Landlords of Missouri, it is time to celebrate. Common-sense has finally won the day in terms of our eviction law. From now on, when an eviction occurs, there is actually a legal pathway to removing the tenants property thanks newly signed Senate Bill 231.
In the past, when evicting a tenant (even the really bad ones), the legal rights of landlords to remove a tenants belongings out of the property were murky at best. Even weeks after a court-order eviction was enforced, tenants could technically sue you if you removed their belongings. Since evicted tenants aren’t usually on the best of terms with their former landlords, this was more than a casual concern.
One loophole many landlords used was to move all the tenants belongings outside the building and into the yard. Still on the property, but not within it. The trouble is that many cities, such as St. Louis, responded by passing new laws that would impose littering fines on landlords who did this. A valid point, but this left landlords in such areas without a legal recourse to remove remaining personal property. This has been a known issue for many years now, and despite failed attempts to pass a bill in 2007 and 2008, the battle was finally won this year. Here is the official summary of the signed bill:
This act provides that except for willful, wanton, or malicious acts, landlords are not liable to any tenant for any loss or damages to household goods, furnishings, fixtures, or any other personal property left at or in the dwelling by reason of the landlord’s removal of the property under a court-ordered execution for possession of the premises.
If, after the sheriff completes the court-ordered execution, property is left by the tenant in or at the dwelling that is identified as the property of a third party, the landlord shall send notice to the third party by certified mail with a return receipt requested. The third party has the opportunity to recover the property within five business days of the date notice is received. If the landlord is unable to notify the third party, the landlord may dispose of the property and is not liable for the loss or damage.
Governor Jay Nixon signed the bill in early July, but it officially went into affect as of August 28, 2009. While you still can’t just set personal belongings on the curbside, passage of this bill means you don’t have to. If you follow the procedure laid out above and the tenant never collects their stuff, you can either donate it to charity or toss it in the trash.
It took far too long to get this passed, but for once the rights of landlords are being protected. You may now breathe again. A big thanks to all those out there (I know there are many) who made this possible.
For more on the bill, including the full text, check out the bill homepage.