing doors, locks, or windows
    • Pests

    If your landlord doesn't make the repairs promptly, send them a written letter or email about the need for emergency repairs (and keep a copy of this communication).

    Reach out to legal help for additional guidance. You may also be able to file a court case to get your landlord to make the repairs.

    Can I break my lease?

    You may be able to break your lease if you can come to an agreement with your landlord.

    Your lease is still valid despite the emergency period.

    However, you can talk to your landlord to see if they will agree to let you leave early. If they agree, be sure to get the agreement in writing.

    Also, you can review your lease. It may have a part that lets you end the lease early in times of financial difficulty. If your lease has this kind of part, you might be able to break the lease (in some cases penalty-free).

    Find legal help to get advice for your situation.

    What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me in Montana?

    Contact a legal help organization to help defend yourself.

    It is illegal for your landlord to evict you without first going to court and getting an eviction order. To remove you from your home, a landlord must take you to court by filing an eviction lawsuit, win the case, and getting an eviction order from the court.

    Legal aid groups might be able to provide you with full representation, or other legal organizations can give you information or brief advice.

    Find legal help to protect your rights.

    Are eviction cases still proceeding through court?

    Yes, eviction cases are still proceeding through Montana courts, though they may be held remotely rather than in person.

    Check with the Montana state courts to find updates on court proceedings.

    Did I have eviction protections under the CARES Act?

    Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.

    Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?

    Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.
    You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.
    You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.

    If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)

    • Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
    • Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
    • After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.

    For more help on these national protections, reach out for legal and financial help here. Also, use this tool to write a letter to your landlord if you are having issues with rent or eviction.

    Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?

    Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?


    My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home. What should I do?

    You may not have to leave your home. Consider your options. Talk to your landlord to try to resolve the issue. Propose a solution. Communication is important. Most landlords prefer to avoid the hassle of an eviction lawsuit, if possible. If you propose a good option, your landlord may agree.

    In Montana, your landlord must give you a notice of termination of your rental agreement before they may bring you to court to evict you for not paying your rent (or other reasons). The notice should give you time to either pay your rent, remedy any violation, prepare defenses against eviction, or move.

    The landlord’s notice must follow some rules to be valid. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it and you may be able to stop an eviction.

    These are Montana’s requirements for an eviction notice:

    1. The notice must be written down (text messages and emails are valid).
    2. It must explain why you may be evicted -- whether it is for non-payment of rent, a lease violation, or other reason. (But, if you’re a month-to-month tenant, your landlord doesn’t have to have a reason. You can be evicted for no reason, on 30 days’ notice.)
    3. The notice can be hand-delivered or mailed. Montana law may also allow a landlord to orally give the tenant ‘notice.’

    Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction.

    Find local legal help in Montana here.

    What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home in Montana?

    A verbal conversation doesn't usually count as an "eviction notice" in Montana. To be legal, the notice should be written down and given to you in the correct way (by mail or hand-delivery). But the law also says that if you have “actual” knowledge of the landlord’s request that you move out, such as from a verbal conversation, that may be sufficient notice.

    Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself.

    Find local legal help in Montana here.

    Do I have to leave my home in Montana by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date?

    No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the eviction notice. But if you don’t have good defenses to the eviction it might be best to leave.

    You do not have to leave your home until after your landlord files an eviction lawsuit against you, and wins. If that happens, the judge will order that you move out by a certain date.

    After the date on the landlord’s termination notice passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. If you file a written answer to the eviction lawsuit with the court, you will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself. After the hearing, it will be up to the judge to decide whether you have to move.

    Beware! There are risks to staying past the date on the eviction notice. If your landlord ends up winning the eviction lawsuit, the judge could order you to pay the landlord’s attorney fees and other money. Also, a court eviction judgment against you is public record. That eviction judgment could make it harder for you to find a rental in the future.

    Find local legal help in Montana here.

    My eviction notice says that I will be evicted unless I pay back-rent I owe in Montana. What if I can't afford to pay it?

    Try your best to get the rent paid within the deadline given. If you pay it by the deadline in the landlord’s termination notice, then the landlord cannot file an eviction lawsuit against you.

    Be sure to let the local group know that you have received an eviction notice and what its deadline is. They may be able to help you pay the rent you owe, or work with your landlord to reduce the amount or put you on a payment plan.

    Find local financial help in Montana here.

    How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in Montana?

    In Montana, you have a minimum of 3 days between your landlord giving you a notice and them filing a lawsuit against you in court to evict you.

    The notice should tell you how many days the landlord is giving you. If they are giving you less than 3 days, then you may be able to challenge it as illegal.

    Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't giving you the required time to make your payment.

    Find local legal help in Montana here.

    Facing an Eviction Lawsuit?

    Facing an Eviction Lawsuit?


    My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in Montana. What should I do?

    You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit. In Montana, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:

    1. Only certain people can give you the lawsuit's Summons and Complaint. A sheriff’s deputy or other adult must personally deliver to you the Summons and Complaint.

    You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction.

    Find local legal help in Montana here.

    Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Summons and Complaint in Montana?

    Yes. In Montana, you are required to file a written answer with the court, to respond to the eviction lawsuit, if you want to avoid the eviction. You also have to provide a copy of your written answer to your landlord or to the landlord’s attorney (if the landlord is represented).

    You will have 10 business days after you receive the Summons and Complaint to file your written answer with the court. (You don’t count Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays that fall within the 10 days.) If you do not submit this response to the court by the 10th day, you will lose the right to defend yourself in court, and you will be evicted. If an answer is filed denying the allegations, a hearing will be held within 14 days of filing the answer. If you cannot afford to pay the $30 filing fee to the court to file your written answer, ask the court clerk for the fee waiver request form to fill out. You can also find the fee waiver form here.

    Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit.

    Find local legal help in Montana here.

    Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in Montana?

    You can come to an agreement with your landlord anytime before the court hearing, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed.

    You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.

    Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.

    Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen.

    You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed.

    Find local legal help in Montana here.

    Behind on Rent?

    Behind on Rent?


    Who can help me with rent that I owe?

    If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.

    Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.

    Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.

    Am I eligible for rent relief?

    Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships.

    You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules.

    You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP.

    You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance.

    Check with your local Rental Assistance program to see if you are eligible.

    Does immigration status matter for rent relief?

    Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.

    Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration.

    Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?

    Most Rental Assistance programs let landlords apply.

    Either a renter or a landlord can start the application.

    The landlord will have to fill in as much information they have about the amount of money needed, and the eligibility for the program. The tenant may have to fill in the rest of the information.

    Check with your local Rental Assistance program about the steps to follow to apply for rent relief.

    Get Help From Local Groups

    State information is taken from these sources:Montana Governor's orderMontana Emergency Housing AssistanceMontana Law HelpPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect Tracker

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