Alicia Beeler Villines

Meeting the needs of landlords and real estate investors. 
  1. Where are you? I'm at 14 S. Main in Liberty, just south of Kansas Street (aka 152 Highway), about a block from the Clay County Courthouse. 

  2. Do I need a lawyer? If you are an individual and own the property, then no, you are ot legally required to be represented by an attorney.  But if the property is titled in the name of a partnership, LLC, corporation, or other entity that doesn't have a pulse, then only a licensed attorney may represent the entity in court.  

  3. How long until I can get the Tenant out?  Landlord-Tenant actions where possession ofthe premises is a primary issue are given priority status by the courts.  The case should be before the court within about six weeks of being filed. 

  4. Can I just lock the tenant out myself?No.  Self-help evictions are notpermitted in Missouri.  Landlords can face severe penalties for this, regardless of  how rotten the tenant has been.  

  5. Can I turn off the tenant's utilities or remove the door?  No.  That's considered a constructive self-help eviction, and it's not ok either. 

  6. How much do I have to pay to get this going?  I require that the entire filing fee and half of the uncontested attorney fee be paid before the case is filed.  The attorney fee for an uncontested eviction is $150, so half of that is $75. 

  7. How much is the filing fee?  The filig fee varies by county and by the number of defendants.  Allow about $40 per defendant in most counties. 

  8. How much is the service fee?  This depeds on whether you insist upon personal service for the tenants, or if you are willing to settle for service by posting.  It also depends upon whether you want the papers served by the sheriff's department (civil process department in Jackson County) or if you request a special process server. 

  9. Can I serve the papers myself?  No, sorry.   The sheriff's department can serve the papers or a court-appointed special process server can do the job. 

  10. What's the difference between personal service and service by posting?  With personal service, the tenant/defendant or a family member of 15 is personally handed a copy of the Petition and information about the court date (and the Motion for Service.)  With service by posting, a copy of these papers is simply taped in a prominent location onthe property, usually  the front door.     If a defendant is personally served, a money judgment can be taken against them.  If the defendant is only served by posting and does not appear in court, then only judgment for possession of the premises can be obtained.  In this instance, the defendant tenant must vacate the property, but does not owe any money to the landlord.
  11. What if the tenant comes up with the rent money before the court date?  If the landlord has filed a Rent & Possession case and the tenant comes up with the rent money and the costs of the case -- more about this in a moment -- then the landlord must accept the money and dismiss the case.  But if the landlord has filed an Unlawful Detainer case, then the landlord may accept the money,  but the tenant still has to leave.   Costs of the case -- If there is a written tenancy agreement which specifically states that the tenant is responsible for attorney fees, then these are also considered part of the overall legal costs.  But if there's no written agreement or the written agreement doesn't say the tenant is responsible for attorney fees, then the landlord is responsible for theattorney fees.

  12. What's the difference between a Rent & Possession case, and an Unlawful Detainer case?  A Rent & Possession case can be filed as soon as the tenant is behind in ret.  But if the tenant comes up with the rent and other costs, then the tenant gets to stay and the case is dismissed.  This can be a very expensive way for a landlord to collect rent if there is no written agreement that gives the landlord the right to also demand reimbursement for attorney fees, court filing fees, or service fees.   An Unlawful Detainer case can be filed when the tenant "holds over" after his tenancy has been legally terminated.  This requires a 30-day notice, and if there is a written lease (as opposed to a month-to-month tenancy) then the tenant must have actually breached the lease.  Double rent may be assessed against a hold-over tenant for the time past the move-out date. 

  13. Can I evict a tenant who's current on rent? Often, yes.  If the tenant has breached one of the lease terms, then a notice should be sent informing the atenant of the breach and giving the quired 30-day notice.  The breach should be something relatively significant.  For example, a single occurence of paying rent a day late would probably not be considered significant.    If there is a month-to-month tenancy, then either party may terminate the tenancy by giving a 30-day notice.  

  14. Can I evict a tenant if there's no  written lease?  Yes.  If there is no written lease, then the tnenacy is a month to-month.  Just give a 30-day notice.    If the tenant is behind in rent, the landlord doesn't need to give a 30-day notice.  S/he may choose to file a Rent & Possession case. 

  15. It's the middle of the month and I gave the tenant a 30 day notice on this date last month.  We can file the petition immediately -- right?  Er, no.  The 30-day notice must include a full rental period.  If the rent is due on the 1st of the month, then the notice must be received by the tenant before the end of the preceding month.    For example, if you want the tenant out by January 1st, then you need to give notice before December 1st.  If notice is received during the month of December (say, December 2, or even December 1), then the tenant hoesn't have to beout until 12:00 a.m. of February 1st.  And if your notice says the tenancy is terminated as of January 1st, but isn't receiveduntil the month of December is already underway, the notice probablyneeds to be redone.   

  16. My tenant let other people move in; can I get them out also?  Yes.  You will need to name John Doe and/or Mary Roe as defendants to be served by posting.   Yes, this increases the filing fee cost and service fee cost. 

  17. What happens if I don't include John Doe and/or Mary Roe as defendants?  The sheriff's department will not remove additional people living at the property unless there is a John Doe/ Mary Roe designation.  The deputy will ceremoniously escort Tom Tenant out the door, butallow Tom's buddies whoweren't amed  in the petition to remain at the property.  As soon as the deputy waves goodbye, John Doe and Mary Roe will let their good friend Tom Tenant back inside. 

  18. Do I have to come to court?  No, and most landlords don't.  But you can if you wabnt.  I ask that you be available by phone in case I need to contact you. 

  19. What should I wear to court if I come?  Long pants (jeans in good shape are ok) or a modest skirt if you're a woman.  Your shirt should cover your shoulders and your stomach.  Message T-shirts are best avoided.    

  20. Does the tenant have to come to court?  No.  The summons for the tenat states that if they do not appear in court, a default judgment may be taken against them.   

  21. What if the tenant shows up in court and claims he's paid the rent?  Landlord-Tenant docksts are usually pretty full, meaning that the court has a limited amount of time to get through a lot of cases.  typically, the judge will suggest that the tenant and I discuss the matter out  in the hall.  If the tenant indeed has what appear to be receipts,I'll call you, unless you've instructed me otherwise.  If you are sure the tenantowed you rent and I can't get an acceptable agreement worked out, then the court is likely to assigna trial date, which will probably be in less than a week.  Because the landlord-tenant docket is almost always bery full, it's unlikely that thecourt will even be able to give the option of hearingevidnce at the end of the docket.  Yes, this will increase your legal fee.     

  22. Will the court give the tenant a continuance?  If there is a genuinedispute about the statements in the petition (exl, the tenant claims he's not behindin rent), then the court will set a trial date; see above.  Some tenants who are more familiar with other cocurt matters will either request a continuance or assert an untruth in order to gain a continuance, thinking this will give them another month of rent-free living, because most other court matters are continued for about a month.   

  23.  How soon after the court enters judgment for me does the tenant have to   leave?  The tenant has 10 days to appeal, so the judgment is not final until 10 days after it is entered, not counting the day of judgment. 

  24. What if the tenant is still living there on the deadline date?  If the tenant has not vacated the property by the 10th day, then the next step is to file a Request for Restitutio (Execution), which  is a formal request for the sheriff's department to "execute" the court's order.  Yes, this will cost more money. 

  25. What happens after we request Restitution (Execution)?  Typically, a deputy will be assigned to your case and will usually contact either you or I to coordinate timing of removing the tenant.  One of us will need to be there.  Plan to have a new lock available and someone to install it. 

  26.  Does the sheriff's department move the tenant's stuff out?  No.  The deputy is there merely to make the tenant leave the structure and stand by to keep the peace while the lock is changed. 

  27. What do I do if the tenant leaves a bunch of stuff behind?  Many  cities have ordinances against simply carting stuff out to thecurb and leaving it.  If there isn't a written agreement addressing the situation, you may wind up storing the tenant's belongings for a period of time. 

  28. What if the tenant has damaged the property?  If you know of damage that's not "ordinary wear and tear" before the Rent &  Possession or Unlawful Detainer action is filed, we can probably incorporateit into the petition.   If you discover damage that's not "ordinary wear and tear" after the tenant moves out, then you have the option to sue the tenant for the damage.   

  29. The court judgment says the tenant owes me back rent.  When will I get my money?  I truly wish I had a good and firm answer for you.  However, the court judgment is a civil judgment, and most civil judgments are never collected.    Judgment collection is not a part of my law practice.  In my experience, collection efforts are a costly waste of time.  The better approach seems to be to get the tenant out and replace him/her with a new tenant who will fulfill their obligations.  In the event that the tenant does pay the amountowed,or even part of it, please let me know and I'll prepare a Satisfaction of Judgment document (after I recover from fainting).