On this page:
Representing landlords and property managers in eviction and other tenant-related lawsuits is Scott Law Firm’s focus. We try to make the process as easy as possible by using standardized procedures for collecting the necessary information and communicating with our clients.
We prefer that you use our Client Portal (click the button at the top of this page) to submit new cases. The portal will allow you to track cases online and will send you email updates as the case progresses. We launched the portal in mid-October 2021.
We will continue to accept new cases submitted on paper forms until further notice, subject to the following:
For clients who have appropriate computer equipment and internet access, we will create a portal account for the client, use the portal for document production and case updates, and ask the client to submit future cases through the portal.
For clients without appropriate computer equipment and/or internet access, we will continue to provide written updates via postal mail.
We also strive to make the expense of landlord-tenant lawsuits predictable and economical for our landlord clients by using a flat-fee system – see the Fees and Costs page for our fee schedule and court costs. The Lawsuit Procedures section below provides an overview of how lawsuits are processed and includes our applicable flat fees.
For information on types of cases landlords can file against tenants, see the topic Overview of Lawsuits Landlords Can File Against Tenants on our Missouri Law page.
Paper submission forms
If you do not have access to a computer to use our Client Portal, you may submit cases on paper forms. We need two completed forms, Form 5 and Form 6 (both available immediately below and also on the Forms page), submitted to file a lawsuit:
Form 5 (“Request to File Landlord-Tenant Lawsuit”) provides the information we need to file suit. Form 5 can be downloaded here in your choice of two formats:
• Plain PDF – suitable for printing and filling out by hand or on a typewriter
• Fillable PDF – can be filled out and saved in Adobe Acrobat Reader or other PDF programs
Note: Starting with Version 8 of Adobe Acrobat Reader, it is possible to fill in and save a fillable PDF form if the form has been set up by the designer to allow saving. The fillable PDF form above was set up to allow saving. If you have problems saving the fillable PDF form using Acrobat Reader, we recommend that you update the program. To do so, click “Check for Updates” on the help menu in the program. Starting with Version 11 of Acrobat Reader, the program allows saving filled-out PDF forms whether or not the designer set up the form to allow saving. If you do not have Acrobat Reader, it is a free download. PDF programs from companies other than Adobe also may allow filling out and saving a fillable PDF form.
Form 5 also is available on our Forms page in the same formats.
The form should be completely filled out with all applicable information relating to the case.
If Form 5 is not used, we charge an additional $20 flat fee to collect the necessary information.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Make absolutely sure the premises address you provide is correct. Double-check the street number, apartment number or letter if applicable, and the correct name of the street (e.g., “street,” “road,” “avenue,” “drive,” etc.). If there is any error at all in the premises address, the Sheriff’s Department may refuse to enforce an execution for possession. Good resources for checking street names are the U.S. Postal Service ZIP code lookup page and map services such as Google Maps.
Form 6 (“Verification Form”). Form 6 can be downloaded here:
Form 6 also is available on our Forms page in the same formats.
By signing the form, the landlord or agent verifies that the facts stated in the lawsuit are true. Not only is attachment of the verification form a technical legal requirement for eviction lawsuits, but also it serves as “evidence” to support the lawsuit that the court deems sufficient to grant default judgment if the tenant does not appear in court in response to the lawsuit.
It is required that the signature on the verification form be an original signature. We can accept a scanned or faxed verification form to file a case, but we must have the original signed copy on file.
While we can file a verification form separately sometime after the lawsuit is filed (but before the first court appearance), we charge an additional flat fee of $15 to do so because of the extra handling involved.
Topics covered below are:
- Filing Procedures
- Service of Summons
- First Court Appearance and Reports
- Trials and Reports
- Issues that Arise while Lawsuits Are Pending
When we file a lawsuit, we upload a copy of the lawsuit to our client portal, which sends an email to the client asking the client to review the lawsuit petition. At the same time, we enter the court’s filing fee and our legal fee (for filing the case and attending the first court appearance) in our accounting system for later billing to the client. See our complete fee schedule.
The law requires that a lawsuit summons be served on a tenant before the court has jurisdiction to enter a judgment against the tenant. In most eviction cases, summonses can be served either by personal service or posting. Personal service requires handing the summons to the tenant or someone else who lives with the tenant. Posting requires affixing the summons to the door of the leased premises. The difference between these two types of service is:
- When a summons is personally served, a judgment against the tenant can include both possession of the leased premises and money owed by the tenant.
- When a summons is served by posting, a judgment against the tenant can only include possession of the leased premises – unless the tenant actually appears in court, in which case the judgment can also include money owed by the tenant. In our experience, roughly half of the tenants who are served by posting appear in court.
When we receive information from our special process server or the Sheriff’s Department about service of the lawsuit on the tenant(s), our client portal sends a report to the client. This report advises either:
- That service was accomplished, that the initial court appearance (called the “return”) has been scheduled at a specific date and time, that we will appear at the return for the client, and that the client is not required to be present at the return. Note: The return date usually is about three weeks after the date the case was filed.
- That service was not accomplished and that we will not be able to proceed with the lawsuit unless the client provides more information about where the tenant(s) can be served or elects to have the lawsuit served by posting if the original summons was for personal service.
Assuming service was accomplished, our client portal submits a request to the client shortly before the return date requesting updated information.
After the return (first court appearance), we send a report to the client through our client portal about what happened. Possible contents of this report include the following:
- The lawsuit was dismissed. This is usually done at the client’s request when the case has been resolved to the client’s satisfaction before the first court date.
- The court appearance was postponed to a later date. This is usually done at the client’s request when settlement negotiations are ongoing at the time of the return, but sometimes postponements are requested by the tenant(s) and granted by the court.
- A judgment was entered against the tenant(s), either by default (failure to appear) or consent. If a judgment was entered, additional information provided includes:
- Instructions for the client about how to view and download the judgment online.
- A statement whether the judgment is final or interlocutory (preliminary). If the judgment is interlocutory, a later court appearance for final judgment is noted.
- The date when we can file a request with the court to have the sheriff conduct the eviction if necessary. Most tenants leave after an eviction judgment is entered, so we rely on the client to determine whether the tenants have vacated and to ask us to file the sheriff eviction request with the court if necessary.
- Whether a trial or other hearing has been scheduled.
Most of the time a trial is scheduled when the tenants dispute the client’s claims. However, a trial can also be scheduled if the client believes there is property damage and asks for an interlocutory judgment and later hearing to determine property damage issues. If the tenants are still residing in the leased premises, trials usually are set within 7-14 days after the first court appearance; otherwise, they usually are set about a month after the first court appearance. If a trial has been scheduled, the report to the client includes:
- The date and time of the trial, or a notation that the trial will be scheduled later by the court (in which case we send a later separate notice to the client when we receive the trial date).
- The name of the judge who will hear the case.
- A notation that we will contact the client shortly before the trial to obtain updated information.
- The time the client and any witnesses should meet with our attorney at the courthouse before the trial.
- A notation that the client should promptly notify us of any witnesses who may need to be subpoenaed to appear at the trial.
- A list of documents the client should bring to trial.
- If property damage is at issue, a reference to the guidelines on our website for proof of premises damage.
- Any additional relevant information about the lawsuit.
After a trial is conducted, we report to the client through our client portal on what happened and provide instructions to view and download a copy of the judgment online if a judgment was entered.
The reports mentioned above are the only reports we provide to clients within our standard fee structure. These reports give our clients the complete status of each case at any given point in time. Clients can also check the status of a case at any time by viewing the “Communications” tab for the case on our client portal. Because of our caseload, we cannot guarantee providing additional reports, but if we are able to respond to requests for additional information and reports, we may charge additional fees for doing so.
The following issues sometimes arise while lawsuits against tenants are pending. Clients should consult with us if unsure how to proceed after reviewing the following information.
Continuances: Occasionally a client asks us to continue (postpone) an upcoming court appearance. Sometimes this results from settlement negotiations and payments being made by the tenant. If the case is set for trial, sometimes a client or witness will not be available on the scheduled trial date, or the client has not finished gathering all information necessary for trial. While it is ordinarily possible to obtain a continuance, the process is easier and less expensive for the client if the client will notify us of the need for a continuance no later than three business days before the scheduled court date (and preferably much sooner than that) so we can file a written motion for continuance and possibly avoid having to appear on the case on the scheduled court date to request a continuance in person. If we are unable to file a written motion for continuance and must appear in person to request a continuance, the $35 flat fee for extra court appearances mentioned above will apply. (Note, however, that some judges will not rule on a previously filed motion for continuance until the case is called on the scheduled date; in this situation, the $35 flat fee for extra court appearances will apply anyway.)
Dismissals: If a case is settled and the client wants to dismiss the case, the client should so notify us at least three days before the next scheduled court date so we can file a written dismissal and avoid a court appearance to dismiss the case. While we can dismiss a case when appearing in court, the appearance could be an extra appearance in the case, thus resulting in our charging the $35 flat fee for extra court appearances.
Payment Tendered in Rent-and-Possession Case: As noted on the Missouri Law page, under the rent-and-possession statutes, the tenant has the right to continued possession of the leased premises if he or she pays (or tenders payment of) the rent then due plus court costs at any time before judgment is entered. As a result, the landlord cannot legally refuse to accept such payments; if the landlord does refuse such payments, the court will treat the tenant’s tender of payment as the legal equivalent of payment and refuse to evict the tenant, subject to the tenant making the payment. In this situation, while payment of rent then due plus court costs will prevent eviction, the landlord can opt to continue the lawsuit to obtain a money judgment against the tenant for other charges due, such as late payment fees, bad check charges, utilities, property damage repair costs, and attorney fees.
Special Note: If a landlord has a clause in the lease that specifies the order in which payments will be applied notwithstanding any contrary notation on the tenant’s check or other payment advice, that clause will control. Such a clause could specify that payments be applied first to late fees, other charges due under the lease, and past months’ rent before any remaining portion of the payment is applied to currently due rent. Unless the tenant pays all amounts due (in which case dismissal of the lawsuit would be appropriate), such a clause often will result in some rent still being owed, allowing an eviction order to be obtained.
Payment Tendered in Unlawful Detainer Case: A similar legal problem can arise when a tenant who is being sued for unlawful detainer tenders a payment while the lawsuit is pending. This problem is discussed under the topic “Beware of Waiver” on the Missouri Law page. If a landlord is not careful, accepting rent or other payments from the tenant might be seen by the court as a waiver of the right to pursue eviction. This problem can be avoided by including a non-waiver clause in a pre-suit notice given to the tenant. The notices provided on the Forms page include language excluding waiver when applicable and should be sufficient to avoid a waiver defense by a tenant. However, if no notice was given, or if a notice that was given did not include non-waiver language, the landlord will need to make sure the tenant understands that acceptance of a payment does not waive the right to pursue eviction. This is best done in writing, and it would be best to get the tenant’s signature if possible. If the tenant will not agree that payment will not waive eviction, the payment should be refused.
Special Caution: When an unlawful detainer case is based on the tenant holding over after the expiration date of a written lease (which does not require a pre-suit notice), acceptance of a rent payment covering any period after the lease expiration date will create a new month-to-month tenancy. In this situation, unless the landlord can get the tenant to agree in writing that acceptance of the payment will not waive eviction, the payment should be refused. If a new month-to-month tenancy were created and the landlord still wished to evict the tenant, the existing lawsuit would have to be dismissed, a 30-day notice to terminate the month-to-month tenancy would have to be served on the tenant, and a new lawsuit would have to be filed after the month-to-month tenancy ended pursuant to the notice.
Copyright © Scott Law Firm Professional Corporation