What Protections for Renters Exist in Montana Because of the Pandemic?
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
If you rent a place to live in Montana, this article can help you:
- Learn if you are covered by any protections because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Find free forms that you can send to your landlord to tell them if you’re protected.
- The CDC order that in the past halted some evictions based on nonpayment of rent has ended; Montana renters are no longer protected by the CDC halt order.
- The federal CARES Act requires a landlord of a “federally covered” rental to provide a 30-day advance notice of eviction, instead of the usual 3-day or 7-day eviction notice required under Montana law. This protection for some Montana renters is still in effect.
Keep reading to find out more. If you’re a Montana renter and have been served with eviction court papers, be sure to also review the article 5 Steps to Take When Served with Eviction Court Papers in Montana.
If you need help paying your rent, apply for Montana’s Rental Assistance Program.
(This article is intended for Montana renters. If you rent somewhere else, you’ll want to find legal help in your state.)
1. The CDC Order is now ended
The CDC order that previously halted some evictions is no longer in effect. An August 26, 2021 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court made the CDC halt order unenforceable. Montana landlords can now move forward with evictions where the renter is behind on the rent.
If you need help paying your rent, be sure to apply for Montana’s Rental Assistance Program.
Funds will be available through the Rental Assistance Program until at least September 30, 2022.
If you can’t afford your rent, the Montana Emergency Rental Assistance program is available for Montanans who have lost household income because of the COVID-19 pandemic and are at risk of housing instability.
The program can provide up to $2,200 per month for past due rent, and can pay for your future rent. The program can also provide up to $300 for past due and future utilities including gas and electric, and up to $50 per month for internet. Households can receive assistance for rent and utility bills dating back to April 1, 2020.
The program application will take you some time. You may be required to submit some documents. There may be a person (navigator) in your local area who can help you with the application. More information on the local navigators is provided by the Rental Assistance Program.
Keep in mind that any debt that you owe your landlord will not go away, even if you move out. That debt could make it hard for you to find a rental in the future. To get help with the money you owe, it’s a good idea to apply with the Rental Assistance Program.
2. The federal CARES Act is still in effect
If you reside in a “federally covered” property, you may receive some limited protection from eviction from the federal CARES Act. “Federally covered” properties include those where the landlords receive any HUD funding, including Housing Choice Voucher or Section 8, and USDA-funded properties, and LIHTC tax credit properties, and properties where the owner or landlord has a federally-backed mortgage.
If you reside in a federally covered property, then your landlord must give you a 30-day notice of termination instead of the usual 3-day or 7-day notice required by Montana law.
You can use this searchable map and database to find out if your rental is covered by the CARES Act.
The 30-day notice under the CARES Act may give you more time to gather the funds to pay the landlord the rent that’s due. Be sure to apply for the Montana Emergency Rental Assistance program if you need help paying the rent.
Get Help with Rent
Communicate with Your Landlord
If your landlord has sent you a notice of termination for any reason, you should communicate with the landlord to try to resolve the situation. Tell the landlord if you have applied for rental assistance, if you have. If you are willing to move but need more time, talk to the landlord about that. The best way to avoid eviction is to talk to your landlord to resolve any dispute.
- If you reside in a “federally covered” property and you believe that you are entitled to the 30-day notice under the CARES Act, and your landlord gave you less than 30 days’ notice to vacate, contact your landlord to ask for the full 30 days. You can give your landlord the Improper Notice to Vacate Letter. In that letter form, you will need to fill out the information for you and your landlord and say that you are covered by the CARES Act.
- If you get served by a process server with court papers for eviction, be sure to file a written answer with the Clerk of Court. The timeline for eviction court moves quickly. You only have 10 business days, starting the day after you are served with court papers, to file a written Answer to an eviction lawsuit. You must file your Answer with the Clerk of Court where your landlord filed the lawsuit. (You must file an Answer on your own without a lawyer’s assistance, if your 10-day filing deadline falls before you’ve been able to get a lawyer’s help.) For forms and instructions on filing your own Answer to the eviction lawsuit, check out the 5 Steps to Take When Served with Eviction Papers.
If you have any questions, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer.
- Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) has resources to help Montana renters facing an eviction, including free legal advice and attorney representation. Learn more about how to apply for free legal help.