In Missouri, as with any other state, if rent is paid in a timely manner in exchange for inhabiting property, a landlord-tenant relationship is established (even without a written lease), and with this relationship comes rights and responsibilities for both parties.
Basic Landlord Responsibilities
Keep the rental fit to live in. The landlord is required to provide housing that is habitable and to make repairs in a timely manner when required.
Quiet enjoyment. The landlord is required not to disturb the tenant’s rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space.
Basic Tenant Responsibilities
Pay rent on time. If the tenant does not pay rent in full and in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to take action to end the tenancy.
Cover excessive damages. Tenants are responsible to cover the costs of damages to the property beyond normal “wear and tear”.
With that said, Missouri varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Missouri law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in Missouri
Landlord Responsibilities. In practice, Missouri utilizes what is known as an “implied warranty of habitability” to legally dictate which amenities and services a landlord must provide to their tenant, regardless of where they live in the state. However, Missouri’s warranty of habitability is unusual because it is not codified; instead, it is put into practice through common law, meaning that the vast majority of its standards are open to interpretation based upon the circumstances.
Even so, landlords operating in Missouri are required to provide any amenity that allows that unit to be fit for human habitation under most conditions and at all times of the year. This includes any and all amenities that are provided at the commencement of a tenant’s lease. These same essential amenities must also be repaired when they fail to function properly or safely.
A Missouri tenant can request this kind of repair at any time during their tenancy, subject to any notification requirements included in the applicable lease agreement. Missouri does not dictate or standardize how long a landlord has to respond to this kind of request, but it is assumed that repair services must be rendered in a “timely” manner. If not, an affected Missouri tenant may be able to claim that their landlord’s negligence has caused their unit to become statutorily uninhabitable, which in turn would potentially allow that tenant to push for a lease termination.
Tenant Responsibilities. Missouri tenants are responsible to perform any and all repairs assigned to them in their lease agreement. Even if it is not noted in the applicable lease agreement, this responsibility includes the need to keep their unit “clean” to the extent that no hazards threaten the safety of other tenants or the structural integrity of the unit. A Missouri landlord may require their tenant to remedy a cleanliness issue when it arises. In this case, a Missouri tenant may be required to immediately resolve the situation or face eviction.
Missouri tenants are limited in their options when it comes to taking “alternative action” against a landlord that fails to provide their legally-obligated services, however. This is because tenants in Missouri are not able to entirely withhold rent for any reason. However, under very limited circumstances, a Missouri tenant who has lived in a unit for more than 6 months and has provided written notice of their intent to their landlord may repair an issue on their own and then deduct the cost (less than $300) from their next rent payment.
Evictions in Missouri
Missouri landlords are allowed to file and carry out formal evictions for any of the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent – Missouri is one a small handful of states that has not established a statutory standard for how soon a tenant must pay outstanding rent after their pre-established payment grace period. As such, a Missouri landlord may require immediate payment of rent on the due date established in the applicable lease agreement. Failure to pay up on that same day allows a Missouri landlord to then push for formal eviction by filing a Suit for Rent and Possession.
- Violation of lease terms – When a Missouri tenant violates any of their lease terms (excluding the late payment of rent), they are entitled to receive a 10-Day Notice to Quit from their landlord that states both the nature of the infraction and the terms established for curing it. If those terms are not met within those 10 days, the landlord in question may seek a formal eviction by filing a Suit for Rent and Possession. Particularly egregious infractions that put personal property or safety at risk may also justify a landlord choice to file for an expedited eviction without the 10 day notice period, instead.
- Illegal Acts – If a Missouri landlord can document an example of a tenant committing one or more of the following acts, they may initiate the eviction process by filing a 10-Day Notice to Quit
- Illegal gambling
- Assault or threats of violence
- Possession, sale, or distribution of illegal drugs
This notice period need not provide any terms that allow a tenant to have the eviction requirement removed. Failure to vacate the premises after those 10 days will result in an Unlawful Detainer suit being filed against the tenant in question.
Evictions without a lease. All “at-will” tenants in Missouri (excepting those that have entered into a rent agreement with a fixed end date) are entitled to at least 30 days of notice in advance of an eviction motion coming into force against them. This notice must be provided in writing as well. Tenants that fail to vacate the premises after those 30 days elapse may be required to answer to their landlord’s Unlawful Detainer suit.
Illegal Evictions. Missouri state law does not permit landlords to file for evictions on explicitly or implicitly discriminatory grounds. As such, eviction motions filed against tenants because of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, familial status, or disability may be invalidated by the state’s regulatory authorities.
Landlords in Missouri are also prohibited from using an eviction motion as a means of retaliation. This is particularly true if that retaliation is in relation to a report filed by the targeted tenant for the purposes of documenting a health or safety code violation.
Security Deposits in Missouri
Missouri’s landlord-tenant laws require landlords operating within the state to follow these guidelines if they plan to collect, maintain, and redistribute security deposits:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Missouri limits its landlords when it comes to charging security deposits. Specifically, these landlords cannot charge a security deposit that is worth more than the value of 2 months’ rent under the applicable lease agreement. This may not include ancillary deposits which may be made to secure certain services or privileges, such as a pet deposit.
- Interest and Maintenance – Missouri requires that all landlords maintain their collected security deposits in a federally-insured financial institution. These holdings need not be placed in an interest-bearing account. However, if they are, then any interest that may occur over time is the rightful property of the landlord.
- Time Limit for Return – A landlord in Missouri must return any and all collected security deposit funds to their rightful owner within 30 days of that tenant terminating their tenancy. If deductions are deemed necessary by the landlord, then the remaining deposit balance must be returned with an itemized list of the deductions.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – Failing to return a tenant’s rightful security deposit, in part or in whole, or failing to provide an itemized deduction list when it was warranted will result in the offending landlord becoming liable to up to twice the original deposit’s value as a monetary penalty.
- Allowable Deductions – Missouri landlords can generally make security deposit deductions for any breach of the applicable lease agreement. This includes instances where a tenant has not paid rent on time or instances where they have caused damage to the rented space that exceeds regular wear and tear. Damages relating to the termination of tenancy may also be compensated through a deposit deduction.
Lease Termination in Missouri
Notice Requirements. Missouri tenants who are presently bound to a lease with a fixed end date need not provide notice to their landlord in advance of that pre-established move out date. However, Missouri tenants who are bound to a periodic lease agreement are required to provide the following amounts of advance notice in writing before their request for lease termination can be honored:
- Month-to-Month lease – 1 month of advance notice
- Yearly lease without an end date – 60 days of advance notice
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. In an ideal situation, a Missouri tenant who wishes to legally break their lease early can do so by invoking an early termination clause in their lease agreement. However, not all Missouri landlords write such provisions into their leases. As such, all Missouri tenants should be aware of these alternative justifications for precipitating an early lease termination:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – Despite the fact that Missouri’s warranty of habitability is broadly up for interpretation based upon the situation at hand, landlords operating under the terms of a lease agreement in Missouri are still required to provide their tenants with a space fit for human habitation. This means that they must make any and all repairs that may impact human health or safety in a timely manner. Failure to do so may give an affected tenant the justification they need to seek an immediate lease termination on personal safety grounds.
- Landlord Harassment – Missouri does not maintain a statewide standard for how much notice a landlord must provide before entering an occupied unit to perform a necessary task. That being said, Missouri landlords are still required to abide by any entry policies established in an applicable lease agreement. Failing to do so (such as entering without enough advance notice or for a non-permitted reason) may constitute landlord harassment, after which an affected tenant may be able to successfully push for an early lease termination.
Missouri tenants who intend to break their lease early should know that doing so may not free them from the obligation to pay the remaining value of their lease. However, this obligation to pay can be passed onto a new tenant or sublessor if one can be found. Missouri landlords are legally required to make a reasonable effort to re-rent their units, so a tenant in this situation should try to work with their tenant in order to minimize the financial cost of terminating a lease early.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Missouri
Rent control & increases. Cities and counties in Missouri are expressly forbidden from instituting any kind of rent control policy. As such, landlords operating within the state are free to charge as much as they want for rent prices. In fact, Missouri landlords are also not required to justify their need to increase rent or provide advance notice of a rent increase becoming active. In effect, Missouri landlords are not limited in their ability to raise their tenant’s rent at their own discretion.
Rent related fees. Landlords in Missouri are also allowed to charge certain types of fees that are designed to streamline the process of operating their business. For example, a Missouri landlord can charge as much as they want for a late rent payment fee, but the terms of that fee (including its per diem value and the occasion in which such a fee can be imposed) must be included in the applicable lease agreement. Missouri landlords can also charge a returned check fee, but these fees can only be valued at $25 per instance of a bounced check.
Housing Discrimination in Missouri
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. Missouri’s civil rights laws do not currently extend any protections to tenants based upon particular class-based traits. As such, the extent of the state’s enforcement of fair housing policy falls generally in line with that of the federal government.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations handles all complaints made within the state that relate to discrimination in rental housing. Though this department may investigate a complaint on any number of discriminatory actions, these following business practices have been purposefully highlighted for their discriminating nature when they are targeted at a protected class of tenants:
- Refusing to rent, sell, or negotiate housing
- Establishing different terms, conditions, or privileges between tenants
- Falsely denying the availability of housing for inspection, sale, or rental
- Persuading owners to sell or rent for the purposes of personal profit (blockbusting)
- Denying certain individuals access to or membership in a service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing
- Failing to make a reasonable accommodation
- Refusing to provide a mortgage loan or other key financial service
- Publishing advertisements that imply a preference for one type of tenant over another
The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations allows tenants who feel that they have been discriminated against to file a complaint online. This initiates a process that includes an investigation into the accusations veracity. If the complaint is justified, the tenant will be issued a Notice of Right to Sue, which empowers them to seek damages in civil court. The Department itself does not administer penalties for discrimination, though.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Missouri
Though Missouri doesn’t have many specific landlord-tenant laws, these next few will be important to remember because they are often the topic of dispute between landlords and their tenants:
Landlord Entry. Currently, Missouri does not maintain any statutory standards that address when or for what reason a landlord may enter an occupied unit. As a result, landlords and tenants within the state must establish (prior to a lease being signed) an entry policy that addresses the amount of notice required for a landlord to enter to perform a repair or show the apartment. Otherwise, a Missouri landlord may be able to justifiably enter without permission whenever they wish.
This freedom to enter without permission does extend to emergency situations as well. In fact, even with an entry policy in place, a Missouri landlord may be entitled to enter an occupied unit without notice if they feel an emergency situation threatens the inhabitants health or safety.
Small Claims Court. Missouri’s small claims court system is open and available to all landlords and tenants who wish to formally resolve their disputes over a valuable claim. Their claims can only be valued at up to $5,000, however, and they cannot involve evictions at all. Missouri’s statute of limitations for small claims court cases is fairly lengthy, however, at a full 10 years for written lease agreements and 5 years for oral lease agreements.
Mandatory Disclosures. Missouri landlords are only required to make two kinds of information disclosures to their tenant before their lease agreement can come into force. First, a landlord must provide tenants living in buildings before 1978 with federally-mandated information about the hazards of lead-based paint. Then, that landlord must also provide a disclosure that includes the names and working addresses for all managers and agents who are allowed to control the operation of that tenant’s building
Changing the Locks. Lockouts are expressly prohibited in Missouri. As such, landlords operating in the state are likely not able to unilaterally change their tenant’s locks. However, a Missouri tenant may be able to take a similar action without facing recourse. This is because Missouri does not expressly prohibit tenants from taking this action on their own or as part of a “repair and deduct” process.
Local Landlord-Tenant Laws in Missouri
Kansas City – In 2019, Kansas City adopted a Tenant’s Bill of Right motion through its city council. Though not codified as law, this motion does require landlords within the city to provide amenities such as heating, sewer and water access, plumbing, electric fixtures, and cooking equipment in order for that unit to be considered statutorily habitable. This motion also gives tenants in the city the right to refuse entry to landlords who don’t adhere to an established entry policy. This motion can be read in its entirety here.
St. Louis – The city of St. Louis provides several extra layers of protection when it comes to fair housing access to prospective tenants based upon their sexual orientation and/or source of income. Landlords operating in this city are also not allowed to charge tenants rent if they, the landlord, fail to obtain a Certificate of Inspection for the unit in question. More details on these ordinances can be found in this St. Louis area-specific landlord-tenant guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a landlord enter without permission in Missouri?
Yes, a Missouri landlord may be able to enter an occupied unit without permission unless they are bound to follow an entry policy written into the applicable lease agreement. This is because Missouri does not have statutory standards for any kind of landlord entry, including in cases where repairs are being made or the space is being shown to prospective renters. Missouri landlords are almost always allowed to enter without permission in cases of emergency, though, even if other forms of entry are restricted by an entry policy.
How much notice does a landlord have to give a tenant to move out in Missouri?
Missouri landlords only have to give their tenants as much notice as an applicable lease requires of them when they intend to ask a tenant to move out. In practice, this is usually around 30 days for tenants who have paid rent on time and have no history of lease term infractions. However, tenants who are being forced to move out may only be entitled to 14 days of advance notice before an eviction becomes active. Missouri even gives landlords the power to require an immediate eviction if the tenant in question fails to pay rent on time.
Is Missouri a “landlord friendly” state?
Missouri is a very “landlord friendly” state. This is because it gives landlords free reign over their rent rates, including how high they set them and the timing for when those rent increases go into effect. Missouri landlords also have the power to initiate immediate evictions for some lease infractions (such as a late rent payment), which few other states allow for.
What are a tenant’s rights in Missouri?
Missouri tenants have a limited number of rights, including the right to request repairs for any essential amenities provided to them in their lease at the beginning of their tenancy. Tenants in Missouri also have the right to seek monetary damages from their landlord in the state’s small claims court (except in cases of eviction, which are handled in civil court).
Can a tenant change the locks in Missouri?
Yes, a Missouri tenant may be allowed to change their own locks. This is because the state’s current landlord-tenant code does not outright forbid such a repair from being performed. However, doing so may be considered a breach of the state’s extremely limited justifications for performing a “repair and deduct,” which may cause the tenant in question to become liable to pay for damages incurred by their landlord.