A lease agreement is meant to run for a certain period, usually one year. During this time, both the landlord and tenant are contractually bounded by its terms.
Circumstances change, however, and your Missouri tenant can choose to move out before the lease expires. Moving out before the lease expires is referred to as breaking a lease.
So, what should you do as a landlord if you find yourself in this situation? The following is everything you need to know about a tenant breaking a lease in Missouri!
Lease Termination Notice Requirements in the State of Missouri
Missouri tenants aren’t required to provide their landlords a notice for fixed-term leases. That’s because the lease itself specifies the amount of time it’ll be active. Tenants must, however, provide notice for the following agreements:
- Month-to-month agreement: When your tenant is looking to terminate it, they must provide you at least a one-month written notice.
- Yearly lease with no end date: Here, your tenant is obligated to serve you a 60-day written notice before terminating it.
Insufficient Justifications for Lease Breaking in Missouri
Generally, the following aren’t sufficient reasons to break a lease in Missouri:
- The tenant is terminating their lease to move into their new home.
- The tenant is relocating to their new school or job.
- The tenant is moving in with their partner.
- The tenant is looking to upsize or downsize.
- The tenant is moving to be closer to family and friends.
If a tenant uses any of these as justification for breaking a lease they won’t have any legal protection against penalties for failing to honor the agreement.
Justifications for Lease Breaking in Missouri
There are certain situations where a tenant can break their lease. In Missouri, those circumstances are as follows:
1. The tenant is starting active military service
Tenants who are deployed or have permanent change of station for being active service members are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The protection begins the day they begin duty and ends up to ninety days after being discharged.
To break a lease under the act, the tenant must be able to do the following:
- Show proof that they signed the lease before entering active duty
- Show proof that they intend to remain on active duty for at least the next ninety days
- Provide you copies of the deployment letters.
It should be noted that the lease doesn’t terminate immediately. The earliest it can end is 30 days after the next rent period begins.
Missouri recognizes the following units as servicemembers:
- Armed forces
- Activated National Guard
- Commissioned corps of the Public Health Service
- Commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
2. The unit is not habitable
Every state has certain health and safety codes that landlords must abide by, and Missouri isn’t an exception. Per Missouri landlord-tenant law, you are required to provide your tenant the following three for the unit to be considered habitable:
- Ensure the property is habitable throughout their tenancy. This means providing reliable heat, sufficient hot water, and sturdy floors and walls that don’t pose any danger of imminent collapse.
- Take care of requested repairs within a reasonable time frame.
- Ensure that your tenant has access to important utilities, such as water, electricity, and gas.
If you don’t meet Missouri’s habitability standards, your tenant has is the Right to Repair and Deduct. This right allows tenants to deduct from their rent the cost of repairs they make to their rental property. Your tenant can also report you to a relevant government authority.
Tenants also have a right to move out with no further obligations to the lease if their units are uninhabitable.
3. You have harassed the tenant
All forms of landlord harassment are illegal in Missouri. The term landlord harassment refers to when a landlord creates situations where tenants feel uncomfortable, to the point that they are left with no option other than to move out.
The following landlord actions can be deemed as landlord harassment:
- Creating a nuisance that disrupts the tenant’s ability to quietly enjoy the rental unit.
- Refusing otherwise acknowledge or accepted payments of rent.
- Withholding amenities that were previously offered, like pool privileges or landscaping services.
- Failing to respond to maintenance requests rapidly and responsibly.
Such actions are illegal in the state of Missouri just like they are elsewhere in the country.
4. You have violated the tenant’s right to privacy
Your Missouri tenant has a right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their rented premises. In other words, you cannot barge in as you like. If you do, especially repeatedly, your tenant can move out of their rented premises citing violation of their privacy.
The state doesn’t have any statute in regards to how much notice a landlord must provide their tenant before entering their unit. Nonetheless, most landlords do serve their tenants at least 24 hours notice before accessing their unit.
It’s important to understand Missouri’s leasing laws and landlord-tenants laws when handling instances of lease-breaking. These laws are subject to change and it’s your responsibility to remain informed.
If this seems overwhelming, consider hiring the services of a property management company like Keyrenter St. Charles Property Management. They’ll be able to keep you on the right side of all rental laws including security deposit, eviction law, and rent increase laws. Their experts will also be able to assist you in all other aspects of property management!
Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and the information herein may not be updated at the time of your reading. For expert help, please consider hiring a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.