Leases & Fees
**Before you sign, make an appointment to have the Renter Center read it over.
Common Illegal Lease Items
Taking the deposit before the lease is over: The deposit is for use AFTER the lease is complete. The landlord can not take it to use it as a fee. For example, the landlord can not say "If there is a party in this house, the deposit will be taken and you will owe another deposit."
The landlord has the right to terminate with a 30 days notice, but the lease is for longer than month-to-month: If the lease is month-to-month, either party has the right to terminate with a 30 days notice. If not, the landlord must follow the procedures and qualifications for eviction. S/he can not simply make up his own rule to kick you out with 30 days notice, yet you don't have the same right!
If the owner sells the home before your lease term has expired, you still have a right to fulfill your lease time. The current or the new landlord can not simply kick you out. You both signed a contract and that will stick! Foreclosures, however, can be tricky. Make an appointment to speak with us if that is the case.
Changes to the lease: It will be nearly impossible to get the landlord to change the lease you both have signed. BUT before you sign, you can talk about the possibility of making a change. Even if the lease is typed, you can cross things out and hand-write items in...it just has to be BEFORE you both sign.
Changes to the lease (part 2): The landlord does not have the right to change the terms of the lease mid-way through the lease. S/he can only make changes when the lease term is over and the lease is up for renewal. So if you are on a month-to-month lease, the landlord has to give you written notice of the change and it goes into effect 30 days after you receive the notice. Therefore, you have the option to give a 30 day notice and not renew the lease if you don't like the change that s/he is proposing.
Intent to lease: Watch out for these! The landlord may ask you to put down the deposit before the dwelling is actually ready to be rented. He may, then, promise (only verbally) that the place will be ready by a certain date. You sign the "Intent to Lease", give a deposit, and don't realize there is no end date written. When the place isn't ready when they specified, you try to get your money back but the landlord shows you the copy of the agreement you signed. If this happens, make an appointment with the Renter Center!
Pet Depostis: These are meant to be used for pet-related damages and cleaning. It is a deposit, so it must be refundable.
Tenants can only give notice on the 1st of the month: if you are on a month to month lease, Montana law states that you can give notice on any day of the month (Statute 70-24-441). Many landlords have a term in their lease that states that you can only give a 30 day notice on the first of the month, and that if you give it on a later date, you will still have to pay rent for the full month that follows (as if you had given notice on the 1st of that following month). This is illegal and non-enforceable.
Basically, a landlord can not impose fees you have not agreed to.
If something is called a "Deposit", or is treated as one on the lease, the landlord must follow the Security Deposit act.
A deposit is not to be used until the end of the lease.
Disclaimer: The information found at The Off-Campus Renter Center are not that of an attorney. Please contact ASUM Legal Services (if a student) or your attorney for legal advice. The information found here is intended for educational purposes only and should be used for ones own pursuit of mitigating disputes.