Evicting a Tenant: Answers to Common Questions

What is an eviction?

An “eviction” is the removal of tenant(s) from a rental property by a landlord through a court action (lawsuit). There are three types of evictions in Missouri: (1) a Rent & Possession action, (2) an Unlawful Detainer action, and (3) an Emergency Eviction.

Rent & Possession is for past due rent.  Unlawful Detainer is for violation of the lease, the law or failure to move out when agreed.  Emergency Eviction that allows the landlord to remove the tenant within 24 hours of judgment due to violence, drugs or damage.

In Kansas, an eviction lawsuit is called a forcible detainer and pertains to failure to pay rent or violations in the lease or the law, or criminal activity.

When do I need a lawyer to file an eviction suit?

If your rental property is owned in the name of a business entity, you are required by law to be represented by a lawyer.  If you own in your own name, you may be able to file without an attorney.  Note that in both Kansas and Missouri, an eviction case is much faster than a civil case, but you have to follow highly detailed rules and you may find that hiring an attorney will speed up the process and get you the property back sooner.

Can I change the locks or turn off the utilities if the tenant stops paying?

No.  Landlords may be prosecuted criminally or sued in civil court for tenant damages such as temporary housing, value of food spoiled if the refrigerator stops running, etc.  The fact that the tenant did not pay rent, left the property a mess, or otherwise acted outrageously will not be a valid defense for changing locks or turning off utilities.

If the tenant moves in and fails to put the utilities into their own name, you still can’t shut them off. It is a good idea for the tenant to provide proof of service on the utilities before letting them move in.

How long does the eviction process take?

In Missouri, a court date is scheduled about four weeks after the lawsuit is filed.  A private process server will give a copy of your petition and the court summons to the tenant(s) at least ten days before the court date.  If the tenant shows up to court and disputed the allegations in your petition for eviction, then the Judge will set the case for trail in seven to 14 days.  If the tenant fails to appear, the Judge will enter a default judgment.  A Rent and Possession will be final in 10 days, Unlawful Detainer in 30 days.

In Kansas, your court date will be about three weeks after the lawsuit is filed.  A Deputy Sheriff will give a copy of the petition and the court summons to the tenant at least three days before the court date.  If the tenant fails to show or shows and agrees the charges a default judgment will be filed and becomes final after fourteen days.  If the tenant shows up and disputes the allegations a trial will be set for seven to fourteen days later.  Once the judgment becomes final, the sheriff has up to 30 days to physically remove the tenant.

What notice is required prior to filing an Unlawful Detainer in Missouri?

You should serve your tenant with a 10 Day Termination Notice if your tenant has violated their lease, the law, or failed to move when the lease expired.  If you are on a month to month lease, you first need to provide the tenant with a month’s notice to terminate the lease.

What notice is required prior to filing an eviction suit in Kansas?

Kansas law requires that the landlord serve the tenant with a written termination prior to filing an eviction lawsuit.  These notices include a Three-Day Notice to Pay or Quit and a Fourteen/ Thirty Day Termination notice.

The Three-Day Notice to Pay or Quit must be in writing, list all tenants, the address, exactly how much is owed, state that past due rent must be paid in full within three days of the notice or they must move out and list who and where to pay the money.

The 14-day/30-day notice would be the notice provided in the case of a lease or law violation listing out the tenant’s names, the address and a list of each lease or law violations and a brief description explaining the violation.  State that the tenants right to possession will automatically terminate in 30 days from the date of the notice unless the tenant fixes the violation within 14 days of the date of notice.

To terminate a month to month you must provide your tenant with a one month notice based on the date that rent is due.

If I hire an attorney, do I need to appear.

No, you do not need to appear at the first court date.  If it is held over for trial, you will need to appear for that.

What is the process for an eviction?

Step 1:  Attorney sends written demand letter to pay rent or vacate and to call the landlord to resolve.

Step 2:  The eviction is filed at the courthouse.

Step 3:  The court will schedule the case for a hearing and issue a summons to tenant to appear.

Step 4:  A private process server in Missouri or the Sherriff in Kansas will serve a copy of petition and summons to tenant.

Step 5:  Your attorney goes to Court on your behalf to obtain a judgment.

Step 6:  Attorney will contact you with the Courts results and ask if you would like to schedule the Deputy Sheriff to perform a lockout procedure.

Step 7:  You and the Sheriff will lock out the tenant and remove their possessions.

What if the day of eviction the tenant refuses to remove themselves and their belongings?

In Missouri, the Deputy Sheriff will physically remove the tenant, and you will be responsible for removing all of their personal possessions to the curb.  Once everything is removed, the Deputy will authorize you to change the locks.

In Kansas, while the Sheriff’s Deputy will physically remove the tenant, he will also take inventory of the personal property and authorize you to change the locks.  However, you have to keep possession of the belongings for thirty days and publish in the local paper as described below.

What if my tenant moves out but leaves their stuff behind?

In Kansas, you can’t throw away belongings until at least thirty days from the date you reclaim possession of the property.  And prior to disposing of the belongings you must publish a notice in the local newspaper for at least 15 days and mail a notice to the tenants last known address at least seven days prior to disposition.

In Missouri if you have reasonable belief that the tenant has moved out and does not intend to return and rent is due and unpaid for 30 days and you post and mail both regular mail and certified mail to the tenants last known address to contact you within 10 days to claim the property.  You can then dispose of possessions after the 10 days have passed with no response.

Information is from Julie Anderson on the website www.MOKSLaw.com.  You can learn more about evictions and collections in both Kansas and Missouri by visiting the website.  Julie will be our guest speaker a t the March 14th MAREI Meeting discusing evictions and taking your questions.  We also have an all day workshop on March 11th to cover tenant screening, fair housing, enforcable leases, crime free housing and landlord legislative issues.