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Montana Legislature Considers Bill Allowing Landlords to Collect Unpaid Rent Without Court Order

A bill has been introduced in the Montana legislature that would allow landlords to send accounts to collection for unpaid rents without first requiring a court order, while also allowing landlords to charge fees when tenants break their leases.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Roger Webb, a Republican, who also happens to be a landlord, as well.

A court ruling last year in a case — Galbraith v. Professional Property Management — determined it was illegal for a landlord to send a tenant’s account to collections under the state’s Residential Landlord Tenant Act after a landlord attempted to bill a tenant $5,000 in unpaid fees and rent while the tenant was in jail. The law’s goal was to prevent landlords from acting as the “arbiter of disputes” involving money and possession, the judge ruled.

Sen. Webb’s bill would amend the Residential Landlord Tenant Act and allow landlords to send any unpaid amount to a collection agency, including rent, cleaning expenses, late charges, utility charges, and penalties, if allowed under the agreement between the landlord and tenant.

Critics of the proposed legislation say the bill violates due process by sending accounts to collections without a court order.

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