Any landlord who wishes to evict a residential tenant in Missouri must follow the steps of the Missouri eviction process. There are number of valid reasons for which a landlord may wish to evict a tenant:
- Holdover after expiration of lease
- Nonpayment of rent
- Damage to the rental property
- Violation of a lease provision
- Illegal gambling on the premises
- Illegal drug-related activity on the property
- Assault of another tenant or on the landlord
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The Missouri eviction process has two procedures for evictions: rent and possession for nonpayment of rent; and unlawful detainer. The latter process is for holdovers and for particular lease violations that warrant an eviction.
No landlord may evict a tenant without a court order. Self-eviction includes such acts as turning off utilities, padlocking the doors or changing the locks, removing the tenant’s personal belongings, threatening the tenant with violence or any other action designed to force the tenant to vacate the premises.
A landlord may be liable for to up to twice the damages incurred by a tenant who proves the landlord committed such acts.
The Missouri eviction process does not specify a particular notice requirement in cases of nonpayment of rent; only that a demand that the rent be paid. The landlord should at least give the tenant a few days to pay the overdue rent since most states have 3-7 day notice requirements.
The Missouri Eviction Notice must be served either personally on the tenant or by leaving it with a person at least 15-years of age who lives on the property. If no one is present, the server may post the demand and complete a sworn affidavit attesting to service.
For holdovers and lease violations such as creating a nuisance, having unauthorized persons living on the property, or for any other substantial violation, the landlord must serve a 30-day notice to vacate or to comply with the lease provision, if it can be remedied.
A Missouri eviction notice does not need to be served if there is unlawful drug-related or any violent criminal activity. The landlord does not have to wait for a conviction in these cases and may immediately apply to the court to begin the eviction action.
The demand to pay or the notice to vacate may be served by either the landlord or his or her representative.
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Rent and Possession Actions
In nonpayment of rent cases and after a written demand has been made, the landlord must submit an affidavit to the circuit court where the property is located. The affidavit must set forth the terms on which the property was leased, a description of the property, the amount of rent owed, that a demand was made and that compliance was not forthcoming.
Once accepted, the clerk issues a summons with a court date indicated and an order to show cause directed to the tenant why possession of the property should not be returned to the landlord. A tenant can stop the eviction and have the eviction action dismissed if he or she tenders the entire amount due along with court costs before the court date.
Unlawful Detainer Actions
For unlawful detainer actions, once the notice period for noncompliance with the lease or for a holdover has expired and the tenant has not complied, the landlord must submit a sworn Landlord’s Complaint to the appropriate circuit court with a description of the leased property, the nature of the noncompliance and who committed the breach. Once accepted, the clerk will issue a summons.
Service of Summons
The summons is to be given to the sheriff or other court officer to serve the tenant. A court date will be scheduled for not more than 21-days after the summons is issued unless the landlord requests a later date.
The summons may be served personally, on a person at least 15-years of age who resides on the property, or by posting and mail. If the tenant is not served personally or on a person of suitable age, the landlord may only obtain possession of the property and may not collect any monetary damages. Also, if service is by posting, the landlord must file a motion and obtain a court order to do so.
If the tenant has any counterclaims, they must be submitted in writing before the court date.
Eviction trials are before a judge only. If the landlord proves his or her case or the tenant fails to appear, the court will issue a judgment for possession to the landlord. In unlawful detainer cases, the tenant may be ordered to pay double the amount of rent for the time he or she remained after the date the tenant was to vacate the property.
A tenant in the Missouri eviction process may assert any of the following defenses:
- The breach of a lease provision is not substantial enough to warrant an eviction.
- The tenant had no prior knowledge of the criminal activity that is the basis of the eviction.
- The tenant reported the unlawful activity by another person on the lease or someone over whom the tenant has control to the landlord.
- The allegations are false.
- There was improper service.
- The notice does not specify a reason for eviction.
- The landlord waived eviction by accepting rent.
- The eviction is in retaliation for the tenant having filed a complaint regarding the condition of the property.
- The eviction is based on the tenant’s religion, race, sex, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, age, marital or family status, or disability. In Kansas City, an eviction may not be based on the tenant’s sexual orientation.
Judgment and Writ of Execution
After the judgement is issued, the tenant has 10-days to file an appeal. The court will issue a Writ of Execution if requested by the landlord after the 10-day period. The writ is given to the sheriff’s office, which schedules an eviction date. The writ does have an expiration date and the landlord must contact the sheriff’s office at least 7 days before the expiration of the date.
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