Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Missouri Landlord-Tenant Law: Security Deposits

All too often, St. Louis landlords fail to refund their tenants' security deposits. Missouri law grants tenants and landlords specific rights pertaining to security deposits. If your landlord has wrongfully withheld your security deposit, you may have legal remedies.

Get your security deposit back
When a tenant's lease is terminated, the tenant is entitled to either a full refund of the deposit or an "accounting" specifying the exact amount being withheld and the landlord's justification. The landlord has 30 days from the date the lease ends to refund the deposit or provide an accounting.

Missouri law recognizes only three reasons why a landlord may withhold any portion of a security deposit: (1) to remedy a tenant's default in the payment of rent due to the landlord, pursuant to the rental agreement; (2) to restore the dwelling unit to its condition at the commencement of the tenancy, ordinary wear and tear excepted; or (3) to compensate the landlord for actual damages sustained as a result of the tenant's failure to give adequate notice to terminate the tenancy pursuant to law or the rental agreement, provided that the landlord makes reasonable efforts to minimize their damages.

If the landlord wrongfully withholds the deposit, a tenant can recover up to double the rental deposit as damages.  In addition, wrongfully withholding a deposit may be a violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, a powerful Missouri consumer protection law that is discussed in this previous blog post.

Unfortunately, some landlords wait for the tenant to move out, inspect the property without the tenant being present, and then send a bill for damage to the rental that does not exist. There are several ways to protect yourself from this situation: (1) clean and repair the unit before you leave, and (2) take plenty of pictures of the unit on both the day you move in and when you move out.

If you have a question and would like feedback from a St. Louis Consumer Protection Attorney, feel free to make a comment to this blog post or contact me.

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