These can differ from county to county, but landlords may find that they all more or less follow the same eviction process:
Alternatively, a landlord can also ask for legal advice from an attorney for more information on the rules for evicting a tenant. The best legal advice will come from an attorney who is well-versed in Missouri legal law.
1. Failure to pay rent or nonpayment of rent
The most common reason for eviction is nonpayment of rent. A landlord can evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time.
Rent is considered late in Missouri a day past its due. However, a grace period to extend payment of timely rent may be available if the landlord and tenant were able to include a stipulation in their lease/rental agreement about extension of rent.
According to Missouri law, the tenant must be at least one month behind paying rent before a landlord can begin filing for an eviction action. This means rent is due and has been for at least one month.
In a case about failure to pay rent, the landlord is not required to give the tenant any prior written notice before filing for eviction for nonpayment of rent. The landlord may give the tenant some notice, but they are not required to do so.
The landlord may begin the eviction process once the tenant has not been paying rent for 1 month.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
A lease agreement can vary from tenant to tenant. It contains the responsibilities of each party during the entire duration of the tenant's stay.
A tenant may face eviction for violating the terms of the lease. Landlords and tenants are required to uphold the terms of the lease agreement at all times.
The landlord can evict the tenant for violating any of the terms stipulated in the lease. In a Missouri eviction, this is called an unlawful detainer case.
The landlord must provide the tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Quit that informs the tenant of their violation, and that they are about to be evicted. The notice gives the tenant 10 days to vacate the rental unit.
The landlord may allow the tenant time to cure the violation, but they are not required by Missouri law to do so. There is no specific notice period for this type of eviction because it will depend on what was indicated in the lease (if any).
Lease violations in a Missouri eviction include:
- Damage to the rental unit
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Too many people are living inside the rental unit
- Housing a pet in a pet-free rental unit or rental property, etc.
The landlord may begin filing an eviction if the tenant remains inside the rental unit after the given notice period.
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal activity in the state of Missouri, the landlord is required to give them a written 10 Days' Notice to Quit. This provides the tenant with ten days to move out of the rental property before the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
Examples of illegal activity include, but are not limited to:
- Illegal gaming
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of a controlled substance
The landlord can begin filing for an eviction if the tenant remains on the property after ten days. However, if the illegal activity falls under the following, no notice is required:
- Violence or assault against other tenants and/or the landlord
- Property damage worth more than 12 months of rent
- Criminal activity that is drug-related
If a tenant is not the one who commits any drug-related criminal activities, excessive property damage, and violence, but perhaps a guest or co-resident, then the tenant receives a notice of at least 5 days.
4. Non-renewal of lease after the end of the rental period
An eviction in Missouri does not allow a landlord to evict a tenant without good cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
However, if the tenant becomes a "holdover" tenant, the eviction process may begin after the appropriate notice period.
A holdover tenant is someone who overstays their lease term without applying for a renewal. A landlord can evict a tenant who stays in the property even a day after their written lease ends (and has not arranged for a renewal).
The eviction process in Missouri calls this an unlawful detainer case.
This type of notice or eviction usually only applies if the landlord wants to end the tenant's lease. Some of the notices that you may have to serve include a 30-Day Notice to Quit or a 60-Day Notice to Quit. The required notice time given to a tenant depends on their tenancy type (month-to-month tenancy, week-to-week tenancy, etc.):
The landlord must provide the tenant the proper notice. Should the tenant remain on the rental premises even after their notice period ends, the landlord may continue filing the eviction process in order to evict the tenant from the premises.
Filing a Complaint
The next step is filing a legal complaint in the correct circuit court based on the rental property's county. A landlord must file a complaint only after the notice period has passed. Successful evictions rely on accurate filings, so the landlord must file all the forms correctly.
1. Steps in filing
- Proceed to the circuit court the rental property belongs to
- Fill out the forms
- Pay the filing costs
It takes about 30-60 days before a landlord can start filing an eviction. If the case is about failure to pay rent, then they have to wait 1 month before they can start filing an eviction lawsuit.
Serving the Tenant
The next step in an eviction process is serving the Summons and Complaint to the tenant. The landlord must not serve the documents by themselves.
The Summons is a court order that instructs the tenant to be available for a court hearing. It, along with its supporting documents, must contain information such as the date and time of the court trial.
Missouri only allows the sheriff or a process server appointed by the court to serve these documents. They must be delivered at least 4 days before the date of the court hearing.
1. How to serve documents to a tenant
- Personal Service: The Summons and Complaint is delivered to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service: If the tenant is unavailable and personal service cannot be conducted, a copy of the Summons and Complaint may be left at the tenant's place of residence with someone who is at least 15 years old.
- Posting Service: The documents are placed in a secure and visible position by the entrance of the tenant's rented property.
- Mailing Service: A copy of the documents is mailed to the tenant's address
In order to have the documents either posted or mailed, there must have been at least one attempt to serve the documents to the tenant personally. And the landlord has to request for the documents to be delivered through that specific service.
2. After serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenant is not required to file an answer in response to the court order. They only have to show up to the eviction hearing.
The documents must be served at least 4 days before the date of the court hearing.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgment and get a Judgment for Possession
To win and accomplish this step, landlords must provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against their tenants. Should the tenants fail to show up to the hearing, the landlords may win by default.
The tenant may appeal the judgment within 10 days from when the court issued the Judgment for Possession. They can request for a new trial or ask the court to set aside their judgment.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and filed an answer
Filing an answer is not necessary for an eviction hearing to be held or scheduled. The court trial must continue and come to order either way.
Should the tenant be unable to attend the hearing, the judge may issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord. This means the tenant must move out of the rental unit.
However, if both parties are present, the landlord must support their claim with evidence and show it to the judge. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Copy of the deed and the lease/rent agreement
- Rent receipts
- Rent ledgers
- Bank statements
- Witness statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations committed by the tenant
A hearing for an eviction action must be held within 15-21 days depending on the reason for eviction. The tenant can appeal for reconsideration within ten days from the time judgment is passed.
1. After the landlord wins the case and gets a Writ of Possession
Once the landlord wins the cases, and provided the tenant does not file for an appeal or reconsideration, the court will issue a Writ of Possession ten days after the court rules in the landlord's favor.
The Writ of Possession is a court order that informs the tenant that the tenant must move out of their housing on the premises or else they will be forcibly evicted. If the tenant fails to do so, law enforcement officials can remove them from the premises.
2. Move out process
This final step in the eviction process is to move the tenant out of their housing on the premises.
Before this can officially happen, the Writ of Possession first has to be delivered to the law enforcement officials within 2 business days from the date the court issued judgment in favor of the landlord.
Once they are delivered to the law enforcement officials, they have to act on the Writ of Possession within 24 hours if the eviction involved illegal activity. For all other types of evictions (such as failure to pay rent), they have to act on the Writ within 15 days from the date the judgment was passed in favor of the landlord.
Counting the 10 days before the Writ of Possession is issued and the maximum of 2 days for the Writ to be given to the law enforcement officials, the tenant has about 3 days as the minimum amount of time to vacate the premises, unless their eviction was about illegal activity.
Only the appropriate authorities are allowed to remove the tenant by force. Even if the landlord wins the case, they cannot engage in illegal methods of eviction.
Sometimes a tenant can leave behind personal property after a forced eviction. The tenant's personal property cannot be sold or disposed of for 10 days. Landlords are advised to send a written notice to the tenant's last known address telling them to retrieve their personal property.
Should the tenant fail to respond to the landlord's written message by the end of the 10 days, then the landlord may dispose of the property however they see fit.
A tenant has 24 hours to 5 days to leave the rental premises from the moment the Writ of Recovery is delivered. This depends on how long it takes for the Writ to be delivered to the law enforcement officers.
A tenant has 10 days to reclaim any personal property left behind.
Missouri Eviction Timeline
It takes an average of 1 month to 3 months for a complete eviction process in Missouri.
Eviction hearings are scheduled in court depending on the reason for eviction.
Court hearings about an unlawful detainer or nonpayment of rent must be held within 21 days from the date the court issued the Summons and Complaint.
Meanwhile, court evictions related to illegal activity must be held within 15 days from the date the court issued the Summons and Complaint.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the request to being an eviction process and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document pertaining to the preoperty into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, a letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing as it is easier to use as evidence.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, you can be confident that you will be favored in the court case.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed and may be helpful in winning the case.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can I force a tenant to move out in Missouri?
No. A landlord could be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant if they skip the proper eviction processes.
It is against Missouri law to not provide a tenant with the appropriate written notice before proceeding with an eviction action. Landlords must follow the rules and regulations set forth by Missouri to avoid trouble.
In the state of Missouri, tenants can sue their landlords, but it is the court that determines the amount of damages they have to pay.
What is a self-help eviction in Missouri?
Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, taking the tenant’s belongings, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity. Several states specify how much money a tenant can sue for if the landlord has tried to illegally evict the tenant through some sort of self-help measure. If the tenant successfully sues the landlord, the court may provide for the tenant’s court costs and attorneys’ fees or allow the tenant to remain in the property.
What are the potential penalties for a self-help eviction in Missouri?
According to Missouri Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What other laws should I be aware of in Missouri?
A landlord should be aware of any information regarding the COVID-19 Eviction Policies.
Landlords must also check out information about laws on Security Deposits. One needs to learn how these deposits can protect the landlord when there is unpaid rent or repairs.
- eForms: Missouri Eviction Notice Forms
- NOLO: Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws & Responsibilities in Missouri
- National Apartment Association: COVID-19 Information for Missouri
- NOLO: Consequences of Illegal Evictions
- NOLO: Missouri Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines
- NOLO: The Eviction Process in Missouri: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers