Landlords in Montana, like landlords in all U.S. states, have the right to impose certain rules and regulations for their rental properties. There are some guiding principles that must be followed for such rules, and in some states like Montana there are some additional, more specific rules pertaining to a safety or security issue.
To begin with, rules must be in writing, and they must be provided to each tenant upon the start of their tenancy. That means if a tenant begins a tenancy, and then at some point during the tenancy takes on a roommate who is also considered a tenant, the new tenant (roommate) must receive a copy of the rules. It is the landlord’s responsibility to provide the written rules to a new tenant. Furthermore, if subsequent to the start of a tenancy a new rule is added that serves to substantially modify the terms of the agreement, the landlord must provide appropriate notice before the rule can be enforced. For month to month tenancies the notice period is 30 days.
So, what types of rules can be adopted and enforced by the landlord? Landlords must follow the requirements below when creating rules:
- The purpose of the rules must be to promote the convenience, safety, or welfare of the occupants in the premises, preserve landlord’s property from abusive use, or make a fair distribution of services and facilities for all tenants.
- A rule must be reasonably related to the purpose for which it is adopted.
- A rule must apply to all occupants in the premises in a fair manner.
- A rule must be sufficiently explicit so that the tenant is clear on what they must or must not do in order to comply.
- A rule must be for the purpose of the landlord evading his obligations.
- The tenant must have notice of it at the time that Tenant enters into the rental agreement, or when it is adopted.
While most lease agreements will include a clause about no illegal activities permitted on the premises, Montana includes specific language addressing such activity in MCA 70-24-321(3). As the statute reads, the tenant may not engage or knowingly allow a person to engage in any activity on the premises that creates a reasonable potential that the premises may be damaged or destroyed or that neighboring tenants may be injured. A list of specific activities includes:
- Criminal production or manufacture of dangerous drugs.
- Operation of an unlawful clandestine laboratory.
- Gang-related activities; for more information see the Montana Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (§ 45-8-401, MCA et seq.)
- Unlawful possession of a firearm, explosive, or hazardous or toxic substance (Note that Montana law prohibits a landlord from preventing a tenant or their guest from having an authorized firearm on the premises.)