A Missouri landlord can evict a tenant for a few legal reasons. These include lease violations, nonpayment of rent, and excessive property damage. When they’ve made the decision to evict their tenant, a landlord should follow the correct legal procedure so that you don’t make any costly mistakes.
In Missouri, similar to other states, only a court can facilitate the removal of a tenant from a rental unit as per the Missouri Landlord Tenant Law. This is why it’s important to follow the correct legal procedure so that you avoid making a mistake like attempting to self-evict your tenant, which is illegal.
In this post, we’ll cover a basic overview of the eviction laws in Missouri. Understanding them will provide you with a basic framework of what you should and shouldn’t do when evicting problematic tenants.
Serving a Notice for Lease Termination with Legal Cause
Regardless of what the reason for your desire to evict a tenant, the Missouri law requires that you first terminate their tenancy by serving them with an eviction notice. This notice will inform a tenant that they must vacate the property within a certain amount of time. Different eviction notices serve different purposes. Here are two common types of notices:
- Pay or Quit Notice: If a tenant fails to pay rent, you may serve them with a Pay or Quit notice. This notice tells the tenant that they must pay the rent that they owe within a certain time frame or move out of the property. If the tenant does not pay within the notice time period, then you can file for their removal in court.
- 10-Day Notice to Vacate: You may serve your tenant this notice if they cause excessive property damage, sublet your property without approval, or perform any illegal activities in the property. This notice gives the tenant only 10 days to vacate the property. If they don’t, you can file an eviction lawsuit against them in court.
Serving a Notice for Lease Termination without Legal Cause
If you don’t have any legal justification to evict your tenant, then you must wait until their lease agreement expires before expecting them to move out. If they’re leasing month-to-month, then you can serve them with a one-month notice. Make sure you indicate the date which you expect them to move out by.
The same applies to fixed-term leases. You won’t have to serve tenants with fixed-term leases a written notice because the rental agreement specifies when the tenancy begins and ends.
Steps to File an Eviction in Missouri
Once you serve your tenant with an eviction notice, next you must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in the appropriate court of law. The court’s clerk will then provide you with two copies of the summons and complaint. One will be for you and the other will be for your tenant. You can serve this copy to your tenant in a variety of different ways:
- Leaving a copy with a tenant’s family member who is at least 15 years old.
- Posting a copy on the door of the property or any other conspicuous place.
- Mailing a copy to the last known address of the tenant.
After you serve your tenant with this copy, the next step will be to attending the court hearing. The reason for eviction will determine when the hearing is held. For non-payment of rent, the hearing typically takes place 21 days after the parties are summoned to court. For illegal activities, the hearing will usually take place within 15 business days.
If the tenant does not show up to court, the judge will rule in favor of the landlord by default. In this case, the court will then issue you a writ of possession, which will grant the property back to you. If the tenant does show up in court, the judge will give each party the opportunity to show their evidence. The tenant may assert the following defenses:
- The eviction is based on discrimination. Missouri Human Rights Act and the Federal Fair Housing Act makes discrimination based on gender, religion, race, national origin, disability, and familial status illegal.
- The landlord failed to maintain the rental unit. As a landlord, you are responsible for ensuring the property meets the basic habitability standards. If you don’t, your tenant can exercise their right to “deduct and repair”. In such a case, you cannot evict the tenant citing their failure to pay rent.
- The landlord failed to follow the right eviction procedure. An eviction can only be valid if you follow the right eviction procedure. If you don’t, for instance, serve the tenant with the right notice type, then the court will probably stop further eviction proceedings until you serve the right notice.
The landlord used “self-help” eviction tactics. Shutting off utilities or changing the locks is illegal. Such tactics are referred to as “self-help,” and can cause a lawsuit.
The eviction is an act of retaliation on the landlords part. It is illegal to evict a tenant for exercising any of their rights, such as filing a complaint regarding the property’s condition.
Removing the Tenant
Even after the court of law has granted you a writ of possession, only a law enforcement officer has the authority to remove a tenant from your property. If you try to do it yourself, your tenant can sue you for damages.
Once the tenant moves out of the property, you may notice some of their belongings still in the property. Before disposing of it, you must try and notify the tenant through a written notice to their last known address informing them of the property they left behind. They will then have 10 days to claim it, and if not, you can dispose of it however you see fit.
Tenant evictions can be stressful, lengthy, and time-consuming. That’s why savvy property owners turn to professionals for help. Real Property Group understands the Missouri tenancy laws and can help you evict a problem tenant quickly and at a low cost. Real Property Group can also help you understand the Missouri security deposit laws, which may be something you'll want to consider as you navigate the eviction process.
Disclaimer: The information herein shouldn’t be used as a substitute for legal advice from a professional. Laws change frequently, and this post might not be up-to-date at the time of your reading. If you have further questions, please do get in touch with us.