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Landlord/Tenant Law

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Missouri Landlord-Tenant Law

In a landlord-tenant relationship, each party is expected to fulfill their responsibilities to the lease agreement. When one party doesn’t fulfill their responsibilities, the relationship can become complicated. Missouri’s landlord-tenant laws govern many of the terms on a lease agreement, so when a landlord or tenant breaks the lease, they may end up facing a lawsuit.

Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key Missouri landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.

Anti-Discrimination in Housing

Missouri prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on characteristics that are protected by the state’s housing discrimination laws. Specific actions like charging a higher than average rental rate may be considered discriminatory if the landlord does these things because of a tenant’s:

  • Color
  • Familial status
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Race

Security Deposits

A common component to a lease agreement in Missouri is the security deposit. The deposit typically amounts to one month’s rent with a legal maximum of two months’ rent. However, the deposit isn’t considered to be a tenant’s first or last month’s rent payment.

The deposit is held in a trust at a bank where any interest it earns is the landlord’s to keep. At the end of the tenancy, the landlord may use the deposit to:

  • Cover unpaid rent.
  • Make repairs to damages beyond normal wear and tear or restore the rental property to its original state.
  • Compensate for actual damages from a tenant’s early lease termination without providing the landlord with adequate notice.

The landlord is required to return the remainder of the security deposit plus a written notice itemizing any charges made to it to the tenant within 30 days after the tenancy ends. If no deductions from the deposit are claimed, the landlord must return the full deposit amount.

Lease Agreements

The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding contract detailing the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:

  • Grounds for lease termination and eviction.
  • The security deposit amount and what it covers.
  • Repair policy and procedures.
  • Roommate and guest policies.
  • The rent rate and payment schedule.
  • The length of the leasing term (weeks, months or years).

Eviction Grounds and Notice

When a tenant breaks their lease by violating its terms, they may be evicted by the landlord. A tenant may be evicted for:

  • Not paying rent.
  • Willfully or negligently causing damage or allowing the rental property to be damaged by guests.
  • Injuring other tenants or the landlord.
  • Subletting the rental property without the landlord’s approval.
  • Refusing to vacate at the end of the leasing term.
  • Other violations according to the lease.

If a landlord decides to evict a tenant, they must provide written notice to the tenant to vacate the property. The notice must be provided 10 days before the landlord files for an eviction lawsuit with the court. The landlord must have a cause to serve an early eviction notice, otherwise they must wait until the leasing term expires and the tenant moves.

Getting Legal Help from a Missouri Attorney

While many landlord-tenant conflicts can be resolved without going to court, the laws involved in these conflicts are complex. The Missouri Attorney General published a landlord-tenant guide that contains more information about landlord and tenant laws. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.

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