No tenant wants to face an eviction, but understanding the process and tenant rights helps alleviate the tension. Many landlords correctly assume that tenants do not know or understand their rights. The Missouri Landlord and Tenant Act does provide rights and recourse to parties on both sides of the eviction to ensure a fair and legal process.
One large misunderstanding with the Missouri eviction process is who can physically evict a tenant. A landlord cannot evict a tenant without a court order. Even then, a sheriff or court-appointed law officer are the only ones able to remove a renter. Landlords attempting to force out a tenant commit an illegal act called a self-help eviction. The landlord cannot turn off utilities or change locks without a court order of eviction, and he also cannot threaten a tenant to force a departure. Any action the landlord takes to violate the tenant's right of quiet enjoyment and implied warranty of habitability could result in fines and dismissal of the eviction case.
Missouri's eviction process starts with a written notice the landlord serves. The notice contains the tenant's name and address, the eviction reason and a date by which to leave the property. The amount of time varies due to eviction reason, and the name of the form will also change based on that. Missouri's Landlord and Tenant laws do not regulate the length of time for a written notice to be given. A demand for payment notice might only give a tenant three days before a suit is filed; ending a month-to-month lease gets 30 days.
A Rent and Possession lawsuit is filed when a tenant owes rent and does not leave the property when requested. This lawsuit seeks two judgments--for possession of the home and rent owed. A tenant can get this suit dismissed through paying all rent owed within 10 days of service.
Unlawful Detainer lawsuits cover all other eviction cases. The landlord seeks a Judgment of Possession. To win this type of case, the landlord needs to provide proper written notice for the tenant to vacate. If the landlord wins, he has the opportunity to recover twice the rent rate for the time period the tenant stayed at the property. A tenant can stop an Unlawful Detainer suit by moving before the court date.
If the landlord wins the court hearing, he is granted a Judgment of Possession. Rent non-payment evictions often get a judgment for rent money owed, as well as legal fees. The entry of judgment is recorded and served to the tenant, along with a notice of how long he has to move out before the sheriff will remove him from the property.