Tenant lockout, legal or illegal?

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KPLR) - Your rent's past due and the landlord is forced to do something. What happens if the owner chooses to lock the tenant out?   No matter how frustrated the owner is, there are certain steps that must be followed. We're learning some landlords are taking the wrong approach.

Christopher Woods admits he's behind on his rent. But he doesn't understand why he's locked out of his apartment with no legal notice of eviction. 'They just basically told us we have to leave and they didn`t have any paperwork or anything to say this is what`s going to happen.'

Friday evening, Woods says he and his fiancé went to the store. When they returned they were locked out with nothing more than the clothes on their back. 'It was crazy because I had to go find some shoes and some pants. Just something to put on because I was wearing shorts at the time. We`ve been living with no possessions right now’

His fiancée Victoria Rhodes needed her medicine. 'I have several medications. I suffer from chronic back pain. This entire weekend I`ve been in a lot of pain and not able to get to my medication.'

The North County Apartment complex skipped an important step according to Rob Swearingen an Attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. Woods contacted him for help. 'He`s behind on his rent, but landlords cannot just force people out of their homes and make them homeless. There`s an orderly judicial process that has to take place.'

By Wednesday I talked to an attorney representing the apartment complex. He confirmed, Woods will be allowed to return to his apartment, but an eviction lawsuit will be filed. That's the way it's supposed to be done according to Swearingen. 'When people`s personal property that`s vital to their survival is taken from them, it`s illegal. What we have here is just a summary lockout. And at Legal Services we`re seeing an epidemic of these lock outs.'

If you have questions about landlord tenant issues call Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. And the Missouri Attorney General's Office can also help both parties understand their legal rights. We have links to additional information on our website Fox2Now.com. If you have consumer issues our Call for Action volunteers take calls Monday through Thursday between 11 am and 1 pm. The toll free number is 800-782-2222.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri

Missouri Attorney General