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Do you know your rights?

Friday, August 17, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:21 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

As new residents and returning students move into their rented duplexes, homes and apartments, dealing with landlords and the legal issues can cause major headaches. They become even worse when citizens are unaware of their rights as tenants.

MU Legal Services attorney Stephen Concannon said about 50 percent of his customers come to him for landlord-tenant disputes.

Concannon said he sees everything, but students’ complaints about unreturned deposits top the list.

Because of the fine legal lines in landlord-tenant disputes, the Missouri attorney general’s Web site offers the Landlord-Tenant Law publication. The publication outlines the laws and rights of Missouri citizens. So, whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you can easily find out your rights.

For more landlord and tenant laws, go to ago.mo.gov/publications/landlordtenant.htm.

Ending leases

True or False? A landlord can evict a tenant if there is drug-related or violent criminal activity even if there was no arrest made.

TRUE — According to a 1997 provision, a landlord can evict a tenant for criminal activity without an arrest and without written notice.

True or False? An oral agreement obligates the landlord and tenant for 12 months.

FALSE — An oral agreement only stands for one month. If relying on oral agreements, landlords can evict a tenant or raise rent with only one month’s notice. However, in this case a tenant or landlord must give written

notice to terminate the tenancy. Oral notice is not valid.

Which of the following is correct concerning when a landlord can end a lease?

A. When a tenant doesn’t pay rent.

B. When a tenant damages the property.

C. When a tenant violates a condition of the lease.

D. When a tenant is involved in criminal activity.

ALL OF THE ABOVE. A landlord can end a lease when any of these things occur and when the written lease expires.

Residents

True or False? If a tenant does not get permission from a landlord when he or she subleases, the landlord can double the rent.

TRUE — If a tenant lets another person take over the premises

without permission, the landlord can legally double the rent.

True or False? There may only be two people sharing a bedroom while renting a home.

TRUE — According to the 1997 provision, unless there is a child born during the lease period, only two individuals may share one room.

Repairs

True or False? A landlord does not have to respond to tenants when they ask for repairs of code violations.

FALSE — A tenant is allowed to deduct one-half of the months rent (or up to $300, whichever is greater) if a landlord does not repair a code violation within 14 days of notice. However, this can only be done once a year and when the tenant is not in violation of the lease.

True or False? A tenant may withhold rent payments until repairs are complete.

FALSE — If the renter withholds payments, he or she is in violation of the lease and can be evicted.

Security deposits

Which of the following is correct concerning security deposits?

A. Landlords can only require the equivalent of one month’s rent as a security deposit.

B. The landlord does not need to notify the tenant of when he or she will be inspecting the premises.

C. The tenant may use the security deposit to pay the last month’s rent.

D. The landlord has 30 days to return the security deposit with an itemized list of damages.

D is correct. A landlord must return the security deposit with an itemized list of damages within 30 days. They may keep all or part of a deposit to pay for actual damages but not normal wear and tear.

Also, they may require up to two months’ rent as a security deposit, must notify a tenant of when they will be inspecting the premises, and the tenant may not use the security deposit to pay for rent.

True or False? If the landlord wrongfully withholds part of a security deposit, a tenant may sue to recover the amount.

TRUE — A tenant can actually recover up to twice the amount of the security deposit that was wrongfully withheld.


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