Stephen A. Martin, Attorney at Law
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When must I return a tenant’s security deposit?

Landlord-tenant laws in Missouri may not be that complicated, but they are particular about how you, as a landlord, do things. One of the keys to avoiding disputes is clear communication between both parties, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. Here is a quick refresher on some important points covered by these laws.

Security deposits

You are held to asking no more than two months’ rent as a security deposit. When the tenant moves out (after completing a full lease), you have 30 days to return the deposit, minus any portion that you hold back to repair any damages. It is important to know that normal wear and tear is not damage, and you cannot charge for it. If you do withhold an amount for repairs, you must give your former renter an itemized list of damages, also due within 30 days. To avoid disputes, let your renter know your expectations for cleanliness upon move-out. If you manage a number of rentals, it may be worth your time to draw up a letter with details about how you conduct inspections and your cleanliness standards. Remember that tenants have a right to be present when you inspect the unit too.


Some landlords appreciate it when the tenant who is leaving lines up a replacement tenant, but they must gain your approval beforehand. If the tenant subleases his unit without approval and another tenant moves in, you have the right to double the rent. The original tenant continues to be responsible for the original rent amount however, as well as any damage. If a tenant wishes to terminate a lease early, you must agree or the requirements of the lease will remain in force.


Although you must have a court order to evict a tenant, there are several circumstances that give you the right to begin eviction proceedings, including property damage, unpaid rent, lease violations, subleasing, criminal drug activity and more. The tenant will be able to appear in court and answer the charges prior to eviction however.


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