Legal FAQs for Renters in
Table of Contents
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Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
What can I do?
I've been sued in court for eviction
What can I do?
How can I get rent help?
Learn about Rent Assistance programs to help with housing costs
Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
- Are there any special protections for Missouri renters during COVID-19?
The national CDC eviction moratorium ended on August 26, 2021. Please reach out to legal services if you are worried about eviction.
Landlords may now try to sue tenants to evict them. If you are worried about an eviction, reach out as soon as possible to your local legal aid group. The lawyers may be able to help you find protections and services to deal with your eviction.
Some Missouri courts have issued special orders related to filing, serving, or obtaining judgments in eviction lawsuits. See if your county court has an order here. Check with your local government to see if they have adopted local rules suspending evictions, stopped utility shutoffs, or have other protections for renters.
- What do the protections mean for Missouri renters?
- Your landlord can still give you a notice to vacate,
- Your landlord can still file an eviction claim in court against you,
- The court may schedule an eviction hearing.
- The court may issue a new order, judgement, or writ of eviction against you.
- Law enforcement may enforce an existing eviction order against you.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency in Missouri?
Yes, Missouri renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
You may have been protected from eviction, but now that those protections are over, you may be sued and you still owe all your rent.
If you cannot pay rent, you should take steps to protect yourself:
- Apply for rent help immediately: If you need financial assistance for housing costs like rent or utility bills, you may be able to get help.
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain that you cannot pay the rent because of a COVID-19 impact and describe what that reason is (for example, your place of employment closed because of the pandemic). You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan to allow you to pay rent over an extended period of time or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from your landlord. Get and keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure you get it in writing and that both you and your landlord sign the agreement.
- Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Can my landlord evict me during the COVID-19 emergency in Missouri?
Some Missouri city or county governments may have suspended eviction enforcements. Be sure to check if your local government has any special rules to protect you.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency in Missouri?
Some Missouri renters may be protected against utility shutoffs during the emergency. It depends on where you live.
Some Missouri utility companies are stopping all shutoffs during the emergency. Some cities have ordered that no resident’s utilities can be shutoff for nonpayment. Check with your local government or utility provider.
Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through August 26, 2021.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.
Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.
Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:
- Live in a county with High or Substantial COVID rates. Find your county at the CDC tracker map (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view). If your county has been in the Moderate or Low category for 14 consecutive days, then the Moratorium does not apply to you.
- Rent a home in the United States; AND
- Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
- Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
- Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
- Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
- Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.
If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?
The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through August 26, 2021.
- If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
- You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:
- Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
- After the CDC Moratorium expires on August 26, 2021, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:
- Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
- You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.
How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?
To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:
- Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
- Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
- Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
- Protections through August 26th. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through August 26, 2021. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
- If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
- You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on August 26, 2021, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
- Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.
What if I need repairs in Missouri during COVID-19?
Can I break my lease in Missouri during COVID-19?
What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me in Missouri during COVID-19?
Are eviction cases still proceeding through court in Missouri during COVID-19?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
- My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in Missouri. What should I do?
You do not have to leave your home yet.
In Missouri, your landlord does not have to give you a notice prior to suing you for rent and possession. The landlord may sue you for not paying your rent (and other debts you may owe). Landlords can also sue to evict for other reasons, besides non-payment of rent. Each type of lawsuit will have different rules.
There are two types of eviction lawsuits in Missouri.
- A rent and possession lawsuit requires no advance notice.
- An unlawful detainer lawsuit does require written notice, though the time requirements for notice vary.
You must be served a summons and the petition in order for the court to have the power to enter a judgment against you and an eviction. The service of the summons and petition may be personal (to you or to someone who lives with you over the age of 15) or by posting. For posting, the landlord may post and mail the summons and petition to you.
Reach out for legal help if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction.
- What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home in Missouri?
A verbal demand to leave is not a legal way to evict you from the premises. In order to have the power to evict you, a landlord must obtain an order from the court to evict you.
Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself.
- Do I have to leave my home in Missouri by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date?
If you get a notice, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the eviction notice.
You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave.
After the date on the eviction notice passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.
My eviction notice says that I will be evicted unless I pay back-rent I owe in Missouri. What if I can't afford to pay it?
How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in Missouri?
I've been sued in court for eviction
- My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in Missouri. What should I do?
You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit. In Missouri, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:
- Only certain people can give you the lawsuit's Summons and Petition. The summons must be served by a sheriff or an appointed special process server
- The summons may be served personally, on a person at least 15-years of age who resides on the property, or by posting and mail (landlord must file a motion and obtain a court order to do so). If the tenant is not served personally or on a person of suitable age, and the tenant does not appear in court, then the landlord may only obtain only possession of the property and may not collect any monetary damages.
- The summons will tell the tenant when and where the court hearing will occur. Any party may request a continuance of the case to a later date, to allow some time to prepare for trial. Otherwise, a court may hold the trial at the first court hearing.
You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction.
- Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Summons and Complaint in Missouri?
In Missouri, you are not required to respond in writing to the eviction lawsuit, if you want to avoid the eviction. If the landlord cannot prove you owe rent, the landlord may not win its case. But it is safer for you to assert defenses in writing, in order for the court to consider them during a trial. Failing to preserve defenses in writing will make you lose the right to assert them.
You are allowed to file a “counterclaim” to assert any claims you have against the landlord.
You will have an eviction hearing automatically scheduled at court. You must appear there if you want to defend yourself against the eviction. But you do not have to submit anything to the court or your landlord before this hearing. If the tenant does not show up to court on the court date, the landlord will win by default.
Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit.
- Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in Missouri?
You may decide to negotiate a settlement. If you do, the agreement should be in writing, with all terms included and dated and signed by all parties. You should understand whether or not the case will be dismissed without a judgment against you. If not, you may want to go to court on the hearing date to be sure the settlement is made clear to the court.
You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.
You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed.
How can I get rent help?
- Who can help me with rent that I owe?
If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.
Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.
Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.
- Am I eligible for rent relief?
Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships.
You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules.
You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP.
You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance.
- Does immigration status matter for rent relief?
Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.
Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration.
Did I have eviction protections under the CARES Act?
Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?
Its information is taken from these sources:Princeton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerSupreme Court of Missouri order on in-person proceedingsMissouri Legal ServicesMissouri Courts