Besides our firm and some legal services organizations, it is very hard to find an affordable law firm to represent residential tenants who are facing eviction or other disputes with their landlords in the St. Louis area. On this page we hope you find information and resources to help you make the decision about how to deal with difficulties you are having with your landlord, and whether to reach out to us for help.
In Missouri, a landlord can evict a tenant for failing to pay rent (called a “Rent and Possession” action) or for violating a lease (called an “Unlawful Detainer” action). A tenant being evicted for failing to pay rent or for violating the lease may have defenses, which may or may not allow the tenant to avoid the eviction. If a tenant pays the landlord all unpaid rent and other amounts due after receiving notice of a Rent and Possession action, the landlord normally cannot proceed with the eviction if you challenge them in court.
In order for a landlord to lawfully evict a tenant, the landlord must (1) provide the tenant with notice that he or she is going to proceed with an eviction, (2) file an eviction lawsuit with the court, and (3) receive a court order allowing the eviction to occur (which must ultimately be carried out by the sheriff). It is illegal for a landlord to attempt to evict a tenant through any other means, such as changing the locks or shutting off the utilities at the rental property (see MO Rev Stat § 441.233 (2021)).
In Missouri, if a tenant violates terms of the lease agreement (e.g., allowing unauthorized people or animals to live in the home, or engaging in criminal behavior inside the home), the landlord must give the tenant a ten-day notice that stating the tenant has ten days to move out of the rental property or else be evicted. The landlord is not required to give the tenant any time to fix the lease violation. This means that at the end of the ten days, the landlord can proceed with the eviction if the tenant has not moved out of the rental unit, even if the tenant corrected the lease violation.
If a tenant wishes to challenge the eviction, he or she must appear at the court hearing and present a defense. The judge may conduct the trial on the spot or may set the case for trial at a later date. At the trial, the judge will listen to both the landlord and the tenant and then make a final decision regarding the eviction. Challenging an eviction can be an intimidating process. In addition, certain defenses and counterclaims need to be presented in writing and filed with the court prior to the hearing date or else you may not be able to have the judge consider them at the hearing. An attorney experienced in this area can help determine what you may need to file and can prepare those documents for you.
In addition, a tenant may find that challenging the eviction is not always the best option. The tenant might have to pay the landlord’s court and attorney’s fees if unsuccessful in court. The tenant could also receive a negative credit rating and could be turned down for future housing. The best option for the tenant might be to try to talk to the landlord and negotiate a deal outside the court system, but that can be hard if communication lines with the landlord have broken down. Your attorney’s office can speak with the landlord attorney’s office and sometimes work out a deal that satisfies you.
If you are a residential tenant facing problems with your landlord, we also offer reduced fee consultations of $50 for thirty (30) minutes.
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For additional resources, please check out: the
- Missouri Attorney General here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/publications/landlord-tenantlaw.pdf?sfvrsn=4%20
- Legal Services of Easter Missouri (LSEM) here: https://lsem.org/housing-law/
- Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council (EHOC) here: https://ehocstl.org/landlord-tenant/