Security deposits are a necessary part of managing a rental property. Ensuring that you are collecting the statutory correct amount and abiding by the law surrounding the return of the security deposit is one of the most important aspects of a smooth rental experience. Missouri landlord tenant law addresses security deposits in Mo. Rev. Stat. § 535.300.
Amount and allowable charges
Most landlords will ask for a security deposit equal to at least one month’s rent. Per Mo. Rev. Stat. § 535.300(1), the security deposit may not exceed two months’ rent, so make sure you’re in compliance with the law. Missouri does not stipulate a separate account for the security deposit, nor does it require that the landlord pay interest on the security deposit. As far as allowable charges are concerned, a landlord is allowed to withhold from the security deposit only such amounts that are reasonably necessary for the following reasons:
- as compensation for unpaid rent
- to restore the premises to its condition at the beginning of the tenancy, ordinary wear and tear excepted
- to compensate the landlord for actual damages sustained if the tenant fails to provide adequate notice to terminate the tenancy pursuant to law or the rental agreement; landlord must make reasonable efforts to mitigate damages.
At move out it’s important to hold an inspection of the property to determine any damages. Missouri Rev. Stat. § 535.300(4) states that the landlord must give the tenant reasonable written notice, at the tenant’s last known address or in person, of the date and time for the inspection. The inspection must be held at a reasonable time. The tenant has the right to be present at the inspection of the premises.
Return of security deposit
The procedure for returning a security deposit is straightforward. The departing tenant gives the landlord a forwarding address and the landlord sends the deposit to the tenant at that address. The important part to remember is the time frame for the return of the deposit. Missouri law stipulates that the security deposit be handled within 30 days after the date of termination of the tenancy. The landlord has two courses of action:
- Return the full amount of the security deposit, or
- furnish to the tenant a written itemized list of the damages for which the security deposit or any portion thereof is withheld, along with the balance of the security deposit.
Missouri landlord tenant law includes a statute which allows for a financial damages to the tenant for wrongful withholding of the security deposit. Per Mo. Rev. Stat. § 535.300(5), if the landlord wrongfully withholds all or any portion of the security deposit in violation of section 8 of the statute, the tenant can recover as damages not more than twice the amount wrongfully withheld. This could be a substantial penalty depending on the dollar amount at issue, so make sure to follow the correct procedure when returning a security deposit.