Need counterclaim advice
October 21, 2019 8:55 PM   Subscribe

My landlord is suing me for rent and possession on my apartment but filed the claim only one week after my rent was late.

I've lived in this apartment a year and a half hes owned it a year. He has been incredibly difficult to reason with from the fact that he initially asked us what our maintenance requests are but then refused to do any of the work specifically extermination. He allowed a drug dealer to stay 6 months before he was evicted and since he didnt exterminate we have had bats flying around the living spaces so I called the health department who basically told him he needed to fix the holes in the building where mice and bats come in. (The neighbor across the hall was bitten and had to get rabies shots).

It was shortly after that he locked me out of the storage room my winter clothes are in plus filed this eviction even though at the time I told him the rent would be late and have since paid the month of Aug. Sept and October completely minus Aug and Sept late fees since he locked me out of my storage.

I am countersuing for harassment and mental anguish since he filed this basically to get me to pay the $300 fine he got from the health dept but is going at it like I've just been sitting on my ass not paying rent for no reason and owe anything.

I live in Missouri. Is there any one who has experience suing for that and what should I expect in court? I have all the documents from my emails with him and all of his bullying
posted by The_imp_inimpossible to Law & Government (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you're not in St. Louis, these people should be able to point you in a better direction if there is one besides themselves.

Based on my own locality, your landlord is retaliating against you for who knows why, and from the story you tell it may have been legal for you to withold rent, which in MO is apparently only allowed in cases of unsanitary and dangerous conditions. I think there's a colorable chance that bats inside the house is at least unsanitary, if not dangerous (I know bats are cuddly). Call the building inspector, too.

Call the Equal Housing Council tomorrow or email them tonight. Locking you out of your shit is bad news and a tenant's rights knower will know how much of a hammer you can bring down. Don't listen to your landlord's bluster, from what you say here they have a good chance of being at a severe disadvantage. Steel yourself not to back down from anything due you for putting up with this garbage person.

IANAL, and most of my enthusiasm here is meant only for motivation, but in a lot of places this landlord would be in a world of hurt. MO might not be one of them, so get in touch with someone who knows.
posted by rhizome at 9:09 PM on October 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Hmm, this page has a good summary of MO tenant laws, and there's no prohibition against retaliation. Crazy! Anyway, talk to someone.
posted by rhizome at 9:12 PM on October 21, 2019

You can try to find a free or low cost attorney (MeFi Wiki) to help figure out whether and how to bring counterclaims, including for a breach of the warranty of habitability and the lockout from your storage, and possibly a motion to dismiss based on irregularities in how the eviction was filed, because only an attorney in your jurisdiction can provide legal advice tailored to the laws in your state and your specific circumstances.

The Legal Aid of Western Missouri (LAWMO) offers a Tenant Legal Help Clinic, and more information about how to apply for Missouri Legal Services throughout the state is available here. There also is a Missouri Free Legal Answers program available, and general legal information.
posted by katra at 9:45 PM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Am I understanding right, that you had failed to pay for Aug, Sept, and October at the time he filed to evict you? Many landlords would have filed for eviction due to non-payment of rent some time in August.

Do his emails state that he is evicting you for making a report to the public health department? If not, it may be challenging to prove this.

On the maintenance issue: There should not be bats in your home. You should not have to turn him in to the health department to get that to stop. There is a process that you could have followed to legitimately withhold some amount of rent for that reason. Unfortunately, the court may or may not give the maintenance issues much credence since you did not follow that process. It also appears (per that statute) that "a tenant may not deduct in the aggregate more than the amount of one month's rent during any twelve-month period." Even if the place were completely unlivable and deemed a nuisance by the court, rent still gets paid to a receiver.

On the lockout issue: residential lockouts are illegal in Missouri (That said, it may be legal for storage units as a separate kind of property, especially if you have a separate written agreement about those; I don't know.)

Talk to a lawyer ASAP. Here are tenant defenses to evictions in Missouri including a link to a table about the penalties to landlords for self-help (lockout) evictions by state. The fact that you've paid rent in the meantime should go a long way.
posted by slidell at 3:22 AM on October 22, 2019

If he’s locked you out of your possessions, you have a counter claim for conversion.
posted by katypickle at 5:37 AM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sending an eviction/"pay or quit"/forcible entry detainer notice for failure to pay rent the day after the grace period expired was standard operating procedure when I worked in residential management.

However, locking you out of areas your lease entitles you to is not! (What does your lease say about storage areas?)

Since this guy is a new landlord, I would check you lease and your local laws on how notice is supposed to be served. He likely fucked it up given his other behavior. I've seen judges give landlords the smackdown because they didn't follow the law on serving notice even when the tenant admitted they had not paid rent. This does not mean the obligation to pay rent or pay on time goes away though.
posted by vespabelle at 8:59 AM on October 22, 2019

Am I understanding right, that you had failed to pay for Aug, Sept, and October at the time he filed to evict you? Many landlords would have filed for eviction due to non-payment of rent some time in August. 

Not true . My eviction was filed in Sept after the month of August rent had been paid. That is the month he locked me out of the storage room. I withheld that month of rent because he hadn't been addressing my concerns with the bats (I have always feared them) I still paid it late but his hissy fit about the health dept thing made him refuse to acknowledge receiving it so the next months checks were 2 weeks late as well. It's amazing how little a tenant gets done with a full time job and no sleep because her blankets are locked in the basement during the cold weather snap. Theres a bit of pride in there too because I did nothing that malicious for him to remove me from my home over. The whole thing stinks like a pig.
Update: Court was today and I paid all my rent current only because he is trying to say he is not home to see if the fed ex package from me is my check (like what else would it be, moron?) I now have to go back to court to have the thing dismissed but will miss another day of work likely and be angry the whole time because of the inconvenience of it all.
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 12:17 AM on October 23, 2019

This does not mean the obligation to pay rent or pay on time goes away though.

Yeah, this may not be directly relevant since you're already in court - do you have a lawyer? you need a lawyer - but for anyone else who may be reading: you should never withhold any rent on your own for any reason without talking to a lawyer or tenant's rights group first, as it may weaken your position considerably if you don't carefully follow state law when doing so (putting the money in an escrow account, e.g., or giving proper notice of your intent to wthhold). It's a risky move that should only be done after talking to a professional. Here's another page about Missouri.
posted by mediareport at 3:57 AM on October 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

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