Eviction Law in Missoula, MT
What Is an Eviction?
An eviction is the forceful exiting of tenants following an issued notice by the property owner or landlord. Evictions usually come as a result of failure to pay rent, or from violations of the lease agreement. However, evicting a problem tenant can be a long and costly experience as landlord-tenant laws favor tenants. Getting a better understanding of how Missoula, Montana eviction law can help.
Even though eviction notices happen as a result of serious problems with the tenant, not all eviction notices lead to an actual eviction. Oftentimes, eviction notices serve as a final warning for the tenant. If the tenant can then pay rent, or begin to follow the lease agreement, they may avoid eviction.
When Can Landlords Send a Termination Notice?
The Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent
If a delinquent Missoula, MT tenant frequently pays rent late, or has not paid rent at all, there is a good reason for eviction. Some states do have a grace period for an occasional late payment. However, if a tenant makes a habit of always paying late, that grace period does not apply and the property owner can provide an eviction notice.
In Missoula, there is no legal grace period for late fees. Consequently, Missoula landlords can start charging late fees if they don’t receive rent payments on the due date. However, Montana law provides for a three-day grace period for paying rent before the landlord can begin the eviction process.
You should always provide your tenant with “late rent” notices and keep a copy for yourself in your files. That way, if the eviction case goes to court, you have paper evidence of their failure to pay rent on time.
The Tenant Violates the Terms or Conditions of the Lease Agreement
Lease agreements are legal contracts. This means if your tenant violates the contract in any way, it can be grounds for eviction. For example, if your lease agreement says that your tenant cannot have an additional person living in the unit, and they violate that rule, you can begin the eviction notice process.
The lease agreement is also legally binding for the landlord. This means that any Missoula landlord must also follow the rules laid out in the agreement, such as making repairs and performing maintenance written into the lease.
The Tenant Damages the Property
Tenants are going to cause damage to the property; it’s unavoidable. Wear and tear when living in a home is normal. Still, there’s a difference between scratches on the wall or broken blinds and intentional destruction of property.
If it’s clear that your tenant is causing severe damage to your property, such as breaking through walls or smashing windows, this may be cause for eviction. However, if your tenant makes repairs themselves, and doesn’t make any major changes to the property, this might not be grounds for eviction.
The Tenant Uses the Property for Illegal Purposes
If your tenant is using your Missoula property for illegal purposes, such as selling drugs or weapons, this can be clear grounds for eviction. Reporting the issue might also bring criminal charges against the tenant.
However, you should prepare to provide evidence that the tenant is using the property for illegal purposes. If law enforcement came to the property to address these issues at any time, these reports can prove helpful.
How to Evict a Tenant in Missoula, Montana
If you want to evict a tenant for any reason, then you need to understand the eviction process. Here’s how it works.
Step 1. Check Your Local Laws
Eviction laws are different in each state and can also vary at the city level. Therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws before taking any action. Always ensure you have a legally valid reason for eviction before giving notice. A qualified Missoula, MT attorney can help review your case to determine if you do.
Tenants in Missoula enjoy the protection of Montana’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of 1977. For example, a Missoula landlord must give the tenant at least 24 hours notice of their intent to enter to conduct repairs or maintenance. The landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant. The only time a landlord may enter the dwelling without consent is in the case of an emergency. Furthermore, the landlord must make emergency repairs within three working days of written notice from the tenant.
Step 2. Give a Formal Notice of Eviction
If you have tried to reason with your tenants and they continue to violate the terms of your lease, you should then provide them with a formal notice of eviction. Your eviction notice will serve as an ultimatum or final warning. It should explain how your tenant is in violation, as well as what they can do to stop the eviction process.
The eviction notice should also include a deadline for the tenant to either pay rent or move out, and the amount that the tenant owes. If you’re unsure of how to create an eviction notice, you can use online templates or seek legal advice.
According to the Montana Attorney General, a Missoula landlord only needs to give 3 days’ notice under certain circumstances, including unpaid rent or an unauthorized pet or tenant. The Landlord must send the tenant a Notice to Vacate. The landlord can either hand deliver or mail the Notice. Be aware, the law does not allow a landlord to tape the Notice to the door of the rental. If the landlord then files for eviction in court, the Missoula County Sheriff will serve notice to the tenant.
Step 3. File the Eviction with the Court
You must file the eviction notice with the court within a few days. The court will then set a hearing date and will notify the tenant of the hearing by a summons. In Montana, Courts of Limited Jurisdiction handle eviction cases. Specifically, the Missoula County Justice Court has jurisdiction over landlord/tenant disputes in Missoula.
Step 4. Contact an Experienced Missoula, Montana Eviction Attorney and Prepare for the Hearing
You should find an attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare for the hearing. Then, when you go to the hearing, you should bring the following documents:
- Lease agreements
- Records of payments
- Bounced checks
- Record of communication between you and the tenant
- Record of the eviction notice
- Proof that the tenant received the notice
Step 5. Evict the Tenant
If you’ve won the hearing, your tenant will have time to move out of your property. The amount of time allowed is dependent on the state, but it typically ranges from 48 hours to one week. If the tenant refuses to leave, you can contact Missoula, MT law enforcement to forcibly remove them from the property.
Step 6. Collect Past-Due Rent Payments
If your tenant owes you rent money, you may still have a long fight ahead to collect past-due payments. You can try to collect these payments through a number of methods:
- Hiring a private debt collector
- Garnishing their tax refunds
- Garnishing their wages
- Taking the case to small claims court
Work With an Experienced Eviction Attorney in Missoula, Montana
The tenant will likely try to argue that you did not follow proper procedures for providing an eviction notice. Having a qualified Missoula attorney on your side can take the pressure off your back, and help ensure a victory in court. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Montana state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!