Chapter 535 of the Missouri Revised Statutes lays the foundation of the eviction laws in Missouri. As a Missouri landlord, it’s important you understand these laws before beginning a tenant eviction. Otherwise, the eviction may fail.
There are a number of reasons for when a landlord may evict a tenant:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Assault of another tenant or the landlord
- Illegal drug-related activity on the property
- Illegal gambling on the premises
- Violation of a lease provision
- Damage to the rental property
- Holdover after the expiration of a lease
To evict a tenant for any of these lease violations, you must have a court order. This means you can’t just simply kick the tenant out by yourself. Self-eviction is illegal in Missouri.
Self-eviction includes such acts as threatening the tenant with violence, removing the tenant’s personal belongings, padlocking the doors or changing the locks, turning off utilities or any other action designed to force the tenant to vacate the premises.
If you are a Missouri landlord, here’s a guide to the proper tenant eviction process.
Service of Sermons
Service of Sermons must be done by the sheriff or another court officer. Unless you request a later date, a court date will be scheduled for not more than twenty-one days after issuing of the summons.
The service may be done either by posting or by personal service on a person who is at least fifteen years of age and who resides in the rental unit.
If the tenant shows up, the judge will examine evidence and listen to both sides. If they don’t, you’ll win by default. The court will then issue a judgment for possession to you.
Tenant Eviction Defenses
Even when you have a valid legal reason to evict the tenant, the law still provides the tenant an opportunity to challenge it. Fighting an eviction not only increases the amount of time the tenant has to stay in the rental unit, it also increases the costs of the eviction lawsuit for both parties.
Common eviction defenses in Missouri:
- You didn’t follow proper eviction procedures. For instance, you served the wrong notice.
- You used “self-help” eviction. This means you did such things as shutting off the utilities or changing the locks to force the tenant to move out.
- The tenant fixed the problem when they got the notice.
- You evicted the tenant based on discrimination. That is, you are evicting the tenant based on their familial status, age, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, sex, race, religion, or disability.
- You failed to maintain the rental unit. It’s your duty to maintain habitable living premises.
- The tenant didn’t do the things you said they did.
- You refused to take the rent.
Ten Day Appeal Period
The tenant will have ten days to appeal the judgment once you win at the original court date. If the tenant wants to remain in the property as they await the court to determine their appeal, then they must post a bond with the court.
Writ of Execution
If the tenant appeal is unsuccessful, the court will issue you a Writ of Execution. A Writ of Execution is a court order that enforces the judgment against the tenant. Typically, a court will order the sheriff or another similar official to execute it.
Once you have the Writ of Execution, you must contact the sheriff’s office at least seven days prior to its expiry.
Expedited Eviction in Missouri
Missouri law allows landlords to file for expedited eviction proceedings in certain circumstances. They include:
- If the tenant sublets the property without first notifying the landlord.
- When a drug-related criminal activity has occurred on or within the property leased to the tenant. This includes a drug related activity by the guest of the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or the tenant himself.
- Missouri courts will also grant immediate eviction if the tenant has caused damage equal to more than 12 months of rent.
Tenant’s Personal Property
You may find that the tenant has left behind their personal property after they’ve moved out of the rental unit. The law requires you to first notify the tenant of their belongings before proceeding to dispose them off. The tenant will then have ten days to respond to the notice. (See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 441.065)
It is important for Missouri landlords to follow all the rules and procedures when it comes to tenant eviction. Many judges have zero-tolerance to landlords who are ignorant of the eviction laws. If you need more clarification, seek professional help.