When you rent a property in Kansas City, Missouri law grants you certain rights and protections that a landlord cannot change or violate at will. They are bound by state law and the terms of the lease agreement just like you are, although some landlords may try to convince you that they hold the upper hand because they own the property.
With that in mind, here are five things you should know about your rights as a tenant.
- Security Deposit Limit and Conditions of Return
Most Missouri rental agreements require a security deposit intended to cover the costs of excessive damage to the unit and provide a financial cushion if the tenant skips out before the lease is up. State law allows your landlord to ask for a maximum of two months’ worth of rent, no more. They must also return this deposit to you within 30 days after you move out, along with an itemized list of any deductions for cleaning, repairs, or back rent.
- Use of Security Deposits
Your landlord may charge you for any work needed to restore the unit to its original condition, but this is generally to cover more in-depth restoration such as replacing broken bathroom tiles or repairing a door broken off its hinges. They may not use your security deposit to pay for ordinary wear and tear such as sun-faded curtains, minor nicks in the wall, or moderate amounts of dirt in the carpet.
- Withholding Rent or Doing a “Repair and Deduct”
As a Missouri tenant, you have the legal right to live in a rental property that is in good repair, structurally sound, and meets current health and safety standards. If your landlord does not take care of essential maintenance, such as repairing a broken heater, after being notified of the problem, your rights include:
- Withholding rent until the repairs are completed, and
- “Repair and deduct,” meaning that if you have to hire someone to repair a major defect or buy a replacement and fix it yourself, you can deduct the cost from your rent
- Bed Bug Eradication
As stated above, you have a right to live in a habitable property, and this includes a home free of bed bugs.
In 2010 the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that a landlord did not take reasonable steps to eradicate bed bugs from a tenant’s unit. The tenant in question had broken the lease because she and her daughter were bitten by the bugs on a regular basis and the landlord did not follow the exterminator’s recommendation to spray the apartment two to four times. The landlord filed suit to recover cleaning fees and an additional month’s rent, but the court ruled in the tenant’s favor.
- Landlords Cannot Do “Self-Help” Evictions
No matter what they tell you, a Missouri landlord can only evict you by obtaining a court order. They cannot take “self-help” eviction steps such as changing the locks on your unit or shutting off the utilities to expedite your departure. If they try to get rid of you by using such illegal means, you can sue them for damages.
If your landlord is failing to make necessary repairs or trying to evict you because you are holding them accountable, contact Missouri tenants’ rights attorney Bryce Bell at Bell Law today. Attorney Bell will help you protect your rights and hold an unethical landlord liable for wrongful and negligent acts.