Montana Code Annotated 2021



Part 4. Remedies

Disposition Of Abandoned Personal Property

70-33-430. Disposition of abandoned personal property. (1) (a) If a tenancy terminates by court order, the personal property is considered abandoned and the landlord may immediately dispose of the personal property as allowed by law.

(b) If a tenancy terminates in any manner other than by court order, if the landlord reasonably believes that the tenant has abandoned all personal property that the tenant has left on the premises, and if at least 48 hours have elapsed since the occurrence of the events upon which the landlord has based the belief of abandonment, the landlord may remove the property from the premises.

(2) The landlord shall inventory and store all personal property of the tenant in a place of safekeeping and shall exercise reasonable care for the property. The landlord may charge a reasonable storage and labor charge if the property is stored by the landlord, plus the cost of removal of the property to the place of storage. The landlord may store the property in a commercial storage company, in which case the storage cost includes the actual storage charge plus the cost of removal of the property to the place of storage.

(3) After complying with subsections (1) and (2), the landlord shall:

(a) make a reasonable attempt to notify the tenant in writing that the property must be removed from the place of safekeeping;

(b) notify the local law enforcement office of the property held by the landlord;

(c) make a reasonable effort to determine if the property is secured or otherwise encumbered; and

(d) send a notice by certified mail to the last-known address of the tenant and each known party having a lien or encumbrance of record, stating that at a specified time, not less than 15 days after mailing the notice, the property will be disposed of if not removed.

(4) The landlord may dispose of the property after complying with subsection (3) by:

(a) selling all or part of the property at a public or private sale; or

(b) destroying or otherwise disposing of all or part of the property if the landlord reasonably believes that the value of the property is so low that the cost of storage or sale exceeds the reasonable value of the property.

(5) (a) If the tenant, upon receipt of the notice provided in subsection (3), responds in writing to the landlord on or before the day specified in the notice that the tenant intends to remove the property and does not do so within 7 days after delivery of the tenant's response, the tenant's property is conclusively presumed to be abandoned.

(b) If the tenant removes the property, the landlord is entitled to storage costs for the period that the property remains in safekeeping, plus the cost of removal of the property to the place of storage. Reasonable storage costs are allowed to a landlord who stores the property, and actual storage costs are allowed to a landlord who stores the property in a commercial storage company. A landlord is entitled to payment of the storage costs allowed under this subsection before the tenant may remove the property.

(6) The landlord is not responsible for any loss to the tenant resulting from storage unless the loss is caused by the landlord's purposeful or negligent act, in which case the landlord is liable for actual damages.

(7) A public or private sale authorized by this section must be conducted under the provisions of 30-9A-610 or the sheriff's sale provisions of Title 25, chapter 13, part 7.

(8) The landlord may deduct from the proceeds of the sale the reasonable costs of notice, storage, labor, and sale and, subject to any prior security interest of record, any delinquent rent or damages owing on the premises. The landlord shall remit to the tenant the remaining proceeds, if any, together with an itemized accounting. If the tenant cannot after due diligence be found, the remaining proceeds must be deposited with the county treasurer of the county in which the sale occurred and, if not claimed within 3 years, must revert to the general fund of the county.

(9) The landlord shall ensure that the terms of this section are included in plain and understandable language as a notification upon termination of the lease or rental agreement.

History: En. Sec. 47, Ch. 267, L. 2007; amd. Sec. 16, Ch. 536, L. 2021.