UPDATE: On August 26, 2021, the United States Supreme Court struck down the CDC’s attempt to extend the eviction moratorium. So evictions will now go on.
As you have probably heard in the news, the federal prohibition on evictions of residential tenants expired on August 1, 2021. The Montana state prohibition expired last year for most evictions. So now evictions can move forward.
And they sure are. Lots and lots of them. The Census Bureau estimates that 17,000 Montanans are likely or very likely to face eviction.
Many landlords are launching eviction cases right now. There will soon be a big bottleneck of these cases in the courts.
The stakes are high in these cases – but may not be high enough for landlords or tenants to hire attorneys. Many landlords have not been paid rent for over a year so these are not typical evictions over a few months’ rent; $10,000 to $20,000 is more like it, and that’s an amount worth fighting. However, with the costs of hiring attorneys to litigate these cases, it still won’t make economic sense for most landlords (or especially tenants) to hire attorneys.
Luckily for landlords and tenants, eviction cases are relatively simple so both sides can handle them pro se. (An exception is if a party, typically the landlord, is a corporation or LLC, in which case the entity must be represented by an attorney.)
Free how-to step-by-step resources abound on the litigation process for evictions. The Montana courts web site has a fantastic page on this topic, complete with a thorough overview of the process from both the landlord and tenant perspectives, and all the litigation forms either side will need. The Montana Department of Justice has a landlord-tenant web page with lots of resources, as does Legal FAQ. A landlord association has great web site on the process, complete with a flow chart of the process.
But this article is not about how to litigate an eviction case – it is about how and why not to.
What happens when there is a flood of court cases and the amounts at issue may not justify the parties hiring attorneys? Lots of cases where the parties don’t file the right papers, don’t properly serve people, and generally don’t handle the cases as smoothly as attorneys. This creates a mess for the litigants (and the courts). It’s especially bad for landlords who want to get the tenant out quickly so they can re-rent or sell the property. Is there a better way to handle these cases for all involved?
Here are all the reasons mediation is better than litigation. This is even more true in eviction cases for the reasons mentioned above.
Who’s going to do these mediations and how will they be paid for?
To aid parties of potentially limited means (both landlords who haven’t been paid in months and tenants) Montana Mediations is announcing its Eviction Mediation Project.
Montana Mediations will accept pro bono mediations in appropriate cases or “low bono” (reduced fee) mediations in other cases. This applies to Ravalli County mediations because Montana Mediations, based in Ravalli County, wants to be a good member of the local community. Montana Mediations will gladly accept mediations outside of Ravalli County, but they will be full-fee mediations (which are still far, far cheaper than litigation).
So if you’re a landlord, tenant, or attorney for either one, contact Montana Mediations and see if we can resolve your dispute for much, much less and much more quickly than litigation.