State of Montana Renters Rights

By Serena Cassidy
Renters rights in Montana are protected by the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

apartment building image by mashe from Fotolia.com

The Montana Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of 1977 guides the laws and regulations concerning landlord and tenant rental agreements and remedial actions to resolve disputes. The Act clarifies the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, and supports the maintenance and provision of quality rental dwelling units in the state of Montana.

Rental Agreements

In accordance with the Act, the terms and conditions of the rental agreement set out the amount of rent, the term of the tenancy, and the period in which rental payment is due. A rental agreement must not include a statement that causes a tenant to agree to waive his rights for remedial action against a landlord, confess judgment for a claim, or assume liability for a landlord's fees associated with any court action involving the tenant.

Extension of Rental Agreements

Before a written rental agreement is signed, a tenant and landlord must consent to a lease extension chosen by the tenant from a list of default options that will take effect if a new lease is not signed or the rental agreement is not terminated at the end of the lease. The default options include renewing the lease for the same term as the original lease, renewal of the lease for a different term, renewal of the lease on a month-to-month basis, or termination of the lease agreement. This default extension period automatically takes effect if neither the landlord or the tenant give 30 days written notice of intention to renew or terminate the lease agreement prior to the end date of the lease. In the absence of a written extension agreement between the landlord and the tenant, the tenancy may convert to a month-to-month basis at the end of the original lease period.

Maintenance of Building Premises

A landlord must maintain building premises to protect the health and safety of tenants in accordance with local and state housing, building and health codes. Landlords must ensure that common areas are clean and safe; that building electrical, plumbing and heating systems and appliances are in good working order; that building grounds are maintained and garbage is removed, and that no criminal activity takes place on the premises. Landlords must ensure that rental dwellings are fit and habitable for tenants, and install an approved carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector in each rental dwelling unit.

Landlord's Establishment of Rules

Landlords have the right to create rules regarding the use and occupancy of rental premises by tenants. The tenant is only subject to the rules if they were designed to support the health and safety of tenants or protect the premises. All tenants are subject to the rules, and any prohibitions, directions and limitations must be clearly explained with respect to the tenant's compliance. The rules may not negate the landlord's obligations. The tenant must be provided with the rules at the time of entering into the rental agreement or as soon as they are adopted by the landlord. The rules must be provided in writing to each tenant who lives in the premises. A new rule is enforceable seven days after written notice is provided to the tenant with week-to-week lease terms or 30 days after written notice for month-to-month lease terms.

Remedial Actions

If a landlord fails to provide basic necessities such as heat, hot water, electrical or other essential services, a tenant has the right to deduct the costs to obtain alternate sources of heat, hot water and other essential services from the rent. The tenant also has the right to find alternate housing, during which time the tenant can withhold rent from the landlord. These rights come into effect once the tenant has notified the landlord of the disruption in essential services and the landlord has had a reasonable amount of time to remedy the issue.

About the Author

Serena Cassidy has written reports, policies, and research documents since 2000 on community development and government policy issues, and she has been featured in "CIO Canada." She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Saint Mary's University and a Master of Public Administration from Dalhousie University. She currently works as a government policy analyst.