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Bills could change laws concerning landlords, tenants

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MISSOULA, Mont. - House Bills 348 and 404 will be heard Wednesday and Thursday by lawmakers in Helena. The bills would revise tenant and landlord law concerning rental agreements and mobile home lot leases.

Here are some of HB 384's key points:

-- A tenant commits the offense of criminal mischief damage to a rental property if the tenant purposely or knowingly destroys, defaces, damages, impairs or removes any part of the premise with a value of at least $1,000. If a person is convicted of the offense of criminal mischief to a rental property shall be fined an amount not to exceed $1,000 or be imprisoned in the country jail for at term not to exceed six months or both. -- A landlord may enter the dwelling until without consent of the tenant in case of an emergency. -- The tenant shall notify the landlord of an anticipated absence from the premises in excess of five days no longer than 24 hours of the absence.

Access Property Management general manager Sabrina Murphy says being able to access a tenant's residence during colder seasons is important.

"It's great, especially during the wintertime, when we have freezing pipes," Murphy said. "It's better to know someone is gone rather than not, because if there is a cold snap coming up we can go check on the unit for them."

Missoula renter Anthony Godinec says he thinks the criminal charges should depend on the circumstance.

"If the damage is extremely malicious, where it devalued the property, I would definitely think that something to be looked at," he said.

On the flip side, Godinec says he's concerned about privacy.

"You're paying for the space," Godinec said. "You're paying for privacy and you're paying not to live out on the street so everyone can see what you're doing. What you do in your home either rented or owned is your business."

For more information on House Bill 348 click here.

HB 404 limits the length of time a guest can stay at the property.

-- A guest means a person staying with a tenant for a temporary period of time as in the rental agreement or, if not specified in the rental agreement, for a period of time no more than three days unless the tenant has received the landlord's written consent.

For more information on House Bill 404 click here.

The bills will be heard in the State House this week.

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