Montana landlords are not limited in the amount they ask for a security deposit. Whatever the amount is though, make sure to include the required amount in the rental agreement and provide a receipt for the deposit. Montana does not require a landlord to provide a security deposit disclosure form, notifying the tenant of the bank name and account number for the deposit.

Allowable charges to the deposit

The security deposit cannot be applied toward normal wear and tear, but any damage beyond that can be deducted from the security deposit. Other allowable charges include:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Late charges
  • Utilities
  • Other money owed landlord as penalties, according to the lease
  • Actual cleaning expenses, including reasonable costs of landlord’s labor

The landlord or the tenant can request a move out inspection, which must occur within one week prior to termination of the tenancy. This gives both parties time to assess any cleaning requirements and damage.

Cleaning charges must be documented by the landlord before they can be deducted from the security deposit. The cleaning notice must be provided to the tenant, giving them 24 hours to perform the required cleaning. The notice must specify the cleaning not accomplished by the tenant in order to bring the premises back to its original condition at the beginning of the tenancy (normal wear and tear excluded). However, if the tenant failed to notify the landlord of their intent to vacate, the landlord is not required to provide a cleaning notice before deducting the cleaning costs and labor from the deposit.

Returning the deposit

The required time frame for returning the security deposit depends on whether there is money owed by the tenant, or if damages beyond normal wear and tear exist.

Deposit returned within 10 days of lease termination

No damages, no cleaning required, no unpaid rent, no unpaid utilities owed by tenant. Mail deposit to tenant’s forwarding address or, if not provided, tenant’s last known address.

Deposit returned within 30 days of lease termination

Use this time frame if damages exist, cleaning is required, rent is owed, or utilities are unpaid by the tenant. Landlord must provide a written list of rent due and any damage and cleaning charges, along with the balance of the deposit after deductions. Mail written list and balance to tenant’s forwarding address or, if not provided, tenant’s last known address.

Landlord penalty

The landlord forfeits the right to withhold a portion of the security deposit for damages or cleaning charges if they don’t provide a written list of such damages and cleaning charges. Furthermore, wrongfully withholding the deposit or a portion of the deposit exposes the landlord to civil damages by the tenant. This is why it is important to document any damage and cleaning issues and provide the proper written disclosures to the tenant - the burden of proof for both is on the landlord.