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Montana Supreme Court sides with mobile home owners in eviction case

Landlords at mobile home parks can't terminate month-to-month leases without cause.
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Posted at 12:04 PM, Nov 16, 2023

MISSOULA — Landlords own the land in mobile home parks like at Westview Mobile Park in Missoula, and tenants own homes and rent the land.

Landlords could evict their tenants at any moment without cause. Now, according to a Montana Supreme Court decision, they can’t.

David Lockhart and his wife have a home in the Westview mobile home park. A few years ago, they were evicted without warning. “They want you gone, you’re gone," he told MTN.

Lockhart said similar eviction situations have been happening all around Montana for years.

“Often people that live in mobile homes, they don’t have the resources to bring a case even to the district court, let alone the Montana Supreme Court. People can lose everything they have [going to trial].”

Moving a mobile home is extremely difficult, according to Lockhart: “A lot of these homes aren’t really mobile. They’re moved there when they’re new, they’re put in place and they stay there. It’s hard to even find someone in Missoula that can do it. And it costs 10 to 25 thousand dollars to move it. Then you have to find somewhere to put it.”

When the Lockharts didn't vacate their home, Westview Mobile Home Park filed a complaint in Missoula Justice Court seeking possession of the home.

The Justice Court judge ruled Westview was not required to have cause to terminate the Lockharts' lease.

“The judge said to the opposing counsel, can’t you just evict someone giving them a 30 day notice, and you don’t have to give them a reason," Lockhart stated.

The case then moved to district court and then onto the Montana Supreme Court.

“Right after we filed our case, there was another case that was almost the same in Ravalli County. The court decided to join those cases together," Lockhart detailed.

The Ravalli County case was titled Greener Montana Property Management, LLC, Travis Martinez, Kristyn Martinez, Plaintiffs v. Hydi Cunningham, Defendant.

The Montana Supreme Court ruled on October 31, 2023, that landlords at mobile home parks can not terminate month-to-month leases without cause.

“'Cause' means that there just has to be a reason, (such as) they didn’t pay their rent or they violated the park rules,” Lockhart detailed.

Now there’s a precedent set for others facing no-cause evictions from mobile home parks which may keep tenants in their homes.