Frequently Asked Questions About the Missouri Eviction Process

When managing rental properties, landlords often encounter situations requiring them to consider eviction as a course of action. (See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 535.010).

If you’re a landlord in Missouri, understanding the eviction process is crucial. 

In this article, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about the eviction process in Missouri, shedding light on the different types of evictions and the legal actions involved.

Q. What is an Eviction? 

An eviction is the legal process through which a landlord removes a tenant from a rental property using a court action or lawsuit. 

In the state of Missouri, there are three primary types of evictions: 

  • Rent and possession actions, 
  • Unlawful detainer actions and 
  • Emergency evictions.

Q. What is a Rent and Possession action? 

If your tenant has fallen behind on rent payments but continues to occupy the property, you can initiate a “Rent and Possession” lawsuit. (See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 535.010).

This legal action is aimed at evicting the tenant due to non-payment of rent. 

Q. What is an Unlawful Detainer action? 

In cases where a tenant has violated the terms of their lease, broken the law, or remained in the property after the lease has expired, you can pursue an “Unlawful Detainer” lawsuit. 

Before filing this type of lawsuit, the tenant must receive proper notice. Once notice has been provided and the tenant’s violations are established, an unlawful detainer lawsuit can be filed.

Q. What is an Emergency Eviction? 

They are called an immediate eviction; an “Emergency Eviction” lawsuit in Missouri allows landlords to expedite the eviction process. 

In an emergency eviction, a landlord can evict a tenant 24 hours after a Judge has issued a judgment without the presence of a Deputy Sheriff. 

To qualify for an Emergency Eviction, the landlord must demonstrate instances of violence, drug-related criminal activities, or substantial physical damage to the property amounting to at least 12 months’ worth of rent. 

Common Misconceptions About Missouri Evictions: Debunked

As a landlord in Missouri, dealing with tenants who stop paying rent can be a frustrating and challenging experience. 

One question often arises is whether landlords can take matters into their own hands by changing locks or shutting off utilities. 

Tim’s Legal Tip: It’s crucial to understand that Missouri law prohibits such “self-help” evictions and imposes severe penalties on landlords who attempt them. 

Let’s address some common misconceptions and shed light on the legal realities surrounding these actions.

Q. Can a Landlord Change The Locks or Turn Off The Utilities When The Tenant Stops paying? 

No, you cannot. It’s essential to recognize that Missouri law categorically forbids landlords from engaging in “self-help” evictions. 

This means landlords cannot take matters into their own hands by changing locks, shutting off utilities, or forcing a tenant to vacate without a proper court judgment. 

Attempting such actions can lead to severe consequences, including criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits.

If a tenant stops paying rent, following the legal eviction process is vital rather than resorting to self-help measures. 

Even if the tenant has left the property in disarray or behaved inappropriately, it does not provide a valid defense for circumventing the law. 

Q. What is an Unlawful Eviction? 

An “unlawful eviction” occurs when a landlord attempts to evict a tenant without obtaining a court judgment. 

In Missouri, only a Judge has the authority to order a tenant to vacate a property. 

Engaging in self-help evictions, such as changing locks, using threats or violence, disconnecting utilities, or removing a tenant’s belongings from the rental unit, is considered unlawful. 

Landlords must adhere to the legal eviction process to avoid penalties and legal repercussions.

Q. Can a landlord Turn Off The Utilities if The Tenant Refuses to Place Them in Their Name? 

Regardless of the situation, it is against the law to terminate essential utility services to a property where a tenant resides. 

Even if the utilities are in the landlord’s name, shutting them off without following proper eviction procedures is unlawful. 

If tenants fail to place utilities in their name or pay for them, landlords must address the issue through legal channels rather than resorting to self-help measures.

Ultimately, taking matters into one’s own hands when dealing with problematic tenants might seem tempting, but it’s a path that leads to legal trouble and financial repercussions. 

Landlords must understand that the eviction process is designed to protect both tenants and landlords, ensuring fair and lawful resolutions to conflicts.

Understanding the Eviction Timeline and Process: Your Questions Answered

Navigating the eviction process in Missouri requires a clear understanding of the various steps and legal requirements involved. 

If you’re a landlord considering eviction, you likely have questions about the timeline and procedures. 

Let’s address some common queries about the eviction process in Missouri.

Q. How Long Does the Eviction Process Take in Missouri? 

Once a lawsuit is filed, a court date is scheduled around four (4) weeks later. 

To ensure proper notification, our private process server delivers a copy of the petition and court summons to the tenant(s) at least ten (10) days before the court date. 

The timeframes for finalizing a default judgment vary based on the type of lawsuit:

  • Default judgment for “Rent and Possession”: Final after ten (10) days.
  • Default judgment for “Unlawful Detainer”: Final after thirty (30) days.
  • Default judgment for “Immediate Eviction”: Final after twenty-four (24) hours.

If the tenant appears in court to dispute the allegations in the petition, the case will be set for trial within seven (7) to fourteen (14) days. 

Other than a default judgment, any judgment becomes final after 30 days. Once a judgment becomes final, the Deputy Sheriff can issue a writ of restitution to proceed with physical removal.

  • Most Deputy Sheriffs will remove the tenant within fifteen (15) to thirty (30) days.

It will likely take at least ninety (90) days for a renter to be removed from the property. 

Q. What is a Petition for Eviction? 

A “petition” is an officially certified document submitted to the court requesting an order for your tenant(s) to pay rent and late fees and vacate the property.

Q. What is a Summons? 

A “summons” is the legal paperwork that informs your tenant(s) of the lawsuit and establishes the Court’s jurisdiction over the case. It commands the tenant(s) to appear in court on a specific date to respond to the petition.

Q. Where is The Eviction Lawsuit Filed? 

The eviction lawsuit must be filed in the county where the rental property is located.

Q. Who Should be Named as the Landlord in the Petition? 

The petition can name either the property owner or manager.

Q. What Notice is Required Before Filing The Rent and Possession Lawsuit? 

Missouri law only mandates that landlords provide a demand for payment or eviction to tenants who owe past due rent and fees before initiating a rent and possession lawsuit. (See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 535.020).

Q. What Notice is Required Before Filing an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit? 

If your tenant(s) has violated the lease or the law or has not vacated after lease expiration, you must serve a 10 Day Termination Notice.

Q. What Notice is Required to Terminate a Month-To-Month Tenancy? 

For month-to-month tenants, termination requires one month’s notice, calculated from a rent-paying date. (See Mo. Rev. Stat. § 441.060).

For instance, if rent is due on the 1st of each month, the landlord must provide notice by January 1st for termination on January 31st.

Navigating the Legal Aspects of Eviction: What You Need to Know

As a landlord navigating the eviction process in Missouri, it’s essential to understand the legal terms and proceedings involved clearly. 

Here, we address some common inquiries to shed light on crucial aspects of the eviction process.

Q. Does The Landlord Need to Appear at The First Court Date? 

If you have hired an attorney to file the lawsuit, you will not need to appear for the initial court date.

During this appearance, your attorney will request the Judge to issue a judgment in your favor.

Q. What is a Judgment? 

A “judgment” is a written decision issued by a Judge that outlines the rights and obligations of the parties involved in a lawsuit. This written ruling typically provides insight into the Judge’s reasoning behind the decision reached.

Q. What is a Default Judgment? 

A “default judgment” is a legally binding ruling issued by a Judge when your tenant(s) fail to appear in court on the date specified in the summons despite being served with the necessary legal documents.

Q. What is a Consent Judgment? 

A “consent judgment” is another binding judgment issued by a Judge, but this one is based on an agreement reached between you and your tenant(s). 

This agreement settles the case, outlining both parties’ mutually accepted terms.

Q. What is a Stay of Execution? 

A “stay of execution” is a court-ordered temporary suspension of the eviction process. 

There are two ways to obtain a stay: automatic or conventional. The first occurs by operation of law, while the second involves an agreement between you and your tenant(s). 

This agreement might establish a repayment plan or specify a future eviction date.

Q. What Happens if The Tenant Appears in Court and Disputes The Petition? 

If your tenant(s) attends the initial court date and challenges the claims presented in the petition, the Judge will schedule the case for a trial.

Completing the Eviction Process: Final Steps and Responsibilities

As you approach the final stages of the eviction process in Missouri, specific crucial steps must be taken to ensure a smooth transition. 

Let’s delve into the last leg of eviction proceedings and discuss the responsibilities you need to address as a landlord.

Q. The Tenant Was Ordered to Leave by The Judge, but They Are Still There. What Can a Landlord Do? 

If your tenant(s) remain on the property despite a court-issued judgment against them. You can then file a “writ of restitution” with the Court to physically remove the tenant(s).

Q. What is a Writ of Restitution? 

A “writ of restitution” is a formal court order issued by a Judge that mandates a Deputy Sheriff to enforce the eviction by physically removing the tenant(s) from the rental property.

Q. How Will the Landlord Know When the Eviction is Scheduled? 

Within seven (7) to ten (10) days after filing a writ of restitution, your eviction case will be assigned to a Deputy Sheriff. 

The Deputy Sheriff will contact you and inform you of the scheduled date and time of the lockout.

Q. Does The Landlord Need to be Present at The Eviction? 

Yes, your presence is required on the day of the eviction. You must be available to meet the Deputy Sheriff. 

When the Deputy arrives, usually in a marked patrol car, you must identify yourself as the landlord or representative. 

You’ll also indicate the entry door to the rental property and provide authorization for entry, including using force if necessary. 

If you possess a key, the Deputy can enter, or you should have a locksmith on standby.

Q. What happens if the tenant refuses to remove themselves and their belongings? 

If the tenant(s) resist leaving, the Deputy Sheriff will perform the physical removal. 

You must relocate all of the tenant’s belongings to the curb efficiently. 

Respect the Deputy’s time and ensure you have sufficient assistance to expedite the process. Once completed, you’ll be allowed to change the locks to prevent reentry by the tenant(s).

Q. Does the landlord have to set everything on the curb, or can I keep and sell it? 

The Deputy Sheriff’s instructions dictate that the tenant’s property should be moved to the curb. 

This action signifies the end of your obligation. After placement on the curb, the belongings are considered abandoned, granting you the authority to decide their fate.

Q. What should the landlord do if the tenant moves out but leaves personal belongings behind? 

Should you find yourself in a situation where the tenant has departed, but belongings remain, you can declare the property abandoned. 

To do so without a court judgment, you must adhere to specific criteria:

  • A reasonable belief that the tenant(s) have left permanently.
  • Thirty days of unpaid rent.
  • Post and mail a written notice to the tenant’s last known address, giving them ten days to respond and establish that the property isn’t abandoned.

By understanding and following these concluding steps, you can bring the eviction process to a close while adhering to Missouri’s regulations.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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