COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on October 14, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
Its 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
- Are there any special protections for renters during the emergency? How long do they last?
Montana's statewide emergency protections for renters have expired, though some renters may be protected through the national CDC moratorium.
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.
Some Montana renters have additional protections, for a longer period of time. 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 ends. 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.
The governor also started an Emergency Housing Assistance Program to help families who need help paying for rent and security deposits.
- What do the protections mean for Montana renters?
If you do not qualify for national protections, 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.
People in vulnerable conditions or required to shelter-in-place may still have the above protections for 30 days after they stop sheltering-in-place, or 30 days after Montana's emergency period.
In addition, all Montana residents should not have their utilities shut off, even if they cannot pay their utility bills.
You may still be protected against eviction in Montana with the national CDC Eviction Moratorium through Dec. 31, 2020. Read more below to see if you are protected.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?
Yes, Montana renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
You may be protected for eviction based on nonpayment of rent through December 31st if you follow the CDC's National Eviction Moratorium's rules. But you may be sued for eviction after the special protections end, and will still owe all your rent.
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- See if you qualify for the national CDC Eviction Moratorium. If you do qualify, fill in the Declaration form and give it to your landlord. This can help stop the eviction, or give you a defense against it.
- 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.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my landlord evict me during the emergency?
Montana landlords can sue tenants for eviction since the statewide protections ended.
But if you can't pay your rent because of hardships during COVID, you can try to stop the eviction through the national CDC moratorium.
- Montana renters who are vulnerable or are required to shelter-in-place may still be protected against eviction. People who are 'vulnerable individuals' (meaning, over 65 years old or with serious health conditions) and who are sheltering at home will have a longer time of protection from eviction. They will have 30 days of protection from eviction after the state of emergency ends or after they stop sheltering at home (whichever date is sooner).
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?
During the emergency, Montana renters are protected from utility shutoffs and late fee charges if they cannot pay their utility bill.
Governor Bullock ordered that 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.
- Are you eligible for eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.
Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.
Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:
- Rent a home in the United States; AND
- Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
- Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
- Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
- Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
- Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.
If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?
The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through Dec. 31, 2020.
- If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
- You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:
- Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
- After the CDC Moratorium expires on Dec. 31, 2020, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:
- Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
- You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.
How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?
To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:
- Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
- Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
- Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
- Protections through Dec. 31st. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through December 31, 2020. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
- If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
- You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on Dec. 31, 2020, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
- Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.