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A bill that would speed up some evictions advances in Montana Legislature


Landlords could have an easier time canceling some contracts with renters under a proposal in the state Legislature.

The policy is designed to speed up the eviction of tenants who refuse to let a landlord access property. Montana law requires landlords to go to court if they want to terminate a rental contract, a process that could take up to a month.

Rep. Steven Galloway, a Republican from Great Falls, wants to allow landlords to evict tenants within three days of being notified of a lease violation, and force courts to hold hearings within five days of receiving a complaint if the tenant refuses to leave.

Under the proposal, tenants would also be liable for up to three months rent in damages if they are taken to court and lose.  

“This is an attempt to remove the tenant voluntarily so that the rental unit can be turned over more efficiently thus alleviating the stress on the rental market as well as alleviating the stress on the judicial system that has more pressing issues,” Galloway said.

The proposal has support from the Montana Landlords Association. Members of the group told lawmakers during the bill’s first hearing that it is designed for worst case scenarios, like when a tenant is committing illegal activity on the property.

Opponents say that the bill would give too much power to landlords and unfairly speed up evictions over minor complaints. Jake Brown of Shelter Whitefish, an affordable housing advocacy group, spoke on the matter.

“If I were a tenant and I were to get hit with one of these deficiency notices, I’d have 24 hours to correct whatever the issue is," Brown said. "Now what if that tenant was a construction worker in a different part of the state, or they’re taking care of a sick family member, or they themselves are in the hospital, even if they receive the electronic notification, how are they going to have enough time to resolve the issue?”

The bill was advanced out of committee to the House floor in a 10-9 vote, with three Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.
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