Legal FAQs for Renters in Missouri

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information.

This page was last updated on Aug 25th, 2023. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

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Problem with your Landlord?

Can I break my rental home lease in Missouri?

You may be able to break your rental lease if you can come to an agreement with your landlord.

You can talk to your landlord to see if they will agree to let you leave early. If they agree, be sure to get the agreement in writing.

Also, you can review your lease. It may have a part that lets you end the lease early in times of financial difficulty. If your lease has this kind of part, you might be able to break the lease (in some cases penalty-free).

Find legal help to get advice for your situation.

What if I need repairs to my rental home in Missouri?

Tell your landlord about any repairs needed, particularly if they affect your health and safety.

Renters always have the right to live in a healthy and safe home.

You should always call your landlord to make the repairs as soon as possible. Always follow up the call with a request in writing by paper, email, or text message.

You can also call the city you live in to report the repair problems.

Repairs could be for problems with things like:

  • Running water or hot water

  • Heat

  • Stove, refrigerator, or oven

  • Electricity

  • Bathroom use

  • Missing doors, locks, or windows

  • Pests

You should always send the landlord a request in writing to make any repairs as soon as possible. Keep a copy of this writing for your records.

If your landlord doesn't make the repairs promptly, send them a written letter or email about the need for emergency repairs (and keep a copy of this communication).

Reach out for legal help for additional guidance.

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me in Missouri?

Contact a legal help organization to help defend yourself.

It is illegal for your landlord to evict you without first going to court and getting an eviction order. To remove you from your home, a landlord must take you to court by filing an eviction lawsuit, win the case, and getting an eviction order from the court.

Legal aid groups might be able to provide you with full representation, or other legal organizations can give you information or brief advice.

Find legal help to protect your rights.

Behind on Rent?

Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?

Most Rental Assistance programs let landlords apply.

Either a renter or a landlord can start the application.

The landlord will have to fill in as much information they have about the amount of money needed, and the eligibility for the program. The tenant may have to fill in the rest of the information.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program about the steps to follow to apply for rent relief.

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.

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.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program to see if you are eligible.

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.

Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?

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. Find local legal help in Missouri here.

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?

You still have time to reach out for rental assistance, and you might be able to stop the eviction from moving forward.

Be sure to let the local group know that you have received an eviction notice and what its deadline is. They may be able to help you pay the rent you owe, or work with your landlord to reduce the amount or put you on a payment plan.

Find local financial help in Missouri here.

How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in Missouri?

If you get a notice, it should tell you how many days the landlord is giving you.

Reach out for legal help in Missouri here.

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.

  1. A rent and possession lawsuit requires no advance notice.

  2. 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.

Find local legal help in Missouri here.

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.

Find local legal help in Missouri here.

Facing an Eviction 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.

Find local legal help in Missouri here.

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:

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Find local legal help in Missouri here.

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.

Find local legal help in Missouri here.

Emergency Protections during COVID

Are there any special protections for Missouri renters during COVID-19?

No, *_\**_there are no statewide Missouri protections for renters during the emergency. * **** 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.

Earlier Protections The national CDC eviction ban expired on August 26, 2021. (link) 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.

Are eviction cases still proceeding through court in Missouri during COVID-19?

Yes, Missouri courts are holding eviction cases. Some courts that are open are holding remote proceedings, not in-person. Check with the Missouri state courts for more information.

What do the protections mean for Missouri renters?

**** Unless your local government has additional protections for you*_\, then for most renters in Missouri:_*

  1. Your landlord can still give you a notice to vacate,
  2. Your landlord can still file an eviction claim in court against you,
  3. The court may schedule an eviction hearing.
  4. The court may issue a new order, judgement, or writ of eviction against you.
  5. Law enforcement may enforce an existing eviction order against you.
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.

Can my landlord evict me during the COVID-19 emergency in Missouri?

Yes, most Missouri renters can be evicted from their homes during the emergency period, unless local governments have special protections for you.

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.

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 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.

If you are struggling to pay rent in Missouri, reach out for legal and financial help as soon as possible.

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