Your first priority may be to evict the tenant from the leased premises, which you will be entitled to do if you obtained a judgment for possession.
Caution: To avoid being counter-sued by the tenant for wrongful eviction, you must have a judgment for possession enforced through the court and Sheriff’s Department – see the topic “Self Help Eviction Illegal in Missouri” on the Missouri Law page.
If you got a judgment for possession, the court will send a notice to the tenant advising of the judgment and the need to vacate the premises; sometimes this prompts the tenant to move, but often it does not. If the tenant does not move voluntarily after a judgment for possession is entered, how soon the judgment can be enforced depends on how the judgment was obtained.
• There is no waiting period to request enforcement of a judgment for possession if the judgment was entered by consent (because there is no right to appeal a consent judgment).
• If the judgment was entered because the tenant defaulted or as the result of a trial, the tenant has until the 10th court business day after entry of the judgment to file a request for a new trial, and a request for enforcement of the judgment will not be honored by the court until the 11th court business day after judgment entry.
After an execution for possession has been requested, you must coordinate with the sheriff’s office on the eviction date and time. It will take three to five days after the request for execution is submitted to the court clerk for the execution paperwork to get to the sheriff’s office, so don’t call right away. When you think enough time has passed, call the sheriff’s office at 875-1111 (ask for the civil process clerk) to get the name of the assigned deputy and the deputy’s cell phone number. Then call the deputy to arrange a mutually agreeable time for the eviction to take place. It is generally about 10 days from the date we file the request for execution for possession until the sheriff’s deputy actually arrives on the scene to supervise the eviction.
At the appointed time, you must either have a key to the premises, have a locksmith on hand, or be willing to force the door. You must provide the manpower to move the tenant’s property to the curb. The function of the sheriff’s deputy is to stand by to preserve peace – he or she will not help remove the tenant’s possessions. You may want to have a locksmith on hand in any event to change the locks unless you are confident that the tenant has surrendered all keys or left them behind in the unit.
So long as you have this eviction process supervised by the sheriff’s deputy, you will not be liable for loss of or damage to the tenant’s property removed from the premises so long as you are not grossly negligent or intentionally damage the tenant’s property.
Special Note: If some of the tenant’s property is clearly labeled as belonging to a third party (such as a rent-to-own store), you have a duty to set aside such property in a secure place, notify the owner identified on the label in writing by certified mail, and allow that owner five days after receipt of the notice within which to retrieve the property.
It is not your responsibility if scavengers take the tenant’s property that has been moved to the curb; rather it is the tenant’s responsibility to safeguard and retrieve the property. In Columbia, property left at the curb after the tenant and/or scavengers remove what they want will generally be hauled away by the city trash collectors, but you may need to inform the Solid Waste Division of the Columbia Public Works Department that there will be an unusual amount of trash to be picked up. Outside of Columbia, where there is no municipal solid waste collection system, you may need to make arrangements with a private hauler to remove the items after a reasonable period of time has elapsed for the tenant to retrieve them.
In the unlikely event (at least in Boone County) that you have difficulty obtaining cooperation from the sheriff’s office to enforce an eviction, a statutory provision adopted in 1997 may help. It provides that if the sheriff’s office fails to execute an eviction within 7 days after receipt of an execution for possession, then within 60 days of the date of judgment, in the presence of a law enforcement officer, you may break and remove locks, enter and take possession of the premises, and remove the tenant’s property from the premises, subject to these conditions:
• Such action must be taken without breach of peace
• The law enforcement officer must first be presented with a copy of the judgment and execution for possession
• The law enforcement officer must acknowledge this in writing
• The acknowledgment must be filed in court by the landlord within 5 days after the eviction is completed.
• When an eviction is done this way, the landlord will not be liable for loss or damage to property left behind by the tenant unless the landlord’s actions are negligent, willful or wanton.