Landlords’ lament

When rent isn’t paid, it may takes months for a landlord to take back his property from a renter, and sometimes only with a court judgment.

This results in lost rent money and court fees that make it difficult for landlords to run their businesses.

Owensville landlord Neil Reed worries Missouri’s garnishment statute for renters and landlords isn’t strict enough.

Reed owns three rental properties and said he’s concerned about the part of the statute that requires a renter who is head of the household to pay back 10 percent of their salary a week in late rent after a court judgment is issued.

“The situation is with most landlords, they don’t bother to go to court because of the lawyer costs to get a judgment,” Reed said. “Then if you do get a judgment, you only get repaid 10 percent weekly.

“It’s just peanuts.”

Roger Schrimpf, owner of Schrimpf Management in Jefferson City, said his business doesn’t have a lot of problems with people not paying rent because renters must undergo a strict screening process before signing a lease.

“We manage a lot of properties and only have a very small percentage that we have problems with not paying rent,” he said.

When there are problems, he said the company doesn’t hesitate taking renters to court. Court fees are included in a renter’s lease, so the company doesn’t have to worry about paying lawyer and court costs.

Reed said he might have to sell his properties if the garnishment laws aren’t amended. He would like to see the garnishment statute amended to 20 percent.

“Ten percent is just not acceptable,” Reed said. “It’s just too small.”

The particular section of Missouri’s garnishment law that Reed would like amended hasn’t been amended since 1979.

He has taken his concerns to his local state representative, Rep. Tom Hurst, R-Meta, who has been a landlord for nearly 25 years. In his years as a landlord, Hurst said he’s come across issues with garnishment, but he’s not sure of the right solution.

“If you punish too much, you’ll get nothing,” Hurst said of raising renter garnishment to 20 percent. “Part of the problem is what can we do?”

He said he has had discussions with colleagues and constituents regarding renter and landlord issues.

Rep. Gary Cross, R-Lee’s Summit, filed a bill this week that he says would make it a priority in getting possession of property back to landlords.

Although the bill wouldn’t change the garnishment percentage, it seeks to amend various other sections of the state’s garnishment chapter pertaining to tenants and landlords.

“I realize people are having problems in the state of Missouri,” Cross said. “I’m trying to improve the relationship between landlords and tenants.”

Cross has been a landlord for nearly 30 years.

His bill would give landlords additional rights with removing unauthorized pets from rental properties and it would allow a clerk of the court to issue a summons for a renter against whom a complaint is filed. It would also allow a landlord to file a statement immediately after rent has become due and payable, but not paid. A tenant would also have to release to a judge, on record, his current residence and current place of employment.

The final amendment included in the bill would waive court costs for the entire case if a court does not follow the statutory timeline for providing a court date and disposing of a landlord-tenant action for eviction.

Cross said his goal is to make renters more accountable.

“We’re trying to make it a win-win situation,” Cross said. “We need landlords because we need people to own property and as a result we need people paying property taxes, which affects our school districts and our communities.

“We need people renting from the private sector.”

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