With approximately one third of Missourians and most students living in rental housing across the state, the relationship between property owners and their tenants is a central concern of students. While there are many important issues surrounding this relationship, there are specific situations in which students are particularly vulnerable. Many students of the UM System have been subject to their security deposits being wrongly withheld from landlords and are unaware of how to correctly address this situation. While small claims court is an option to these individuals, often times this process is intimidating and results in a monetary reward deemed inadequate to justify the process. As an alternative, the Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM) continues to advocate for the utilization of a mediation service administered by the Attorney General’s office in the event that security deposits are wrongfully withheld.
In addition, Missouri lacks policy that adequately protects tenants’ security deposits in the event that their landlord files for bankruptcy during the course of a lease. This presents an additional situation in which students can have their security deposits wrongfully withheld. Even though this money is potentially a negligible amount, it can play a large role in a student’s financial situation.
Security deposits in the state of Missouri are, by law, the property of the tenant until the time when the landlord can justify expenses incurred from repairing damages to the property caused by the tenant. This provides justification for legislative “fixes” supported by ASUM.
Our proposed landlord/tenant legislation concerning mediation is currently under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s office. Under this division, the Attorney General’s office is already given the authority to assist in the mediation of these landlord/tenant disputes. Currently, however, the Attorney General’s office is unable to allocate the time and resources necessary for handling these cases. Through legislation and resolutions, ASUM plans to encourage the Attorney General’s office to reallocate resources in a way that would allow them to address this issue.
Additionally, ASUM proposes that a legislative exemption be made for tenants’ security deposits in the event that a landlord’s assets are subject to bankruptcy. This exemption would ensure that the tenants’ right to the lawful return of their security deposit is not violated as a part of their landlord’s bankruptcy proceedings.
ASUM, representing the 75,044 students of the UM system, is in strong support of these legislative fixes as a way to increase tenants’ protection in the event of a wrongfully withheld security deposit. These pieces of legislation would simplify the process to rightfully return security deposits and provide an increased incentive for landlords to act in accordance with the law.
- Students support legislation limiting the amount of wrongfully withheld security deposits along with protecting the tenant’s deposit if the landlord files bankruptcy
- ASUM would like to see the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office get more involved with wrongfully withheld security deposits
- Security deposits can be up to two months’ rent which is a large amount of money for a student to lose
- The disputes are handled in Small Claims Court which can be a lengthy, complicated, and intimidating process
- The security deposit is the tenant’s property and should not be deemed otherwise in bankruptcy filings
|Occupied housing units||2,375,611||
|Owner-occupied housing units||1,633,610||
|Population in owner-occupied housing units||4,145,569|
|Renter-occupied housing units||742,001||
|Population in renter-occupied housing units||1,669,216|
-Information Provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce 2010 Census Bureau
- Missouri’s Landlord-Tenant Laws: The Rights & Responsibilities of Landlords & Tenants. A publication through the Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, intended to better inform the public on the rental process.
- Mizzou’s Student Legal Services provides free preventative legal education and consultation to MU students. Located in the MU Student Center.