Missouri Eviction Laws: 2024 Step by Step Process & Costs

Overview of Eviction Laws in Missouri

Eviction laws in Missouri balance the rights of landlords to remove non-compliant tenants with the rights of tenants to proper notice and due process. 

Landlords in Missouri can start the eviction process for several reasons, including failure to pay rent, violating the lease agreement, damaging the property, or staying past the rental term. Certain notice periods are required before a landlord can file an eviction lawsuit, ranging from 5 days for nonpayment of rent to 30 days for a no-cause eviction.  

The most common legal grounds for eviction in Missouri are:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Violation of the lease agreement 
  • Damage to the property
  • Criminal activity
  • Refusing entry to the landlord
  • Staying past the rental term  

Tenants have certain defenses they can raise in eviction court, such as lack of proper notice, landlord retaliation, uninhabitable living conditions, or discrimination. Tenants can also avoid eviction by remedying the issue, such as paying overdue rent or ceasing the lease violation.

The eviction process involves the landlord filing a lawsuit, serving notice to the tenant, appearing at a court hearing, getting a judgment from the judge, and finally removal by the sheriff. Tenants have the right to present defenses and evidence at the court hearing before a judgment is issued.

Overall, Missouri eviction rules aim to establish proper notice requirements while giving landlords recourse to remove nonpaying or disruptive tenants through the court system. Understanding the laws and process can help both landlords and tenants navigate evictions smoothly.

What Are The Eviction Laws In Missouri?

Missouri Eviction Laws: Quick Reference Table

Problem Missouri Eviction Law Says… Which Form To Issue
Tenant hasn’t paid rent. Must file a detailed complaint with a circuit judge in your county.
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 535.020
File an eviction lawsuit immediately with your local circuit judge.
Tenant has pets or long-term guests. Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 441.030 Serve the tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Quit.
Tenant has damaged the property. The landlord is not obligated to offer the tenant an opportunity to cure the violation before initiating eviction proceedings.
Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 441.030
Serve the tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Quit.
Tenant is conducting illegal activities. Engaging in illegal activities is ground for eviction according to Missouri eviction laws.
Mo. Rev. Stat. § §441.880
Serve the tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Quit. No prior notice is required in extreme cases.

Notice Requirements for Landlords Before Filing Eviction

Before a landlord can file for eviction in Missouri, written notice is required in most cases. This provides the tenant an opportunity to correct the issue or vacate the property before going through court eviction proceedings.

There are a few exceptions where advance notice is not required before filing for eviction:

  • Nonpayment of rent - If the tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord can give a demand for rent notice and file for eviction if payment is not received in the required timeframe.
  • Illegal activity - If the tenant is engaged in illegal activity on the premises, the landlord can file for eviction without advance notice.
  • Lease violation - If the tenant violates the lease in a way that endangers others or property, the landlord may be able to evict without notice.

In most other situations, the landlord must provide proper written notice before terminating the tenancy and filing for eviction. The required notice periods depend on the reason for eviction:

  • Month-to-month tenancy - 30 days notice 
  • Failure to comply with lease - 10 days notice 
  • Committing a substantial violation - 10 days notice
  • End of fixed-term lease - No notice required

Notices must be written correctly and properly served to the tenant to be legally valid. If the notice has errors or is not served properly, it can invalidate the eviction case. Landlords should be sure they understand notice rules before starting the eviction process.

How To Evict A Tenant In Missouri

Filing an Eviction Lawsuit in Missouri

In Missouri, eviction cases are known as "unlawful detainer" lawsuits. To start the eviction process, the landlord must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in court and have the tenant served.

Documents Needed

The landlord will need the following documents to file the eviction lawsuit:

  • Complaint - This is the lawsuit that will be filed with the court. It states the grounds for eviction and requests the court to order the tenant to vacate.
  • Summons - The summons notifies the tenant they are being sued for eviction and orders them to appear in court.  
  • Other supporting documents - This includes the lease, notices sent to the tenant, ledgers of rent owed, etc. Any evidence related to the reason for eviction.

Where to File 

Eviction lawsuits in Missouri are handled by associate circuit courts. The landlord files at the courthouse in the county where the rental property is located. 

Serving the Tenant

After filing the lawsuit, the landlord must have the tenant officially served with the court papers. This is usually done by a process server or sheriff's deputy. The tenant must receive the summons and complaint.

Tenant's Response

Once served, the tenant has 5 days (excluding weekends/holidays) to file a written response with the court disputing the eviction. If no response is filed, the landlord can request a default judgment.

Going to Eviction Court in Missouri

In Missouri, eviction cases are handled in small claims court. Both the landlord and tenant will have the opportunity to present their case in front of a judge. 

Eviction Trial Proceedings

At the eviction trial, the landlord must prove the allegations stated in the eviction complaint. This means providing evidence for why the eviction is justified, such as nonpayment of rent, lease violations, or other reasons. 

The tenant can present defenses against the eviction. Common defenses include improper notice, landlord failure to maintain the property, retaliation, discrimination, or that the eviction would cause extreme hardship.

Both parties will testify and can bring witnesses or documents to support their case. The judge will hear arguments from both sides and then issue a decision.

Tenant Defenses

There are several legal defenses tenants can raise in an eviction case:

Improper notice

If the landlord did not provide proper notice as required by Missouri law, the eviction could be dismissed. 

Landlord failure to maintain property

Under the implied warranty of habitability, tenants have the right to a livable and well-maintained unit. Serious defects like mold, no heat, or infestations could be used as a defense.


If the eviction is in retaliation for the tenant exercising their rights, like requesting repairs, it may be dismissed.


If the eviction is based on discrimination due to protected characteristics like race, sex, or disability, the tenant can raise this defense.

Extreme hardship

Tenants can argue the eviction would cause an extreme hardship for them or their family.

Judgment and Writ of Restitution 

If the landlord wins the eviction case, the court will issue a judgment of possession and a writ of restitution. This authorizes the landlord to reclaim possession and have the tenant removed by the sheriff's department.

The writ of restitution typically gives the tenant 5 days to voluntarily vacate before the sheriff returns to forcibly remove them. Tenants are responsible for paying any rent owed up until the time they vacate.

Tenant's Right to Appeal

After a judgment in favor of the landlord, the tenant can file an appeal within 10 days in Missouri. This will delay the eviction while the case gets reviewed by a higher court. 

The tenant has to either pay rent into escrow or file a supersedeas bond to be able to stay during the appeal. If they lose the appeal, the landlord can proceed with enforcing the eviction order.

How Long Does An Eviction Stay On Your Record in Missouri?

Enforcing an Eviction Order in Missouri

Once an eviction order is issued by the court, the landlord must take steps to enforce it and remove the tenant from the property. This involves getting the sheriff's office involved.

The sheriff will post a notice on the rental unit, informing the tenant of the eviction order and giving them a deadline to vacate, usually within 5-10 days. If the tenant does not move out by the deadline, the sheriff will return to forcibly remove the tenant and their belongings from the unit. 

The landlord cannot personally remove the tenant or lock them out of the property. Only the sheriff has the legal authority to forcibly evict a tenant after getting a court order. It is illegal for a landlord to take matters into their own hands through threats, shutting off utilities, or physically removing a tenant's belongings. This can open the landlord up to lawsuits.

Once the sheriff removes the tenant, the landlord can legally regain possession of the unit. The landlord now has the right to change the locks and store any property or belongings left behind by the tenant. 

Missouri law requires the landlord to safely store the tenant's possessions for 30 days after eviction. The tenant can contact the landlord within that timeframe to retrieve their property. If they do not, the landlord can dispose of it after 30 days. Any funds made from selling the property must go to the tenant after deducting storage fees.

Getting an eviction order enforced by the sheriff is the legal way for a landlord to remove a non-paying or lease-violating tenant, regain possession, and ultimately rerent the unit to new tenants. It provides a process that protects both the landlord's property rights and the tenant's rights during an eviction.

Grounds for Eviction in Missouri

Landlords in Missouri can evict tenants for a handful of reasons, including nonpayment of rent, lease violations, illegal activities, damage to property, and end of lease term. 

Nonpayment of Rent

Nonpayment of rent is the most common reason landlords evict tenants in Missouri. If the tenant fails to pay rent on time as required by the lease, the landlord can give the tenant a written notice demanding payment within 10 days. If the tenant still does not pay the past due rent within that 10 day notice period, the landlord can file for eviction.

Lease Violations

If the tenant violates the lease agreement, such as having unauthorized pets, guests, or vehicles, the landlord can give the tenant written notice to correct the issue within 10 days. If the tenant fails to fix the lease violation after getting notice, the landlord can move forward with the eviction process.

Illegal Activities 

Landlords in Missouri can quickly evict tenants who use the rental property for illegal activities, such as selling drugs. The landlord can give the tenant a written 5-day notice to vacate. If the tenant does not move out within 5 days, the landlord can file for eviction without giving any other notices.

Damage to Property

Causing substantial damage to the rental unit is grounds for eviction in Missouri. This could include damage from lack of proper maintenance or cleanliness. The landlord can give a 10-day written notice to vacate if the tenant damages the property.

End of Lease Term

At the end of a fixed-term lease, landlords can evict tenants who do not vacate the property by the date the lease ends. The landlord must give at least 30 days written notice before the lease expiration that they want the tenant to vacate. If the tenant stays past the lease end date, the landlord can file for eviction.

Missouri Tenant Eviction Defenses

Tenants in Missouri do have certain defenses available if a landlord files for eviction. Common legal defenses tenants can raise in eviction cases include:

Retaliation Defense

If a tenant makes a complaint to a government agency about housing code violations or joins a tenant's rights group, a landlord cannot retaliate by filing for eviction. Tenants need to be able to prove the eviction is in retaliation for exercising their rights.

Discrimination Defense

Landlords in Missouri cannot evict tenants for discriminatory reasons based on race, religion, gender, familial status, disability, etc. Tenants may raise discrimination as a defense to an eviction lawsuit.

Landlord Breach of Duty

If a landlord fails to make needed repairs or does not provide essential services like heat, water, electricity, tenants can argue the landlord breached the warranty of habitability. Rent withholding may be permitted until repairs are made.

Uninhabitable Conditions

Tenants can fight an eviction if their unit is unfit to live in due to code violations, infestations, damage, or lack of essential utilities. However, tenants need to provide notice and allow time for repairs before withholding rent. 

Public Assistance Programs

Tenants facing eviction solely for nonpayment of rent can look into government and nonprofit programs for help covering back rent. These include emergency rental assistance, welfare, homeless prevention grants, and other aid. Documentation of efforts to secure aid can be a defense in court.

Missouri Eviction Rules for Federally Subsidized Housing

Missouri landlords renting to tenants using Section 8 vouchers or living in public housing must follow specific procedures and rules when evicting tenants. These federally subsidized housing programs have eviction protections for tenants.

Section 8 Housing

For Section 8 tenants, landlords must follow the termination notice requirements in the lease agreement. This is typically a 30-day or 60-day notice to vacate without cause. The landlord cannot evict for nonpayment of the tenant's portion of rent without first providing an opportunity to enter into a reasonable repayment agreement. 

The landlord must also notify the public housing authority (PHA) when starting the eviction process. The PHA may be able to provide financial assistance to the tenant to cover the unpaid rent and stop the eviction.

Public Housing

Public housing authorities must follow HUD regulations for tenant evictions. This includes serving the tenant with a written notice specifying the grounds for termination at least 14 days prior to starting the eviction case. 

Public housing tenants have the right to request an informal settlement meeting and formal hearing to contest the eviction. The housing authority cannot proceed with the eviction until offering these opportunities. 

Tenants can only be evicted for serious or repeated violations of the lease, criminal activity, failure to pay rent, or other good cause. Tenants cannot be evicted for reporting housing authority violations to authorities.

Tenant Protections

Tenants in subsidized housing have protections against illegal evictions. Landlords cannot evict in retaliation for complaints made by the tenant. Tenants also have rights to cure lease violations if possible and request reasonable accommodations if they have a disability.

Illegal Evictions in Missouri

An illegal eviction, also known as a "self-help eviction", occurs when a landlord attempts to remove a tenant or their belongings from a rental unit without obtaining a court order. This type of eviction violates Missouri state law.

Some examples of illegal evictions include:

  • Changing the locks and locking a tenant out of the rental unit
  • Removing the tenant's belongings from the unit
  • Cutting off utilities like electricity, heat, or water service
  • Using threats, harassment, or physical force to make the tenant leave 

Landlords in Missouri must go through the court eviction process to legally remove a tenant who doesn't voluntarily move out. It is illegal for a landlord to attempt to force out a tenant on their own.

If a tenant has experienced an illegal eviction, they have the right under Missouri law to sue the landlord for damages. A tenant can recover up to two months rent or twice the actual damages sustained, whichever is greater. The tenant may also be able to get a court order to be restored to possession of the unit.

Landlords who conduct an illegal eviction face severe penalties. They may be ordered to pay the tenant damages, civil penalties, and attorney's fees. The landlord could even face criminal charges for tenant harassment or illegal lockouts.

Tenants should never have to endure threats or unsafe conditions in an attempt to force them out illegally. If a landlord engages in self-help evictions, tenants have legal options to protect their rights under Missouri law. Consulting with a tenant rights organization or attorney is recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the grounds for eviction in Missouri?

In Missouri, landlords can evict tenants for not paying rent or for lease violations. The main grounds for eviction are:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Violating the lease or rental agreement 
  • Damaging the property
  • Engaging in criminal activity
  • Refusing access to the landlord
  • Having unauthorized occupants
  • Using the property for unlawful purposes

How long does an eviction take in Missouri?

The eviction process takes around 3-4 weeks from start to finish in Missouri. The landlord must give proper notice, then file the lawsuit and have the tenant served. There will be a court date scheduled around 2 weeks later where the judge will decide the case. If the landlord wins, the court will issue an order giving the tenant between 5-30 days to move out. The sheriff can remove the tenant if they don't leave.

What are the steps in the Missouri eviction process?

The typical steps in the Missouri eviction process are:

  1. Landlord gives proper notice to the tenant (3-30 days depending on the reason) 
  2. Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court 
  3. Tenant is served with the lawsuit 
  4. Court hearing is held 
  5. Judge issues ruling immediately or within a few days 
  6. If landlord wins, writ of restitution is issued giving tenant 5-30 days to move out
  7. Sheriff oversees removal of tenant if they fail to vacate

What are tenants' rights in Missouri evictions?

Tenants have the following rights in Missouri evictions:

  • Right to proper notice before the eviction is filed
  • Right to see the eviction complaint 
  • Right to argue their case in court
  • Right to appeal an eviction ruling
  • Right to redeem the tenancy by paying rent in some cases
  • Right not to be forcibly removed or locked out
  • Right to retrieve essential personal property after eviction

How can I check if an eviction lawsuit has been filed against me in Missouri?

You can search court records to see if you have an eviction case filed against you. Contact the clerk of the municipal or associate circuit court in the county where you rent. Many courts now have online case lookup tools as well. Search for your name and address to see if you have an eviction lawsuit.

What is the difference between a rent and possession eviction and an unlawful detainer eviction in Missouri?

A rent and possession case is for nonpayment of rent only. An unlawful detainer case is for lease violations and other causes besides not paying rent. The process is mostly the same, but unlawful detainer cases allow the landlord to collect rent owed in addition to getting the property back.

Can a landlord evict a tenant in Missouri without a court order?

No. Self-help evictions are illegal in Missouri. The landlord must go through the court process to remove a tenant. It is illegal for a landlord to change locks, shut off utilities, or forcibly remove tenants without a court order.

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