Answer to Eviction Lawsuit (write-in-the-blank form)
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
Answer to Eviction Lawsuit
You only have 10 business days after you were served with eviction court papers to file an Answer to Eviction. You must file the Answer with the Clerk of Court where the eviction lawsuit was filed. You can download the Answer to Eviction at the bottom of this page.
Coronavirus Defenses for Eviction
Near the end of the form, it will ask if you are aware of any other legal reason the court should not evict you. That section is marked “Other.” If any of these situations are true for you, you may want to write that into the “Other” section on the answer form:
- Your rental is covered by the federal CARES Act. The federal CARES Act may protect you from eviction for nonpayment through July 25, 2020. Your rental is considered federally “covered” by the CARES Act if one of the following is true for you:
- If you or the landlord participate in a federal housing assistance program. For example, Section 8, tax credits, USDA, etc. If you aren’t sure whether you are in a federal housing assistance program, there are online tools you can use to look up your address to see if your rental is covered. You can find most federally covered units using this tool.
- Even if you don’t receive any government assistance with your rent, if your landlord has a mortgage on your rental building and that mortgage is backed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, then your rental is covered. You can look up the mortgage information from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. There are two other tools to look up mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on the Federal Housing Finance Agency's website.
- Note: If you live in a building with 4 or fewer units, you may need to ask your landlord if there’s a mortgage on your building and if it’s federally covered.
- You are covered by Gov. Bullock’s Directive. You are protected from eviction if you meet all the conditions in the directive:
- You have suffered a significant financial hardship as a result of the virus, and
- You remain sheltered at home, and
- And, at least one of these conditions is true for you or someone in your household:
- You are over 65,
- You have a serious health condition, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, or asthma, or
- You have an immune system that is compromised, such as by chemotherapy.
- On May 19, Governor Bullock issued a directive which says that a renter who meets the above conditions is protected from eviction for nonpayment until either 30 days after the vulnerable person stops sheltering in place, or the end of the Covid-19 emergency, whichever happens first.
- If you are considered vulnerable to Coronavirus, your landlord must also give you notice of Governor Bullock’s directive before filing to evict you.
So, if you fit one or more of the situations above, you should write that in the “Other” section of the Answer form, when it asks if you are aware of any other legal reason the court should not evict you. You don’t have to try to sound like a lawyer when you state your defense. But you do want to clearly describe your situation. You only want to state the truth.
You may have another defense. Because of Gov. Bullock’s Directive, a landlord cannot charge late fees, interest, or other charges or penalties because of nonpayment of rent between March 30 and May 24. You will want to look through the eviction court papers to see if the landlord is trying to charge you any late fees between March 30 and May 24. If so, you may want to write in the “Other” section of the Answer form that the landlord’s court action is based in part on nonpayment of late fees which were prohibited under Gov. Bullock’s directive.
Need more information?
If you have any questions about your rights or this form, it would be a good idea to read our 5 Steps to Take When Served with Eviction Court Papers. You may also want to read our other article, What You Should Know about Evictions in Montana.
If you have questions about your COVID-19 legal rights, read our FAQs for Montana Renters on Coronavirus.
Need legal help?
Montana Legal Services Association provides free civil legal help to eligible clients. Learn more about how to apply for free legal help.