Many tenants who sign a lease intend to stay for the entire period. However, sometimes things don’t always go as planned. You may need to move to get closer to your new job. You may also opt to move in with your girlfriend or boyfriend. And, if you are a student at Missouri State, you may only want to rent when school is in session.
Leases are legally binding contracts. So whichever your reason, you can’t simply walk away from one and break its terms without incurring penalties.
Consequences of Breaking a Lease in Missouri
- Difficulty renting a new place. There is a high likelihood that your rental application may be denied in the future. This is because you may have negative information on your reports.
- Credit judgment. If you break the lease, your landlord may report you to the bureaus. Judgments are derogatory, and this information stays on your credit report for seven years.
- Your landlord can take legal action to recover back rent payments because leases are legally binding agreements. Oftentimes, the judgment will favor your landlord and you’ll be required to settle your debt.
However, Missouri State rental laws have rules in place that make a few exceptions when breaking a lease. For example, if your landlord is harassing you, then the law allows you to break the lease without facing any repercussion.
If you are looking to learn more about breaking a lease agreement in Missouri, this guide is for you.
Rights and Responsibilities of Missouri Tenants
A lease gives a tenant certain rights and responsibilities. The landlord, for example, cannot increase the rent amount right then and there. The only exception is if the lease itself allows it.
In addition, the landlord cannot terminate your tenancy as he or she wishes. He or she can only do so if you have seriously violated the Missouri lease agreement. For instance, you are unable to pay rent, or you have engaged in criminal activities within the rental premises.
Conversely, as a tenant, the lease requires you to strictly adhere to the terms of the lease. That means, paying rent on time, ensuring the premises are always clean and letting the landlord know when repairs are needed, among others.
When Breaking a Lease is Legally Justified in the State of Missouri
1. When your landlord violates your privacy rights or harasses you.
As a tenant in Missouri, you have a right to the quiet enjoyment of your home. Essentially, this means that your landlord must give you a notice prior to entering your home.
If they do this repeatedly, it constitutes landlord harassment. You’ll have a legal justification to break the lease without further rent obligation.
You can also break the lease if your landlord harasses you. For example, if they change the locks, remove doors and windows, or turn off utilities.
2. The rental unit is unsafe or violates Missouri health or safety codes.
It’s the responsibility of the landlord to make sure the premises adhere to habitability laws. That is, the premises are safe and adhere to Missouri health or safety codes. Otherwise, a court would rule that you’ve been “constructively evicted.”
Before moving out, though, make sure you meet specific requirements. (Mo. Ann. Stat. § § 441.570, 441.580).
3. You’re starting active military duty.
You have a right to break the lease under federal law if you enter active service after lease signing. You, however, need to belong to the “uniformed services.” Such services include:
- The activated National Guard
- Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service
- Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Armed forces
Once you receive the deployment letter, you must notify your landlord of the same. Your lease will then become null and void after thirty days of doing so.
When Breaking a Lease is Not Legally Justified in the State of Missouri
Generally, if you break your lease early, you are required to continue paying the remaining rent until the lease period ends. The financial implications of this can be devastating.
Luckily, in Missouri, the landlord is tasked with the responsibility of “mitigating damages.” That is, the landlord needs to make reasonable efforts to try and re-rent the unit.
If the landlord is lucky and finds a new renter quickly, your financial burden will greatly be reduced. However, if the landlord’s efforts don’t materialize, you may end up with a significant bill.
So, what can you do to minimize your financial responsibility?
- Find a short-term renter. If your landlord permits subletting, it’s worth a shot.
- Forfeit your security deposit. If you want to avoid credit damage, this is an excellent option.
- Appeal for mercy. This isn’t time to be embarrassed. Try to appeal to his emotions.
- Look for an early termination clause.
Leases are legally binding agreements. You can’t simply pack up your stuff and leave and expect no consequences. If you really have to break your lease, make sure you understand the options before you first.
It always helps to make yourself familiar with the Missouri landlord-tenant laws regarding breaking a lease. This may help protect your rights and financial interests.