A Missouri landlord can evict a tenant for a few legal reasons. These include going against the rental agreement/lease, nonpayment of rent, and excessive property damage. When they’ve made the decision to evict their tenant, a landlord should follow the correct eviction lawsuit procedure so that you don’t make any costly mistakes in the Missouri eviction process.
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 a landlord must follow the correct legal procedure so that the landlord avoids making a mistake like attempting to self-evict their tenant, which is illegal.
In this post, we’ll cover a basic overview of the eviction laws in Missouri that a landlord must know. Understanding them will provide you with a basic framework of what you should and shouldn’t do when filing an eviction lawsuit against 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 the landlord must first terminate their tenancy by serving them with an eviction notice. This will inform a tenant that they must vacate the rental unit within a certain amount of time. Different notices serve different purposes. Here are two common types of notices:
- Pay or Quit Notice: If a tenant fails to pay rent, this is against the rental agreement/lease, and the landlord may serve them with a Pay or Quit notice. This tells the tenant that they must pay rent they owe within a certain time frame or move out of the rental unit with their personal property. If the tenant does not pay rent within the notice time period, then the landlord can file for their removal in court.
- 10-Day Notice to Vacate: The landlord may give the tenant this if the tenant causes excessive property damage, the tenant sublets the landlord's property without approval, or the tenant performs any illegal activities in the rental unit. This notice gives the tenant only 10 days to vacate the rental property. If the tenant does not, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against them in court.
Serving a Notice for Lease Termination without Legal Cause
If the landlord doesn’t have any legal justification to evict your tenant, then the landlord must wait until their rental agreement expires before expecting them to move out of the rental unit. If the tenant is leasing a month-to-month rental unit, then the landlord may give the tenant a one-month warning. The landlord must indicate the date which you expect the tenant to move out by. When evicting a tenant, having a written notice is vital in case any disputes occur.
The same applies to fixed-term leases. You won’t have to give the tenant in Missorui with a fixed-term lease a written notice because the rental agreement specifies when the tenancy begins and ends.
Steps to File an Eviction in Missouri
Once the landlords serves their tenant in Missouri with a notice, next the landlord must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in the appropriate court of law. After filing an unlawful detainer, the court’s clerk will provide the landlord with two copies of the summons and complaint. One will be for the landlord and the other will be for the tenant. When evicting a tenant, a landlord may serve this copy to their tenants 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 rental unit or any other conspicuous place.
- Mailing a copy to the last known address of the tenant.
According to the Missouri eviction process, 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. The notice to vacate must be followed by the tenant. 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. Regardless of the lease, as a landlord, you are responsible for ensuring the rental unit meets the basic habitability standards. If the landlord doesn’t, the tenant can exercise their right to “deduct and repair” that causes the landlord to lose rent. In such a case, the landlord cannot evict the tenant citing their nonpayment of rent.
- The landlord failed to follow the right eviction procedure. An eviction can only be valid if the landlord follows the right eviction procedure. If the landlord doesn’t, for instance, serve the tenant with the right notice type, then the court will probably stop further eviction proceedings until the landlord serves 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 for a landlord to evict a tenant in Missouri for exercising any of their rights, such as filing a complaint regarding the property’s condition or not paying the rent for an unjust rent increase.
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 rental unit. 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 personal property still in the unit. Before disposing of personal property, you must try and notify the tenant through a written notice to their last known address informing them of what 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.