Missouri Rent Control Laws in 2024

Introduction to Missouri’s Rent Control Laws

This guide provides an overview of Missouri landlord-tenant laws related to rent increases, tenant rights, evictions, repairs, security deposits, discrimination, lease terms, and more. It aims to help renters in Missouri understand their rights and protections under state law when renting a home or apartment. 

Topics covered include:

  • Rent control and allowable rent increases in Missouri 
  • Notice requirements for rent increases
  • Tenant discrimination protections
  • Rules for tenant screening and background checks
  • Security deposit limits and regulations
  • A landlord's right to enter the property 
  • A landlord's duty to maintain the property
  • The eviction process in Missouri
  • Tenant rights to take legal action against landlords
  • What must be included in a rental lease agreement

Whether you are reviewing a new lease, disputing a rent increase, trying to get repairs made, or facing eviction, this guide will help you navigate Missouri landlord-tenant laws and assert your rights as a renter. While some cities and counties may have additional local ordinances, this covers the statewide statutes and regulations in Missouri.

Rent Control in Missouri

Missouri does not currently have any statewide laws that impose rent control or limit how much landlords can raise rents each year. Rent control refers to policies that cap the amount that rents are allowed to increase in a given year. 

While there is no rent control at the state level, some individual cities and counties in Missouri have enacted local ordinances that limit rent increases. For example, Columbia, Missouri passed a rent stabilization ordinance in 2021 that ties allowable rent hikes to inflation.

There have been recent legislative efforts at the state level to repeal bans on local rent control laws. In 2021, a bill was introduced in the Missouri legislature that would have overturned the existing state ban on municipalities enacting rent control. However, the bill did not advance. Rent control policies remain controversial and opposed by many landlord groups.

So in summary, Missouri landlords can raise rents without limits under current state law. But some local jurisdictions may have rent caps and stabilization policies in place. There have been political efforts to open the door for more localized rent regulations, but statewide rent control does not exist currently.

Allowable Rent Increases in Missouri

Missouri does not have any statewide laws limiting how much landlords can raise rents each year. Landlords have the right to raise rents by any amount, as long as they provide tenants with proper advance written notice. 

There is no limit or cap on rent increases in Missouri. The state has not enacted any form of rent control. Landlords can impose dramatic rent hikes if they choose to.

However, landlords must provide tenants with 30-60 days of advance written notice before raising rents, depending on what is specified in the lease agreement. The notice must clearly state the new increased rent amount and the date it will go into effect. 

If the landlord does not provide the required notice, the tenant is not obligated to pay the increased amount until proper notice has been given. But the landlord can still raise the rent once notice requirements are met.

According to RentData.org, average rents in Missouri have increased moderately in recent years. Statewide, rents rose about 3.5% from 2020-2021. Rent growth has been slightly higher in larger cities like Kansas City and St. Louis.

So while there are no legal limits on raises, market conditions tend to keep most increases reasonable. But without rent control laws, some tenants still face exorbitant hikes.

Tenant Discrimination Laws

Under federal and Missouri state law, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against tenants or housing applicants based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Landlords cannot refuse to rent, charge higher rents, or impose different terms on tenants who are members of protected classes.

Some key aspects of Missouri's housing discrimination laws include:

Protected Classes

Landlords cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status (having children under 18). Some local laws may include additional protected classes.

Reasonable Accommodations

Landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations in policies and practices to allow persons with disabilities equal access and use of housing. For example, allowing service animals despite a "no pets" policy.  

Reasonable Modifications

Landlords must permit tenants with disabilities to make reasonable modifications to the rental unit at the tenant's expense. For example, installing grab bars in the bathroom.

Filing Complaints

Tenants who experience discrimination can file fair housing complaints with HUD or the Missouri Commission on Human Rights within 1 year of the incident. Landlords found guilty of discrimination may face fines, damages, and court orders.

Missouri and federal fair housing laws aim to ensure equal access to housing opportunities for all residents regardless of protected characteristics. Tenants facing discrimination should document incidents and consult a housing rights organization or attorney.

Tenant Screening and Background Checks

Landlords in Missouri have the right to screen prospective tenants by doing criminal background checks and other reviews of an applicant's history and qualifications. However, there are some restrictions in place regarding how this screening can be done:

  • Landlords are allowed to run background checks and obtain credit reports on rental applicants. This allows them to review an applicant's criminal history, credit score, eviction records, and other relevant information to determine if they want to rent to that person.
  • While criminal records can be checked, landlords cannot deny housing to applicants solely because they have a criminal history. Denials must be based on the nature and severity of the crime, how long ago it occurred, and other factors. Blanket bans on renting to anyone with a record are illegal.
  • Tenants and applicants must provide written consent before landlords can run background checks on them. Consent forms must clearly inform the applicant that they are authorizing the screening. Refusing to provide consent cannot be grounds for denial.
  • If a landlord denies an applicant based on information in a background check, they must provide notice to the applicant stating why the denial was made. Applicants have a right to dispute any incorrect information on their reports.
  • Local laws may impose additional limitations on tenant screening. For example, some cities ban consideration of certain minor or old offenses. Landlords should check local ordinances.

In summary, Missouri landlords can screen applicants via background checks but cannot deny housing solely based on criminal records. Applicants must consent to the screening in writing beforehand. Discriminatory denials based on protected characteristics are illegal.

Security Deposits in Missouri

Missouri does not have any statewide laws limiting the amount landlords can charge for security deposits. However, some local jurisdictions have imposed limits. In Kansas City and St. Louis, security deposits are capped at no more than 2 months' rent. Landlords in other cities and counties can charge any amount they deem necessary. 

When a tenant moves into a rental unit, the landlord must provide them with the terms and conditions for handling the security deposit, including what deductions can be made. Landlords must hold security deposits in a separate escrow account and cannot comingle the funds with their own money. 

Within 30 days after a tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit together with an itemized statement of any deductions made for damages or unpaid rent. If any portion of the deposit is withheld, the landlord must provide a list of the charges along with receipts for any repairs made.

If a landlord fails to return the security deposit or provide an accounting within 30 days, the tenant can sue to recover up to twice the amount wrongfully withheld. Tenants should make sure to provide a forwarding address when moving out. Disputes over deposit returns can often be handled in small claims court if the amount is less than $5,000.

Landlord's Right to Enter Rental Property

In Missouri, landlords must provide tenants with reasonable notice before entering rental units. By law, landlords must give tenants at least 24 hours of advance written notice specifying the date, time, and purpose of entry. 

Landlords have the right to enter rental properties for reasonable business purposes such as performing repairs or maintenance, conducting inspections, showing the unit to prospective tenants or buyers, or other necessary reasons. Tenants cannot unreasonably deny the landlord access in these situations.

If it is an emergency such as a fire or burst pipe, landlords may enter immediately without notice. However, non-emergency entries without proper notice are prohibited. Tenants have the right to refuse entry to a landlord who shows up without giving the required 24-hour written notice beforehand. 

Tenants should never allow unauthorized access to their rental unit. If a landlord enters without permission, tenants can contact an attorney about their rights and options under Missouri law. Repeated unauthorized entries may be grounds for tenants to terminate the lease.

Landlord's Duty to Maintain

Missouri law requires landlords to maintain rental properties in a fit, habitable, and safe condition. This includes making necessary repairs to keep the property livable and compliant with housing codes.  

Landlords must make repairs to vital facilities and appliances such as heat, plumbing, electricity, smoke detectors, and major appliances that are provided. Tenants should notify the landlord in writing of any maintenance issues or needed repairs.  

If a landlord fails to make repairs within 14 days after receiving written notice from the tenant, the tenant can contract to have the repairs made themselves and deduct the repair costs from the rent. However, the deduction cannot exceed the amount of one month's rent.

Tenants also have the right to withhold rent payments if a landlord fails to provide habitable living conditions. To withhold rent legally, tenants should deposit the rent into an escrow account until repairs are made. Withholding rent without escrow may still result in eviction actions being filed.

If repairs are needed to protect a tenant's health and wellbeing, and the landlord fails to fix the issues in a reasonable timeframe after notice, tenants have the right to break the lease early without penalty. Missouri law provides remedies for tenants faced with uninhabitable living conditions due to a landlord's failure to maintain the property.

Eviction Procedures in Missouri

Missouri landlords must follow proper legal procedures to evict tenants. They cannot take matters into their own hands through illegal evictions.

Notice Requirements

Before filing for eviction, landlords must provide tenants with a written notice to pay rent or vacate. This notice gives tenants 5 days to pay overdue rent or move out. If the tenant does neither, the notice expires and the landlord can proceed with the eviction lawsuit. 

Notices must list the amount of rent owed and inform tenants they must pay or leave within 5 days. Landlords must properly serve the notice by posting it on the rental unit or handing it directly to the tenant.

Court Eviction Process

If a tenant fails to pay or leave after the notice expires, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the local court. The court will schedule a hearing where both parties can present their case. 

If the judge rules in the landlord's favor, they will issue an eviction order. This authorizes law enforcement to forcibly remove tenants if they don't vacate by the deadline.

Illegal Evictions 

Landlords cannot take eviction matters into their own hands. Examples of illegal evictions include changing locks, removing tenant belongings, shutting off utilities, or forcibly removing tenants. 

Tenants can sue landlords for illegal eviction. Damages up to 2 months rent and attorney fees may be awarded. Landlords who illegally evict tenants face civil and criminal penalties.

Tenant Rights to Sue Landlords

Tenants in Missouri have the legal right to sue landlords for violations of the law or the lease agreement. Common reasons tenants may sue landlords include discrimination, failure to maintain the property, illegal eviction, breach of contract, negligence, and more. 

If a landlord is found liable, the tenant can potentially recover monetary damages up to two months' rent or twice the actual damages, whichever is greater. The tenant may also be awarded court costs and reasonable attorney fees related to the lawsuit.

Lawsuits against landlords must be filed within the statute of limitations, which is generally 5 years from the date the violation occurred under Missouri law. However, lawsuits for personal injury or property damage have a shorter 2-year statute of limitations. 

It's recommended that tenants consult with a local landlord-tenant attorney to understand their rights and options if considering legal action against a landlord. Tenants with disputes seeking less than $5,000 in damages can file a lawsuit in small claims court without an attorney in most cases.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much can a landlord legally raise the rent in Missouri?

Missouri does not have a state-imposed rent increase cap. Landlords can raise the rent by any amount, provided they give proper notice, which is typically one rental period plus one day for month-to-month leases. For fixed-term leases, rent increases are usually addressed in the lease terms and cannot occur until the lease renewal.

What are Missouri state laws on renters?

Missouri state laws on renters include the Missouri Landlord-Tenant Law, which outlines the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. These laws cover security deposit limits and returns, the right to a habitable environment, notice periods for lease terminations and evictions, and other rental-related issues.

Is Missouri a landlord-friendly state?

Missouri is generally considered a landlord-friendly state. The laws often favor landlords in terms of eviction proceedings, minimal rent control, and flexible rental agreement terms.

What is the late rent law in Missouri?

In Missouri, if rent is late, landlords can charge a late fee, the amount of which should be specified in the lease agreement. Missouri law does not specify a maximum late fee but expects it to be reasonable. Landlords can begin eviction proceedings if the rent is unpaid, typically after giving a notice to pay or quit, which often allows the tenant a short window, like five days, to pay the overdue rent.

Does Missouri have a rent increase cap?

No, Missouri does not have a rent increase cap. Landlords in Missouri can set and raise rent amounts as they see fit, subject to the agreement terms and proper notice requirements.

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