Montana Eviction Process
November 2, 2023
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Eviction In Montana
If you own and rent properties in the state of Montana, you are responsible for complying with Montana eviction laws. In this article, we break down each step of the legal eviction process in Montana.
Montana’s eviction laws can be found at MCA § 70-27-101 to 70-27-212.
Eviction Process in Montana
- Landlord serves a three- to 14-day eviction notice.
- Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court.
- Court serves tenant a summons.
- Tenant files an answer.
- Landlord and tenant attend court hearing and receive judgment.
- Writ of restitution/execution is issued.
- Tenant moves out or sheriff returns to forcibly remove them.
According to Montana tenant landlord laws, tenants can be evicted for failing to pay rent, keeping unauthorized pets or residents in the rental unit, verbally abusing the landlord, violating another term of the lease, repeat violations, destroying/damaging the property, or posing a threat to other people or property.
1. Landlord Serves a Three- to 14-Day Eviction Notice
If any of the above lease violations occur, the landlord must first serve an eviction notice in Montana and state that the tenant has the appropriate number of days to remedy or cure the violation. There are five possible eviction notices a landlord may send in Montana:
- Rent Demand Notice: 3 days to pay or quit. If rent is unpaid when due, the landlord must deliver this notice stating the amount of unpaid rent required to remedy the breach and the date on which the lease will terminate if it is not paid (not less than three days after receipt of the notice) (MCA § 70-24-422(2)).
- Lease Violation Notice (Unauthorized pets/residents, verbal abuse): 3 days to cure or quit. If a tenant has an unauthorized pet or resident living in the unit or commits verbal abuse towards the landlord, the landlord should send a notice stating the breach and the date the lease will terminate if the breach is not fixed (MCA § 70-24-422(1(b, c, f))).
- Lease Violation Notice: 14 days to cure or quit. If a tenant violates a different lease term, the landlord must deliver this notice stating the breach the date on which the lease will terminate (not less than ten days after receipt of the notice). If the breach is remediable by repairs, payment of damages, or written approval of the landlord, the tenant should be given a chance to remedy the noncompliance before the lease terminates (MCA § 70-24-422(1)(a)).
- Repeated Lease Violations: 5 days to quit. If the tenant commits substantially the same violation within six months, the landlord should send this notice stating the violation and terminating the rental agreement after five days’ written notice (MCA § 70-24-422(1)(e)).
- Unconditional Notice to Quit: 3 days to quit. This notice gives no opportunity to “cure” the violation and applies if the tenant destroys, defaces, damages, impairs, or removes any part of the premises, or creates a reasonable potential that the premises could be damaged or neighboring tenants injured (MCA § 70-24-422(3-4)).
All Montana eviction notices must be served in one of the following manners as per MCA § 70-27-110:
- Personal delivery to the tenant
- If the tenant is not home, by leaving a copy of the notice with a person of suitable age and discretion at the premises AND mailing a copy
- If none of the above methods are available, by posting a copy in a conspicuous place on the premises AND delivering a copy to any person there if someone can be found AND mailing a copy
For all evictions, the landlord may recover actual damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.
2. Landlord Files an Eviction Lawsuit with the Court
The next step in the Montana eviction process is filing a complaint in court. If the tenant has not cured the breach by the end of the notice period (or if the violation is uncurable and the notice period expires), the landlord can then file a Complaint for Possession (the eviction lawsuit) in Montana District or Justice’s Court of the county where the property is located (MCA § 70-27-101(2)). A copy of the Complaint and Summons may be downloaded here, under “Action for Possession Packet.”
In addition to other information, the complaint includes:
- The basis or reason for the eviction
- A description/address of the premises
- Any circumstances of fraud, force, or violence that accompanied the forcible entry/unlawful detainer
- The amount of rent due, if any
The landlord will also need to pay a filing fee, which varies depending on the court. In Montana District Courts, the fee is $90 (MCA § 25-1-201(1)(a)).
3. Court Serves Tenant a Summons
After the complaint is filed, the court will issue a summons (MCA § 70-27-113(2)). The summons includes:
- The names of all parties
- The name of the court
- The time and date of the hearing
- The nature of the action (eviction) and the relief sought
- A notification that the tenant should appear and answer in court within ten days of service
- A warning that if the tenant fails to appear, the relief sought will be taken against the tenant
Hearings scheduled in justice’s court must be held within ten days after the appearance/answer date stated in the summons. This means the hearing could be held up to 20 days after the summons is served, or longer if the tenant applies for a continuance and submits a bond to the court including all damages and rent (MCA § 70-27-202(1)).
Montana eviction law designates that the summons must be served to the tenant with a copy of the complaint by a sheriff or other person authorized to serve process in the typical manner for civil actions. It should be served personally to the tenant, or if they cannot be found, it should be served in one of the options listed above for delivery of eviction notices (MCA § 70-27-114).
4. Tenant Files an Answer
In Montana, a tenant who has been served a court summons must appear to file a written answer. An answer is a document explaining any defenses the tenant has against the eviction or their belief that the landlord’s case is invalid and why. Tenants must appear to submit this answer within ten days of receiving the summons. If they do not, the court will enter a default judgment in favor of the landlord and the tenant will be evicted (MCA § 70-27-117).
5. Landlord and Tenant Attend Court Hearing and Receive Judgment
On the day of the eviction hearing, the landlord should bring copies of the lease agreement, the eviction notice with proof of service, the complaint, and any evidence of the lease violation. Both the landlord and tenant will present their cases and any evidence to the judge, who will afterwards issue a judgment. Additionally, if an issue of fact is brought up (a disagreement about the facts of the case), the case must be tried by a jury, unless the court waives the requirement (MCA § 70-27-201).
If the judge/jury rules in the landlord’s favor, a judgment for the landlord’s restitution of the premises will be entered. Additionally, if the landlord claimed monetary damages (e.g., for unpaid rent or property damage), the tenant will be required to pay three times that amount (MCA § 70-27-205(2), § 70-27-206).
6. Writ of Restitution/Execution is Issued
For evictions due to nonpayment, the court must wait five days to issue an execution of the judgment. The tenant can pay the amount of rent/damages due with interest within those five days to avoid being evicted and keep possession; if they do not, the eviction will proceed. For all other evictions, the judgment can be enforced immediately (MCA § 70-27-205(3)).
7. Tenant Moves Out or Sheriff Returns to Forcibly Remove the Tenant
After the execution is issued, it can be enforced at any time. Montana law does not state that tenants have any specific final notice period after the writ is posted by the sheriff at the rental property. Tenants may have a few hours to a few days to move out depending on how busy the sheriff’s office is, but they should generally expect to move out immediately after the execution is issued.
Evicting a Squatter in Montana
A squatter is a person who moves into a vacant or abandoned property without getting permission from the owner or paying rent. Squatters can usually be charged as criminal trespassers and be evicted like any other tenant. However, some squatters can receive the right to possession by meeting certain state-determined criteria. In Montana, squatters must have lived in the property and paid property taxes for five continuous years to invoke Montana squatters rights and claim right of possession (MRC § 70-19-401, § 70-19-411). Their possession must also meet the following criteria to have squatters rights in Montana:
- Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease with the owner
- Actual—The squatter must be actively residing on the property
- Open and Notorious—The squatter is openly and obviously living there.
- Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else.
- Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession.
While relatively rare, if a squatter meets all these criteria, they have “color of title”: the right of legal ownership without having a written deed to the property. They can file an action for adverse possession in Montana to legally obtain the title to the property. However, in most cases, a squatter will not meet the criteria and can be removed. If you think a squatter is living in your vacant property in Montana, you should:
- Call local law enforcement.
- Determine whether the person is a trespasser or a squatter.
- If the person is a trespasser, they can be removed immediately by a police officer.
- If the person is a squatter, you must contact the sheriff’s office.
- Send the squatter an eviction notice as per Montana eviction law.
- If the squatter does not vacate the premises by the end of the notice period, file for eviction and follow the typical eviction process.
- Only the sheriff can physically remove a squatter from your property. You cannot do so, and neither can a police officer.
Montana Eviction Cost Estimates
This chart shows estimates of the approximate cost of an eviction in Montana, according to civil procedure in the state and iPropertyManagement. A highly accurate estimate of an eviction is impossible to provide, as cases and circumstances vary so widely. Remember to factor in other losses due to an eviction as well, such as lost rent, time, and stress.
|Action||Approximate Cost (District Court)||Approximate Cost (Justice’s Court)|
|Filing fee||$90||Varies by county|
|Service of court summons by sheriff||$5+||$5+|
|Issuance/service of writ of possession by sheriff||$5+||$5+|
|Average locksmith fees||$160||$160|
|Storage fees for abandoned property||Varies||Varies|
|Tenant turnover costs||Varies||Varies|
Montana Eviction Time Estimates
The chart below shows an estimate of the duration of each part of the Montana eviction process. Keep in mind that the length of eviction cases varies widely depending on the complexity of the eviction, the court’s current caseload, and whether or not the tenant contests or appeals the lawsuit.
|Eviction notice period||3-15 days|
|Tenant appearance/answer period||10 days|
|Eviction hearing||10 days after appearance/answer date|
|Issuance of execution (nonpayment)||5 days|
|Time to quit after writ is posted||Unspecified|
|Total||1 –2 months|
- Action for Possession Packet (Complaint and Summons)
- Notice to Vacate
- Writ of Assistance (Residential)
- Montana District Courts Civil Fee Schedule – This document lists the various court costs in Montana District Courts.
The eviction process in any state can be long and complex, so hiring an eviction attorney is advised in most cases. It’s also important to note that municipalities and local governments often have stricter laws and requirements for landlords, so be sure to check local statutes as well as state ones. However, by reviewing the legal procedures and Montana laws on eviction, you can feel more confident pursuing an eviction in this state.
Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information.