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Montana Property Management Laws

Landlord-tenant laws can be complex and may change depending on the state and region of the property location. In Montana, it is crucial for property owners and managers to understand the rights and obligations of a landlord to ensure the highest rate of return on a rental investment property. All residential real estate may fall under the same set of statutes, but commercial leases are often separate.

The following guide offers an overview of many of the most common circumstances facing landlords and tenants in Montana. It contains links to the Montana Code and other helpful resources for tenants and property owners about how laws are typically interpreted. Use this information to find out what is required before signing a lease and to identify potential remedies for a tenant disagreement. Keep in mind that these laws only apply to residential rentals and may not apply to landlords leasing property for a mobile home or commercial or agricultural use.

Key Points

  • 1 Any authorized person providing property management services in Montana must have a property management license.
  • 2 There are no statutory limits on rent and security deposit amounts, reducing the burden of paperwork for property owners.
  • 3 There are no limits on the amount of a rental fee or late fee.
  • 4 Prepaid rent is allowed under Montana statutes.

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.

Property Management Laws Overview in Montana

Code Description
37-51-601 Licensing Laws
n/a Rental Application Laws
n/a Security Deposit Laws
70-24-201 to 205 Lease and Termination Laws
n/a Rent and Late Fee Laws
70-24-301 Disclosure Laws
70-24-312 Landlord Responsibility Laws
70-24-303 Property Maintenance and Repair Laws

Property Management Licensing Laws

While Montana has interesting options for landlords regarding applications and security deposits, it is important to note that working with a leasing company requires finding a business with licensure specific to property management. Unlike other states, where a real estate license allows a brokerage to also handle property management, Montana offers and requires a property management license (37-51-601). 

Who can obtain a property management license in Montana?

Montana statutes provide several rules for obtaining a property management license, including:

  • Applicants must be at least 18 years old.
  • Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Applicants must complete an approved course of study for the minimum number of required hours. 
  • All licensees must take and pass the license exam. 

Rental Application Laws

Are landlords/property managers permitted to collect application fees from potential tenants?

In Montana, there are no statutes governing application fees, the amount charged, or refunds.

What is the law regarding requesting criminal records or credit checks from prospective tenants?

In Montana, landlords can run a credit or background check on possible tenants. Many also collect income verification documents and references from previous landlords. There are no specific statutes governing the use of credit checks and criminal record searches for tenants in Montana, but federal and local laws may still apply. Written consent is required, so it is important to include a disclosure notification and signature line on any rental application form. 

Do discrimination laws apply to tenant screening?

According to the Montana Human Rights laws (49-2-305), it is illegal to refuse to negotiate or to deny a rental application based on a person’s gender, marital status, race, creed, religion, color, age, familial status, physical or mental disability, or national origin. 

Security Deposit Laws

Are additional move-in fees allowed?

There are no Montana statutes governing any move-in charges assessed by landlords. Prepaid rent is allowed in the state of Montana.

Is there a limit on the security deposit amount that can be charged?

Landlords in Montana can charge any amount for a security deposit with no statutory limit.

Does the landlord have to hold the security deposit in a specific way during occupancy?

There are no state provisions for how landlords should account for a security deposit or regulations regarding separate accounts.

How long does the landlord have to return the security deposit after a move-out?

When there is no damage to the property or other fees to be deducted from the security deposit, Montana landlords have just 10 days to return the security deposit. In cases where landlords make a deduction from the security deposit, former tenants must receive an itemized bill and the balance of the deposit within 30 days (70-25-202).

What are the reasons a landlord can withhold all or part of the security deposit?

Landlords may withhold all or part of the security deposit to cover unpaid rent, late charges, utilities, or other fees listed in the rental agreement. Cleaning charges may also be assessed, but landlords are required to provide tenants with a list of required cleaning and a period of 24 hours in which to bring the unit back to its original condition. If landlords choose to retain a portion of the security deposit to cover damages or other fees owed, an itemized list must be provided to tenants within 30 days or landlords forfeit their rights to retain the deposit (70-25-201).

What is the penalty if the landlord doesn’t return the security deposit?

If landlords fail to meet the applicable deadlines, they may be held liable in a civil suit for damages equal to the amount withheld. Courts may, at their discretion, award attorney’s fees to the winning party (70-25-204).

Are there any exceptions in which the tenant may forfeit the deposit?

While tenants must provide a forwarding address to landlords for the return of the security deposit, failure to do so does not release the debt. If a landlord mails the security deposit check and it does not reach the former tenant, the landlord remains liable for the amount (70-25-202).

Laws About Leases and Lease Termination

What types of lease terms are allowed?

In Montana, a lease may be week-to-week, month-to-month, or year-to-year, depending on the terms of the rental agreement. 

What happens if a tenant violates a lease?

When tenants violate the lease, landlords must provide written notice of the intent to terminate the rental agreement. Depending on the nature of the violation, tenants may have between three and 14 days to remedy the issue. For failure to pay rent, unapproved pets or unauthorized persons living in the unit, tenants have a minimum of three days. For issues not specifically listed as a three-day notice, the required notice is 14 days. After termination, landlords may pursue legal action to regain possession of the property (70-24-422).

How much notice is required for a month-to-month lease termination?

In Montana, landlords must provide 30 days’ notice to terminate a month-to-month lease. (70-24-441)

When can a tenant terminate a term lease without penalty?

There are several instances in which tenants can terminate a lease early with no penalty. Repeated maintenance violations may allow for early termination. A fire or natural disaster that causes major damage to the property may be grounds to terminate a lease (70-24-405 through 409).

How much notice do service members have to supply before terminating the lease?

Montana does not have specific statutes that cover military service, but federal laws do apply. All members of the military may break a residential lease without penalty if they:

  • Provide the landlord with written notice and include a copy of their military orders or a letter from their commanding officer
  • Are being deployed at least 50 miles away from the residence they are currently renting
  • Will be deployed for at least 90 days

When tenants meet these conditions, the lease terminates 30 days after the next rent payment is due. Protections come from the Servicemember Civil Relief Act

Are there special lease termination rules for victims of domestic violence?

Domestic abuse victims have no specific protection under Montana law, but federal, county or city statutes may apply. 

How much notice does a landlord have to provide before making changes to the property that result in termination of the lease?

In general, landlords must follow standard notification requirements which means at least a seven-day notice for tenants on a week-to-week agreement, 30 days’ notice for tenants with a month-to-month lease, and until the end of the lease term for tenants with an annual lease. 

Laws About Rent and Late Fees

When can a landlord increase rent?

Montana places no restriction on the amount of rent landlords may charge or how much the rent can increase. However, landlords cannot increase the rent during the current term and must provide acceptable notice of the increase. For month-to-month lease agreements, landlords must notify tenants at least 15 days prior to the start of the next month (70-26-109).

Is there a maximum amount of rent that a landlord can charge tenants?

There is no maximum rent amount that landlords can charge, but general market conditions may limit effective rental rates. 

Is there a state-mandated grace period that a landlord must give tenants before charging a late fee?

There is no specific state statute on when a late fee may be charged, but landlords are required to give tenants at least a three-day notice before pursuing eviction proceedings. 

Is there a limit on the late fee a landlord can charge a tenant?

The state law does not provide a cap on the amount of a late fee, but the cost of the late payment must be in the original rental agreement. To avoid violations of the Fair Housing Act, it is important for landlords to apply rental rules equally, including the assessment and amount of late fees charged. 

Legally Required Disclosures

What types of disclosures is a landlord required to supply regarding ownership of the property?

Landlords or authorized persons are required to provide tenants with the name and address of the property owner and the name and address of the property manager. Management information must be provided anytime the management company changes or the property changes hands (70-24-301).

Can the owner or landlord designate an agent to serve and receive disclosures on their behalf?

Property owners may designate authorized persons to act as landlords for the purpose of receiving and serving notices and for rent collection. 

What disclosures related to mold is a landlord required to supply?

Mold disclosures are not required by Montana law, but landlords are required to maintain the property in accordance with building and housing codes. If mold is discovered, landlords must promptly mitigate the situation and handle any needed repairs. Counties and cities may have different requirements for mold disclosures (70-24-303).

What disclosures related to lead paint is a landlord required to supply?

In Montana, landlords must inform tenants about any lead paint hazards in the unit and provide an informational pamphlet about lead paint. Federal law requires these disclosures for homes built prior to 1978, according to the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992.

Laws About Landlord Responsibilities

How much notice is a landlord required to supply before entering the property?

Landlords must provide tenants at least a 24-hour notice before entering the property and must make all visits during reasonable hours. Landlords may enter immediately in the event of an emergency, such as fires, flooding, a gas leak, or a natural disaster. Landlords may also enter with no notice if there is reason to believe tenants have abandoned the property (70-24-312).

When can a tenant refuse to allow entry to a landlord?

Tenants can refuse entry to landlords when backed by an injunction granted by the courts. An injunction may be issued if repeated requests for entry are viewed as harassment or if landlords seek entry without the proper notification period. Tenants may seek actual damages as a result of unlawful entry practices and may also be eligible to terminate their lease with no penalty (70-24-410).

Which steps must a landlord take to keep the property habitable?

Landlords in Montana are generally responsible for ensuring rental units are in a safe, habitable condition (70-24-303). Some requirements include:

  • Abiding by building and housing codes
  • Maintaining the cleanliness and safety of common areas
  • Ensuring electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances are operational and well-maintained
  • Providing and maintaining trash disposal receptacles
  • Ensuring tenants have access to running water, acceptable amounts of hot water, and heat during winter months

Which amenities must a landlord supply and maintain?

In addition to providing trash receptacles, landlords are required to upkeep any provided appliances, including elevators, that come with the unit (70-24-303).

Which utilities must a landlord supply and maintain?

Landlords must ensure tenants have access to clean running water and an adequate supply of hot water. Heat must also be available from October 1 through May 1 of each calendar year (70-24-303).

Does a landlord have to supply a certificate of inspection to a tenant?

While landlords do not need to supply a certificate of inspection, a notice of the property condition is required at the start of a rental agreement. New tenants may also request a list of damage and cleaning charges from prior tenants. If landlords cannot or do not provide this documentation, they forfeit the option to recover monies for damages or cleaning at the end of the lease term without clear, convincing evidence that the damage or cleaning is a direct result of tenants (70-25-206).

Is a landlord required to supply locks and keys?

Montana statute does not specify that landlords must supply locks and keys; however, it is customary. Tenants are not allowed to change or install additional locks without the express, written consent of landlords, and they must supply landlords with copies of the keys to ensure the right of access (70-24-312).

Are retaliatory actions prohibited in Montana?

Retaliatory acts by landlords are strictly prohibited by Montana law. Specifically, landlords may not increase rent, decrease services, or threaten eviction after tenants have made a health and safety violation complaint, requested maintenance services, or started or enrolled in a tenant union. In general, any rent increases, service changes or eviction proceedings begun within six months of a complaint may be considered retaliation. Landlords can proceed with an eviction if the maintenance issue is linked to tenant misuse of the property or if tenants are in arrears on rental payments (70-24-431).

How long does a landlord have to retain a tenant’s property if it is abandoned on the property?

If landlords have reasonable evidence that tenants have abandoned a property, landlords must wait 48 hours before taking further action. At that time, landlords may remove all abandoned property, disposing of any hazardous, perishable or valueless items. All other items must be placed in storage for a minimum of 10 days after mailing a notice of the storage contents. Landlords can charge a reasonable fee for storage and labor involved in removing items from the property. If tenants fail to reclaim their items, landlords can conduct a public sale or auction to recoup the cost of storage and removal. Any excess amount after deducting any rent or other fees owed to landlords should be remitted to tenants (70-24-430).

Property Maintenance and Repair Laws

For which types of maintenance is a landlord responsible?

Landlords are responsible for keeping all residential units in a safe condition, in accordance with all state building codes. Electric, plumbing and heating systems are all part of landlord responsibilities, along with other major systems, like roofing and windows. Landlords must keep common areas clean and safe, including providing snow and ice removal during winter months.

How long does a landlord have to make repairs once a maintenance request is submitted by the tenant?

For general maintenance requests, landlords typically have 14 days to organize the repair. Emergency repairs must be completed within three days to avoid any further action by tenants (70-24-406).

For which types of maintenance is a tenant responsible?

Tenants must maintain the property in a clean, acceptable manner, disposing of all waste in appropriate receptacles; using electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems as intended; and avoiding intentional damage to the property. Tenants also have an obligation to report any issues promptly that might need maintenance (70-24-321).

When does a landlord have to return and/or lower rent due to diminished rental value?

In the event of a fire or other problem that renders part of the rental unit uninhabitable, landlords must reduce the rent for the remainder of the term based on the reduced living space (70-24-409).

When can a tenant request an official inspection to determine substandard or dangerous living conditions?

There is no statute that pertains to official inspections of the property; however, tenants can provide written notice of any maintenance violations and break the lease with no penalty if landlords fail to remedy the issue within a reasonable timeframe (70-24-406).

Under what circumstances can a tenant make a repair and deduct the cost from the rent paid to a landlord?

After tenants notify landlords of a maintenance request, landlords have between three and 14 days to begin repairs, depending on the issue. If landlords fail to make repairs, tenants can pay for the repairs directly and deduct the amount from the rent as long as the total cost of the repair is equal to or less than one month’s rent. Some repairs may require a certified technician. 

In addition, tenants may also seek damages for any actual costs associated with the lease violation (70-24-406).

Additional Rental Law Resources for the State of Montana

To better understand the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants, take a look at these resources.

Name Phone Number Description
Montana Tenant-Landlord Guide N/A This handbook provides information about leasing and the responsibilities of a tenant/landlord. It also has checklists for finding the right rental and handling the tenant screening process.
Montana Fair Housing (406) 782-2573 Montana’s antidiscrimination law is fairly comprehensive, and Montana Fair Housing is a nonprofit organization that offers help to tenants who may be the victims of housing discrimination.
Montana Housing (406) 841-2840 Montana Housing is a government agency that can help landlords sign up for programs like housing credits, multifamily loans, and housing choice voucher programs.

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.