Whether you’re in Wentzville, St. Charles, St. Louis, or any city in the state of Missouri, if you’re a rental property landlord, you need to make sure you are abiding by the Missouri Landlord Tenant Law.  Below, we are going to break down some of the important aspects of these rental property laws, so you can make sure you are in full compliance.

Neglecting Repairs.  Did you know that your tenant has the right to withhold up to one-half month’s rent if a Missouri landlord neglects a property?  It’s true.  On the occasion where a landlord isn’t making proper repairs of code violations, the tenant can withhold rent.  If the tenant gives the landlord 14 days notice, and the landlord still doesn’t make the repairs, then the tenant can withhold $300 or one-half month’s rent, whichever is greater.  In order to do this, the tenant must also meet the following:

  • The tenant must have lived in the property for at least six consecutive months.
  • The tenant has paid all rent owed.
  • The tenant is not in violation of the lease.
  • The tenant has provided written notice to the landlord and the tenant’s plan to remedy the situation.
  • The tenant has allowed at least 14 days for the landlord to respond to the notice.
    The condition affects the sanitation, security, or habitability of the property and violates city code.

The best way to avoid getting in this type of situation is to make sure your lease states which repairs the tenant is responsible for, and which repairs the landlord is responsible for.  You should also make sure that your rental property passes any municipality or city occupancy inspections prior to the tenant moving in, so that you can ensure it meets all code requirements.  Most municipalities in both St. Louis and St. Charles county require these inspections.

Security Deposit.  In the state of Missouri, the landlord cannot charge more than two months’ rent as a security deposit.  Once the lease has ended, the landlord has 30 days to return the security deposit to the tenant, along with an itemized list of damages for which any part of the security deposit was withheld.  When the landlord, or property management company, conducts the move out condition report, the landlord must notify the tenant of the time and date they plan to inspect the rental home, and it must be during a reasonable time.

The security deposit can be withheld to pay for damages (not from normal wear and tear), unpaid rent, or lost rent due to the tenant moving out without enough notice.  In no circumstances is the tenant allowed to use the security deposit to pay last month’s rent.  If the landlord has wrongfully withheld either all or a portion of the security deposit, the tenant may sue to recover up to twice the amount of what was wrongfully withheld.  So, let’s say the property manager withholds $200 of the security deposit for cleaning out the gutters because they were completely full when the tenant moved out.  The tenant, after reading their lease, finds there is nothing written out that they are responsible for keeping the gutters cleaned.  The tenant sues the landlord, and the judge awards the tenant not the $200 originally withheld, but $400.  Know your lease, and know what you can withhold.

The best way to avoid this is to 1) know what your lease says, of course and 2) Complete a thorough condition report of the property before the tenant moves in, and after the tenant moves out.  Take a ton of photos and video, so that every inch of the rental property is documented.  That way, if needed, you can prove in court what damage was caused by the tenant.  When you’re itemizing out what you’re withholding from the security deposit, imagine each time, for each deduction, being in front of a judge.

Evictions.  If you have to evict a tenant in Missouri, be sure you know the law.  The tenant can only be evicted with a court order.  The tenant will receive a notice that an eviction lawsuit has been filed, and the tenant will have the opportunity to come to court and defend their case before the eviction is filed.  In Missouri, tenants can be evicted for the following reasons:

  • Not paying rent.
  • Damaging the property.
  • Violating the terms of the lease.
  • Injuring the landlord or another occupant/tenant
  • Allowing drug-related activity on the premises.
  • Gambling illegally on the premises.
  • Not vacating at the end of the lease term.
  • Allowing someone to live in the property whom the landlord had previously excluded.

As a rental property owner, it is your responsibility to understand the basics of Missouri landlord/tenant law.  And you also want to make sure that your property management company is well versed as well.  If you have particular questions, feel free to reach out to us.

Source:  Missouri’s Landlord-Tenant Law, Eric Schmitt Missouri Attorney General – https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/publications/landlord-tenantlaw.pdf?sfvrsn=4%20