Missouri Security Deposit Laws in 2024

Missouri Security Deposit Limit and Requirements

In Missouri, landlords have the right to collect a security deposit from tenants when renting out property. However, Missouri law places some limits and requirements on security deposits that landlords must follow:

Maximum Amount

Under [Missouri Revised Statutes, Section 535.300](https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=535.300), landlords in Missouri cannot charge more than two months' rent or $2,000, whichever amount is greater, for a security deposit. For example, if monthly rent was $1,000, the maximum security deposit would be $2,000.

Must Be Held in Bank Account

Landlords in Missouri must place the security deposit in an escrow account or bank account. The deposits cannot be held directly by the landlord or in the landlord's personal account. 

Interest Requirements

Missouri law requires that tenants receive interest on security deposits if the landlord holds the deposit for more than 6 months. The annual interest rate must be equal to the Federal Funds Rate in December of the prior year.

Must Provide Receipt and Itemization

Landlords are required to provide a written receipt for security deposits and an itemization of any deductions or damages when returning the deposit. This helps document that the full deposit or any remaining balance was returned to the tenant.

Nonrefundable Deposits Not Allowed

Per Missouri law, landlords are not allowed to charge nonrefundable security deposits or fees. All security deposits collected in Missouri must be fully or partially refundable to the tenant at the end of the lease term. This ensures that tenants have the ability to recover their deposit funds, less any justified deductions, when they move out of the rental property.

Missouri statutes clearly define a security deposit as funds held to cover damages beyond ordinary wear and tear. Nonrefundable fees intended to cover normal cleaning, maintenance, or other standard processes are prohibited. Landlords may require tenants to pay an initial deposit that will be used to reimburse the landlord for any damage, unpaid rent, or other tenant financial obligations when the tenant vacates the unit. But landlords cannot designate any deposit as nonrefundable or as an automatic fee simply for renting the unit.

Interest Requirements 

In Missouri, landlords are required to hold security deposits in a bank account that accumulates interest. By law, the tenant has a right to receive this accrued interest on their security deposit, minus any allowable deductions, upon return of the deposit.

Missouri statute specifically requires that any deposit of $50 or more, after January 1, 1981, must earn interest. The bank account must be located in Missouri and started within 60 days of receiving the deposit. 

Defining Normal Wear and Tear vs. Damage in Missouri  

Normal wear and tear refers to the minor or expected deterioration of a rental unit as a result of standard use over time. This does not include damage caused by tenants that goes beyond normal wear and could have reasonably been avoided. 

Examples of normal wear and tear in Missouri typically include:

  • Minor fading, scuffing, or stains on carpets 
  • Scuffs and nail holes in walls from hanging decorations  
  • Fading, yellowing, or cracking paint over time
  • Worn seals around doors or windows
  • Minor scratches on wood floors 
  • Dents on walls from furniture or door handles

Damage that landlords can deduct from security deposits goes beyond normal wear and tear caused by aging and standard occupancy. This includes:

  • Stains or odors from pets  
  • Broken appliances, fixtures, or furniture
  • Holes in walls larger than a nail hole
  • Significant carpet staining 
  • Missing or overloaded appliances that require repair

The distinction between wear and tear vs. damage is often unclear. As a rule of thumb, wear and tear does not permanently damage the property or require extensive repairs. Damage reduces the rental value of the unit until fixed. The cause also matters - inevitable aging vs. preventable incidents.

By following the tenant responsibilities set in the lease, documenting conditions at move-in and move-out, bringing up concerns as they occur, and properly communicating about deductions, both tenants and landlords can avoid deposit disputes related to wear and tear vs. damages.

Returning Security Deposits in Missouri

Landlords or housing providers in Missouri must return all or some portion of a residential security deposit to the tenant within 30 days from the end of the month in which the tenant moves out of the property. For example, if a tenant moves out on March 5th, the landlord must return the security deposit or provide an itemized list of deductions along with any remaining balance of the deposit by April 30th at the latest.

The landlord must provide the tenant with written notice detailing the amounts withheld or deducted from the initial security deposit. This notice must include an itemized list describing any conditions that justify deductions from the deposit. Deductions may be taken for unpaid rent or utilities, repairs necessary due to damage beyond normal wear and tear, costs of cleaning or repairing the dwelling unit, key or lock replacement costs, and breach of the lease agreement. The landlord is required to have proof justifying their deductions.

If the landlord fails to return the full security deposit or remainder within the 30 days frame, sends it to the wrong address, or does not provide sufficient documentation and reasons for retaining all or part of the deposit, they may be liable for twice the security deposit amount in damages under the Missouri security deposit law.

Tenants should provide the landlord with a forwarding address when they move out to ensure any deposit balance refunds are sent to the correct location. Tenants disputing unauthorized deposit deductions may choose to send the landlord a demand letter requesting the disputed amount be returned before taking legal action.

Missouri Security Deposit Laws

Allowable Deductions

A landlord in Missouri may legally deduct from a tenant's security deposit to repair or replace damaged items beyond normal wear and tear or to cover unpaid rent. 

  • This means deductions can be made for expenses such as:
  • Repainting walls damaged by food, crayon, mold or excessive dirt
  • Replacing stained or burnt carpet not attributable to normal use
  • Fixing holes made in walls not considered minor nail holes
  • Repairing or replacing broken appliances like garbage disposals or ovens
  • Re-keying locks if a tenant fails to return all keys

Charges can also cover unpaid utilities, late fees as outlined in the lease, or rent due when a tenant vacates without adequate notice. Cleaning charges may be deducted if the unit requires professional-level cleaning that exceeds a standard tenant turnover cleaning.

The landlord must send the tenant an itemized list of any deductions from the deposit in writing within 30 days of move out along with a check for any remaining deposit balance.

Recourse If Deposit Not Returned

If a landlord in Missouri does not return a security deposit within 30 days or provides an insufficient itemized list of deductions, tenants have legal recourse. 

Under [Missouri law](https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=535.300), if a landlord fails to provide the deposit or itemization within 30 days, the tenant can sue for up to twice the amount of the security deposit. For example, if the original security deposit was $1000, the tenant could potentially be awarded $2000 in damages.

  • To take legal action, the tenant should gather evidence such as:
  • The original lease agreement showing the security deposit amount
  • Documentation like photos demonstrating cleanliness and lack of damages 
  • Written communication requesting the deposit and itemization  
  • Bank statements showing the deposit was paid

With this documentation, the tenant can file a small claims court case against the landlord. It is advisable for the tenant to consult with a lawyer first to ensure the proper procedures are followed. The court may award twice the security deposit amount as punitive damages to the tenant if the landlord is found to be unlawfully withholding the deposit.

By clearly documenting the original deposit payment and condition of the unit, and formally requesting the refund in writing, tenants can protect their rights under Missouri law. Taking the landlord to court can help the tenant reclaim wrongfully withheld deposits, plus additional damages in many cases.

Exceptions to Security Deposit Laws in Missouri  

Missouri's standard security deposit laws cover most residential rental situations, however, there are a few exceptions:

Student housing

Student dorms, housing, and other accommodations provided by colleges and universities for their students are exempt from the state's security deposit laws. The housing provider can set their own policies on deposits, deductions, and returning deposits.

Long-term care facilities

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term senior living establishments that provide rental housing and care services are also exempt from the standard security deposit laws. They can implement their own deposit and refund policies in their contracts.


If a property goes into foreclosure, the foreclosing lender does not have to comply with security deposit return requirements. Lenders are not considered landlords. However, any remaining deposits should be transferred to the new owner purchasing the foreclosed property.

Rent-to-own agreements

Rent-to-own lease agreements that have a purchase option are exempt from security deposit laws. However, standard rental lease agreements are covered even if offered by a rent-to-own business.

Transitional housing programs

Shelters, transitional housing, and other programs providing temporary housing assistance as part of social service programs do not have to follow standard deposit rules.

While there are exceptions in special housing situations, typical residential rental units are covered under Missouri's security deposit laws. Both landlords and tenants should understand these laws to ensure deposits are handled properly.

Abandoned Property Procedures

If a tenant abandons the rental property in Missouri, the landlord must make reasonable efforts to rent it at fair market value before applying the security deposit. Reasonable efforts include advertising the property for rent in a local newspaper, online rental site, or with a real estate agent. 

The landlord can apply the security deposit to any rent owed by the abandoning tenant. If the landlord is able to re-rent the unit at fair market value, the remaining security deposit balance should be returned to the tenant within 30 days after the new tenancy begins, along with an itemized list of deductions.

If the landlord is unable to re-rent the unit after making reasonable efforts, the security deposit can be kept and applied to the remaining rent owed under the lease term. The landlord would need to provide notice to the tenant that the deposit is being retained due to abandonment.

Missouri law does not allow landlords to charge an extra abandonment fee or consider it an automatic forfeiture of the full deposit if the tenant abandons early. As long as the landlord makes reasonable efforts to re-rent and provides proper notice, they can retain the deposit for any rent owed.

Commercial Lease Deposits

The Missouri security deposit laws generally apply to residential rental properties and not commercial properties. However, some protections may still apply in certain situations:

  • If the tenant is renting the commercial property for residential purposes, such as an apartment above a storefront, the residential deposit laws would apply.
  • The laws may also offer some protection if the commercial lease is with an individual rather than a business. However, this would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • The terms of the commercial lease agreement itself play a significant role. Commercial leases are often more detailed contracts outlining the handling of deposits, so those contract terms may override portions of the residential laws.
  • Commercial tenants should review their lease carefully to determine if the standard residential security deposit procedures and limits are referenced or incorporated in any way.

In general, commercial landlords likely have more flexibility in setting deposit amounts, handling interest, deductions, and refunds. Commercial tenants should try to negotiate favorable deposit terms in their lease and consult a commercial real estate attorney with any disputes. While commercial deposits in Missouri are not as strictly regulated, some basic principles of good faith and fair dealing still apply.

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