For Immediate Release:
July 8, 2014

Contact: Kyle Aubuchon
(573) 751-4843
Bill Allows Landlords to Recover from Damages Caused by Tenants

JEFFERSON CITY - Legislation I sponsored this year is included in a bill signed by the governor. Senate Bill 655 removes the “claim of right” defense for tenants who willfully cause damage to rental property. This act is found in my Senate Bill 911.

My legislation addresses the serious problem regarding landlords who have a difficult time recovering losses from tenants who damage rental property. The only way for these landlords to recover monetary values for damaged property is to bring civil suits against the tenants as long as the lease has a provision stating the tenants are responsible for the damage beyond normal “wear and tear.” However, the problem doesn’t stop there. Many times law enforcement is reluctant to investigate and write police reports for property crimes committed by tenants under the belief that tenants will not be convicted because of the “claim of right” defense.

Senate Bill 655 illustrates that this defense does not apply to tenants who willfully damage property, providing clarity for police to investigate tenants for such property crimes against landlords. While leading this legislation through the legislative process, I shared how landlords had difficulty with tenants who did not respect their rental property by causing thousands of dollars of damage. This damage increases the rent for many other families. The more money it takes to repair the damages, the more money landlords need to recoup their costs. My legislation seeks to put an end to this burdensome and costly cycle.

Senate Bill 655 also includes provisions that remove the option for a trial de novo — a retrial in a district court that is conducted as if no trial had occurred in the lower court — in landlord-tenant actions, update the definition of “lessee” by restricting it to only individuals who have leased the premises and are obligated to pay rent, and give tenants 24 hours to vacate the premises following a court-ordered immediate eviction.

The legislation will take effect Aug. 28.

Senator Doug Libla proudly serves the citizens of Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Shannon and Stoddard counties in the Missouri Senate.