Landlord-Tenant Court Hearings to See Major Changes

By Alan Van Zandt |

Published 08/27 2014 09:45PM

Updated 08/28 2014 09:56AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A new state law taking effect next week will significantly affect the way landlord-tenant disputes are handled in Missouri.

With a large number of rental properties in and around the St. Joseph area, many people could be affected. More than 600 landlord-tenant disputes have been heard in Buchanan County court in the last year.

"The number one reason is the tenant isn't paying rent," said Buchanan County Associate District Judge Keith Marquart, who hears many of the cases. "Then, after that, the issues are why isn't the tenant paying rent."

Marquart wants people to know that the new law on the books will formalize what had previously been a relaxed hearing.

"The change in the law will make it much more complicated for the litigants," Marquart said. "The judge will still be able to do his or her job effectively, but the litigants may not know what to do now that the rules will be strictly enforced."

Previously, if either party in a dispute didn't like the result of the court hearing, they could appeal, and it would be handled by another judge at the courthouse within a few weeks. That's not the case with the new law.

"You'll have to appeal to a Court of Appeals in Kansas City," Marquart said. "You would have to pay to have a transcript prepared, which could be thousands of dollars. You might have to hire an attorney, which would also be thousands of dollars and the decision may not come down final for a year."

Local property managers say this potential added cost and inconvenience will only end up hurting tenants.

"So as expenses go up for the landlords, tenants will have to be paying more rent to cover those expenses," said Ellis Cross, who has rented out properties for more than 35 years. "No one does this to lose money."

One answer would be to have fewer landlord-tenant cases get to court in the first place. However, that probably won't happen.

"Landlord-tenant relationships are always strained," Cross said. "One party always feels slighted."

However, Marquart believes that once all the wrinkles get ironed out and people start understanding the new system, the process will work.

"Eventually, I think that everyone will still get their day in court and still get a fair judgement but the process may take a little longer," Marquart said.

He adds very few landlord-tenant disputes are appealed in Buchanan County.

He believes this law is targeted more to address a large number of disputes appealed in Kansas City and St. Louis.

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