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I have a landlord tenant dispute. I am the tenant. Missouri…

Customer Question
I have a landlord...

I have a landlord tenant dispute. I am the tenant.

Lawyer's Assistant: Because laws vary from place to place, can you tell me what state the property is in?

Missouri

Lawyer's Assistant: Has anything been filed or reported?

No

Submitted: 1 month ago.Category: Landlord-Tenant
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Answered in 2 minutes by:
3/10/2018
Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 1 month ago
Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 31,970
Experience: Attorney
Verified

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

What can you tell me about your situation?

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
I accidentally sent it in a different message.
Customer reply replied 1 month ago
Hi Lucy. I found this house at the end of September 2017. The rent is $1100. I paid a deposit of $2900 in October. I was overcharged for the deposit according to MO Atty General. It is stated in the lease that the deposit included 1st months rent. The house did not pass inspection until November 15th. I got the keys on the 18th and moved in on the 19th. I was required to pay ALL ofNovember rent ( lease states it will be prorated, but it wasn’t). Two weeks later had to pay ALL of December rent. It was paid late, but in full by the 13th. As you can imagine, it put me in financial straights, and I paid January rent late, as well. It was paid on January 12th. Before January ended, my landlord stated that my February rent needs toCLEAR by the due date. That stipulation is NOT in my lease. She requires my rent be paid via PayPal by the 4th of the month. Then I have a $25 late fee, $5 a day, with a max of $40. That is how it is stated in my lease. I paid February rent on February 2nd. I am late paying March, but on the 2nd, she sent me a text requesting rent PLUS $40 in late fees. I feel like something is off with all of this. Plus, in January she said they were considering terminating the lease. Can she do that?
Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 1 month ago

That's OK. I'll close the other message when we're done. It'll just take me a couple of minutes to type up a response for you.

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
Thank you!
Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 1 month ago

If the $2,900 you gave her in October included the first month's rent, then you've never been late. Your November payment would be for December, your December payment for January, etc. That means the late fees would all be illegal, because you're paid ahead.

The landlord cannot terminate your lease unless you've breached it in some way. Based on what you've said, though, you haven't breached the lease. She committed a minor breach by not letting you in until November 15 - and she owes you reimbursement for the 14 days you were denied access. If she tries to make you leave, you can counterclaim for that money, plus the late fees. But you could also sue in Small Claims Court anyway, because she's holding money she has no legal right to keep.

It would be illegal for a landlord to terminate a lease because the tenant sued them for overcharging.

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
The lease states (and I have text messages) that state the deposit includes 1st month rent. However, when I questioned her about it, she said, “Remember we talked about that. It will all work out.”... it NEVER sat right with me. In Missouri it states that a security deposit can not be more than 2 times the rent. I was charged $700 extra. What do you think I should do?
Customer reply replied 1 month ago
The extra $700 plus not prorating November rent, topped with the late fees... I am in a desperate financial situation.
Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 1 month ago

The lease controls. It doesn't matter what you talked about before signing it. So, technically, your deposit is $1,800 and you paid November's rent when you gave her that check.

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Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 1 month ago

Here's a discussion of the relevant case law, taken from Union Elec. Co. v. Fundways, Ltd:

Extrinsic evidence of a prior or contemporaneous agreement is generally not admissible to vary, add to, or contradict the terms of an unambiguous and complete written document, nor may such parol evidence be used to create ambiguity in an otherwise unambiguous document. Sedalia Mer. Bank & Tr. v. Loges Farms, 740 S.W.2d 188, 193 (Mo.App.W.D.1987). The parol evidence rule is a rule of substantive law and not a mere rule of evidence. W.E. Koehler Const. Co. v. Medical Ctr., etc., 670 S.W.2d 558, 562 (Mo. App.W.D.1984). Evidence offered in violation of it must be ignored. Id. The law conclusively presumes all prior and contemporaneous agreements have been merged into an unambiguous written contract, which becomes the final memorial of the agreement. Central Production Credit Association v. Reed, 805 S.W.2d 300, 302 (Mo.App. S.D.1991). The issue is whether the parties here intended the written contract to be a final and complete integration of their agreement.

Your lease is an unambiguous and complete written document. She's bound by the words in the contract.

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
Thank you so very much. How should I proceed? Do I need to contact a local attorney or just state what you told me and see if she does the right thing?
Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 1 month ago

Most lawyers don't take these types of cases, because it would cost you more than what she owes you. They're not really doing you a service to charge you $5,000 to collect less than half that. You can try talking to her, showing her the lease, and reminding her that it's a binding legal document. Show her the statute that says the deposit is too much. See if she would agree to apply the overpayment of the deposit and the "late fees."

If that fails, you can file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court for what she owes you. There are forms and instructions available online, and the judge can order her to also reimburse your filing fees.

https://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=704

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Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 1 month ago

Do you have any other questions about this?

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
No. Thank you very much for your insight.
Lawyer: Lucy, Esq., Attorney replied 1 month ago

You're welcome.

Please rate my service positively, as this is the only way that I get paid for the time spent answering your questions. Thank you.

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