JEFFERSON CITY – Legislation filed in the Missouri Senate would extend more protections to landlords against tenants who refuse to pay rent or vacate a property. Senate Bill 804, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, would make it a misdemeanor if a tenant fails to vacate a property within 10 days of a court judgment mandating them to do so.
“If a landlord has a tenant who refuses to pay their rent, or vacate the property, there’s not much they can do,” said Sen. Engler. “This is one of the few situations where someone can basically steal from another person, with next to no consequences.”
In recent months, area landlords — mostly from St. Francois County — have been meeting at Rosener’s Restaurant in Park Hills. At the meetings they have shared their frustrations and sought solutions for dealing with tenants who refuse to leave a property once they’ve been evicted, a legal process that can take several months and cost hundreds of dollars in legal fees. In the interim period, the landlord loses potential income from a good renter and faces the very real possibility that the evictee will inflict intentional damage on the property before moving out. Under the proposed legislation, a tenant will have 10 days following a judgment in a rent possession case to vacate the rental property, file a motion to have the judgment set aside or request a trial de novo, or new trial. If they fail to do any of those options, and continue to occupy the property, they can be found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine and/or six months in jail.
“The bill in no way takes away from renters’ right, as by the time provisions in the legislation take effect, a court judgment would have already required the tenant to vacate anyway, and even then they can request a new trial,” said Sen. Engler. “The bill simply creates a way to enforce the judgment if the tenant fails to act.” Senator Engler says his legislation provides protections for Missouri business owners—landlords.
The senator attended the first landlord meeting held at Rosener’s in December and, according to those present, listened attentively to the discussion and took notes of the proceedings.
“We don’t allow diners to eat at a restaurant and just walk away without paying the bill. We shouldn’t allow tenants to stay in an apartment without paying rent for months on end,” said Engler. “Landlords deserve the same protections under law as any other legitimate business, and this bill will help give them those.”
When contacted Tuesday by the Daily Journal, landlord Brenda Berghaus — one of the organizers of the monthly landlord meetings — expressed her pleasure at hearing about the proposed legislation, although she hasn’t yet read the bill.
This is really good,” she said. “I’m really glad to hear that this has been done.”
The group’s next meeting will take place at 6 p.m. March 19, at Rosener’s Restaurant, on the east side of U.S. 67 in Park Hills. The landlords have said that at the meeting they plan to officially form the Missouri Landlords Association.
To follow Senate Bill 804, visit Sen. Engler’s Senate website at www.senate.mo.gov/engler, and click on the ‘Legislation’ tab at the top of the page.
Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.