Lease Disputes

The law provides landlords and tenants with rights and obligations.  Whether it is a dispute regarding the terms of a lease or an issue with possession of the premises, the firm has extensive experience handling lease disputes efficiently and effectively.

Laws passed in 1997 offer greater protection for tenants renting from unresponsive landlords as well as more options for landlords to get rid of drug dealers and destructive tenants. Among the provisions:

● Authorizes county courts to order the quick removal of tenants involved in drug-related criminal activity or violence, even when there is no arrest. Prior written notice is not required to remove a tenant.

● Allows landlords to remove abandoned personal items once they have complied with notice requirements.

● Makes a landlord guilty of forcible entry for willfully interrupting utility service, unless it is done for health and safety reasons.

● Allows a tenant, under certain circumstances and after giving a landlord 14 days’ notice, to deduct one-half month’s rent or up to $300 (whichever is greater) for repair of code violations when a landlord neglects property. This can be done once a year.

● Allows a landlord to double the rent when a tenant lets another person take over the premises without the landlord’s permission.

Leases:  Renters are bound either by an oral or written agreement.

WRITTEN AGREEMENT: Written agreements are more common and better protect the tenant and the landlord. When a lease is signed by both parties, it becomes a binding legal contract. If any party does not fulfill the terms of the lease, the person who defaults can be sued.   A tenant is not excused from honoring a lease simply because he does not understand or did not read it.

When considering a written lease agreement, tenants should:

● Read the entire contract and ask questions or obtain a legal opinion about unclear provisions.

● Ask for changes.  If tenants dislike certain provisions in the lease, they have the right to ask landlords to amend the lease with written changes.  However if a landlord refuses, which he has a right to do, a tenant must decide whether to sign the lease. If changes are made, both the tenant and landlord should initial the changes.

BASIC LEASE PROVISIONS:  At a minimum the lease should include:

● Landlord’s name, address and phone number.

● Address of rental property.

● Amount of monthly rent.

● Rent due date and grace period (if any).

● Amount of security deposit and conditions for its return.

● Length of lease.

Security deposit:  Under Missouri law, a landlord can only require a maximum two months’ rent as a security deposit. At the end of the lease, the landlord has 30 days to return the security deposit with an itemized list of damages for which any portion of the deposit is kept.  During that 30-day period, the landlord must notify the tenant of the time and date when the landlord plans to inspect the dwelling. The tenant has the right to be present during the move-out inspection, which must be conducted at a reasonable time. To avoid last-minute problems, tenants should ask the landlord in what condition he expects the unit to be left. Then allow plenty of time for cleaning.  The landlord may keep all or part of a deposit to pay for actual damages (not for normal wear and tear), unpaid rent, or lost rent due to the tenant moving out without adequate notice. The tenant may not use the security deposit to pay the last month’s rent. Remember to give the landlord your forwarding address in writing. Otherwise, he may not be able to send your deposit.