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A reminder to renters and landlords about evictions during COVID-19

Thursday, August 6, 2020/Categories: Community Development Division, Montana Housing

Montana Housing at the Department of Commerce strives to work with landlords and tenants to make sure we can get through these challenging times together, with renters remaining in their homes and landlords receiving monthly payments.

Related to coronavirus, an eviction moratorium was put in effect by Congress and the President through the federal CARES Act, signed on March 27, and by Gov. Steve Bullock's various directives, first issued on March 30. The federal CARES Act included a moratorium on all evictions at federally covered properties, including all Housing Tax Credit properties, for nonpayment of rent for a period of 120 days through July 25, 2020. The eviction moratorium under Gov. Bullock's directives expired for most tenants on May 24, 2020.

However, some protections are still in effect. These are the protections that still apply to Montana renters, even after the expiration of the eviction moratoriums:

  1. For federally covered properties, the federal CARES Act requires a landlord who seeks to evict a tenant for nonpayment after July 25, to first provide tenants with a written 30-day notice to vacate. Read a summary of the CARES Act here.
  2. For all landlords in Montana, Gov. Bullock's directive provides a temporary halt on evictions and other landlord actions resulting from a renter's nonpayment of rent, utilities, or other monetary obligations. To qualify for protection, a renter must meet all three of these conditions:
  • Renter must have suffered a significant financial hardship as a result of the virus, and;
  • Renter must remain sheltered at home, and;
  • Renter must have at least one of these conditions is true for the renter or someone in the renter's household: they are over 65, have a serious health condition, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, or asthma or have an immune system that is compromised, such as by chemotherapy.

Under the directive, a residential landlord in response to a qualified renter's nonpayment must not:

  • Terminate a tenancy or refuse to extend the terms of a tenancy on at least a month-to-month basis
  • Charge or accrue late fees, interest, or other charges, penalties, or amounts due from a tenant because of nonpayment of rent
  • Increase the amount of rent payable under the terms of a rental agreement, except previously agreed increases or reasonable increases reflecting the size of the unit, number of tenants or guests or services provided by the landlord
  • Request the suspension or termination of any utilities provided by the landlord to the tenant, because of the tenant's nonpayment of utilities, rents or other amounts due under the rental agreement
  • Report a tenant to a credit bureau for nonpayment of a financial obligation
  • Seek or collect treble damages based on the failure of a tenant or authorized guest to vacate the premises
  • Terminate a tenancy or refuse to renew or extend the terms of a residential dwelling tenancy on at least a month-to-month basis.

Before moving forward with an eviction against a renter who is a member of a vulnerable population, the landlord must provide the renter with adequate notice of the opportunity to seek the protection of the Governor's Directive. See page 3 of Gov. Bullock's May 19 Directive.

Montana Housing encourages landlords and tenants to work together to avoid eviction. If an eviction is unavoidable, please consult your legal counsel to ensure compliance with all requirements of the federal CARES Act and Gov. Bullock's directives before evicting any tenants.

If you need help paying rent, mortgage or hazard insurance on your rental property, you may qualify for Emergency Housing Assistance or the Business Stabilization Program

 

 
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