Landlord-tenant laws may vary depending on the state, so it's essential that you keep an eye out for any specific rules related to the state of Missouri.
One of the areas where Missouri landlords and tenants tend to get more confused is terminations. Ideally, your lease agreement should already have all the necessary terms laid out so that both parties understand what they must do.
Unfortunately, breaking a lease early can bring different problems for both the landlord and tenant unless they both follow the guidelines specified in the lease.
The following page will cover Missouri's landlord-tenant laws, specifically the ones tailored to breaking a lease.
Notice Requirements to End a Lease Agreement in Missouri
As in most other states, Missouri tenants need to provide written notice if they're planning to end a periodic lease. These are the two lease termination notice requirements in Missouri:
- Monthly Lease - At least one month of notice before the date to pay rent.
- Yearly Lease with No End Date - 60 days of notice before the year ends.
Tenants don't need to provide any notice for breaking a fixed-term lease.
Landlords are free to choose the notice delivery method they prefer. The most common ones in Missouri include:
- Serving the letter in person.
- Sending the letter via registered or certified mail.
In any case, Missouri tenants are required to check the lease agreement to see if there are any specific clauses surrounding notice deliveries.
Can a Tenant Break a Lease Without Penalty in Missouri?
It depends on the case. Sometimes, tenants may be able to break a lease early and avoid some penalties. However, they have to meet certain requirements and provide notice as soon as possible so that the landlord can prepare.
Here's an outline of all the conditions that will allow a tenant to move out of a rental unit without any penalties.
Active Military Duty
Active service members can get protection through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Specifically, it protects members and commissioned corps of the:
- Public Health Service
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Activated National Guard
- Armed Forces
To break a lease under the protection of the SCRA, tenants must send proper notice and a copy of the deployment orders, the PCS orders, or any other applicable letter.
Early Termination Clause
An 'Early Termination Clause' allows you to specify all the terms and conditions related to breaking a lease, including steps to follow, potential penalties, and exceptions.
Both parties have a duty to review the terms of the lease before making any important decisions. Otherwise, they'll get exposed to legal consequences later.
Some tenants may be able to break a lease under the argument of 'Landlord Harassment.' If they can prove the action is serious/severe enough, they could avoid the duty of paying rent.
Two scenarios that are often considered 'Landlord Harassment' include:
- Entering the property without proper notice.
- Locking out the tenant.
While there are no statutes surrounding notice requirements for entering a property, it's the landlord's duty to include information about their right of entry in the lease.
On the other hand, landlords can't change the locks or remove doors/windows without the tenant's consent.
All landlords in Missouri have a duty to meet health and safety standards when renting their property to someone else. Otherwise, the tenant would no longer have an obligation to keep paying rent.
According to Missouri landlord-tenant law, landlords have to provide the following:
- A unit that complies with all the habitability laws in the state.
- Repairs that are caused by normal wear and tear.
- Utilities in good and safe working order. Landlords can't turn off these utilities unreasonably.
Domestic Violence/Stalking/Sexual Abuse
Missouri provides protection to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. In some cases, these people may break their lease without penalty if certain conditions are met.
It's essential to note that landlords are entitled to verify a tenant's claims regarding their status. In these cases, the tenant must provide documentation that proves their status of stalking, domestic violence, or any other related case.
On the other hand, landlords can't refuse to rent their property to someone because they were victims of domestic violence before. Finally, the landlord can't end a lease or deny a renewal because of a tenant's domestic violence status.
Other Valid Reasons for Ending a Lease in Missouri
Lease breaking in Missouri can often get complicated, especially considering there are many scenarios where the tenant may break a lease legally. Here's a list of other arguments tenants may use to move out before the lease expires, although they may not always be valid on their own:
- The landlord didn't provide reasonable accommodations to people with qualified disabilities or health issues.
- The landlord failed to provide the necessary disclosures before renting the property.
- The landlord tried to use an illegal or unenforceable contract.
- The landlord violated the lease terms repeatedly.
If a court approves it, the tenant would be relieved from their duty of paying the remaining rent.
Are There Invalid Reasons to Break a Lease in Missouri?
Yes! Some reasons may be 'insufficient' to allow a tenant to break a lease without any consequences. In fact, trying to end the lease under these arguments and nothing else can bring legal problems to the tenant:
- Buying new houses.
- Relocating for new jobs or schools.
- Moving in with a close friend, family member, or partner.
- Moving out because of a separation, divorce, or any other issue.
- Upgrading or downgrading a property.
- Moving closer to a family member, friend, or partner.
In these cases, it's much better for the tenant to try to negotiate with their landlord for a more favorable outcome. Moreover, the sooner the tenant sends the written notice, the more open the landlord will likely be to negotiate.
Can Landlords Get Compensated After a Tenant Breaks the Lease?
Landlords are entitled to compensation if a tenant tries to break a lease early. By including an 'Early Termination Clause,' you ensure you get enough legal protection that will allow you to get the money you're owed in the future.
Most landlords decide to charge penalty fees to their tenants if they ever want to move out before the lease expires. Depending on the case, the penalty fee can be equal to one or two months of rent.
You could also keep the tenant's security deposit to cover a portion of the debt. If the deposit's amount isn't enough to cover all the owed rent, then you may seek further legal action through a small claims court. The current limit on these claims is $5,000 in Missouri.
Do Landlords Have a Duty to Re-Rent the Unit?
It depends on the case. If your tenant breaks the lease illegally, they will be responsible for paying any owed rent money until the agreement expires.
However, if you used the tenant's security deposit to cover part of the owed money, then you have a duty to 'mitigate damages.' Overall, you must make an effort to find a replacement tenant to cover the old one's debt.
If you're able to find a new tenant before the old lease expires, the rent you receive will be credited to the total debt. On the other hand, if you can't find a suitable replacement, you can still hold the old tenant liable for what they owe.
Even though landlords can sue the tenant for the entire money they're owed, this would mean giving up the security deposit, waiting until the lease ends, and seeking legal help, which can be inconvenient and exhausting.
Can a Missouri Tenant Sublet the Rental Unit to Pay Rent?
Missouri state law allows tenants to sublet the rental property as long as the lease doesn't prohibit it. In most cases, the lease agreement will already include a subletting clause. The tenant would have to send a subletting request to their landlord that includes the information of the proposed subtenant.
You can only refuse the subletting request based on appropriate factors.
Managing a rental property can be stressful for anyone, especially if special circumstances affect the natural course of the lease term.
If you want to avoid as many problems as possible, we suggest you include an 'Early Termination Clause' in your lease agreement. While that won't completely avoid problems in some cases, they will provide you with the necessary protection.
Does Missouri Landlord-Tenant Law Allow Tenants to Break a Lease Early?
Yes, Missouri landlord-tenant laws allow tenants to break their lease, as long as they meet one of the requirements mentioned on this page.
What Are the Consequences of Breaking a Lease?
It depends on the case. Typically, tenants who break a lease illegally may lose their security deposit, face penalties, and be exposed to lawsuits from their landlords.
Do Tenants Need to Send Notice Before Ending a Lease?
Tenants must send notice before breaking a lease if they have a periodic one. It's either one month of notice for monthly leases or 60 days of notice for yearly ones with no end date.
Those with fixed-term leases don't need to provide notice, as the lease ends on its last day.
How Can Missouri Landlords Enforce Their Rights After a Tenant Breaks the Lease?
Landlords can include an 'Early Termination Clause' to outline all the consequences a tenant may experience if they try to break a lease early. If the tenant signs the document, it means they agree to all of the terms specified there.
If the tenant tries to break the lease agreement in the future, then they will have to comply with its terms if they want to avoid legal problems with their landlord.
Landlords, on the other hand, can either seek advice from an attorney or an experienced property management company.