I have a question about the tenant/landlord agreement laws in Missouri. This is going to be a long read, so I apologize in advance.
I rented a home for a few years from a small rental company in southeast Missouri from August of 2016 until October of 2019. Based on the agreement, I was free to leave the property at any time after the first 12 months without penalty, as long as I provided at least a 30 day notice. In July of 2019, I accepted a job that required me to relocate a few hours away from the rental property, so I sent a letter to notify my landlord that I would be terminating the lease and would have my belongings moved out of the rental location at the end of October 2019. The landlord sent me letter back thanking me for being a tenant and explaining that there would be the option of a walkthrough inspection at the end of the lease. I received another letter from the landlord in mid-October of 2019 explaining how my security deposit would be used if certain conditions weren’t met. Some of them were unrealistic, such as having to replace window blinds if they were removed from the property. This was a red flag for me, because I had to buy window blinds when I moved in in 2016. There were other bizarre requirements such as “dusting all of the fan blades on the ceiling fans”, etc. The letter reiterated that there would be a walkthrough inspection that I was welcome to attend. I sent a text message to the landlord before my lease was over to make sure that there would be a walkthrough inspection that we could both be present for, and explained that I was a little worried about some of these potential charges. The landlord replied and told me that they had a death in the family and wouldn’t be available the week that my lease would be terminated, but they would schedule a walkthrough, and assured me that I was more than welcome to be present. I cleaned the place from top to bottom. Cleaned the bathroom sinks and showers, kitchen sink, carpets, and all the rest. The only thing I left was a small area of boxes and trash in the garage that I wasn’t able to fit into my truck when I finished my cleaning, and the refrigerator had been on the fritz for the last two weeks before I moved out, so I didn’t scrub it clean. My intention was to load the rest of the stuff from the garage and discuss the refrigerator during our walkthrough. I couldn’t justify driving back immediately just to get some boxes and debris from the garage when I would be there for the walkthrough in a few days anyway.
Fast-forward a few months and I hadn’t heard anything. Since they had a family death that they were dealing with, I tried to be understanding and didn’t press the security deposit refund situation. I called the landlord in mid-December and left a voicemail explaining that I hadn’t heard from them and was wondering when I could expect the walkthrough. He replied with some text messages and told me that he had completed the walkthrough without me the week after my lease ended and had sent a partial refund check to my new address and would send a replacement check if I hadn’t received the first one. He told me how there were some items left in the garage, the carpets “appeared” to be vacuumed and not cleaned, there was dust on the ceiling fan, and just other nitpicky things. I replied with an explanation that I had requested a walkthrough date and they didn’t provide one.
Based on my admittedly limited experience with renting homes in Missouri, I had the impression that it was required that a landlord give the tenant a date and time for a final walkthrough inspection before any portion of the security deposit could be allocated for damages, etc. I asked a friend that has been a landlord for several years about the issue, and she actually referenced RSMo 535.300 that goes into detail about the laws that govern landlord/tenant agreements.
All of that to ask this. Can I just file with small claims in Missouri to recover my lost deposit money? I’m not trying to rip anyone off, and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time if the tenant/landlord walkthrough is not a legal requirement. Maybe he just played the game right, and I was too naive to recognize that. I realize that this appears to be fishing for legal advice, but I’m really just wanting to see if I would be wasting the time of all parties as well as the court if I do file a claim. In all fairness, the landlord did send a replacement check for about 40% of the original deposit amount. I just kind of feel like my leniency was taken advantage of since they claimed to have a loss in their family and I also feel like I held up my end of the agreement, and even did my best to satisfy the demands in their letter, even though these weren’t items that were listed in the initial contract.
Sorry for being so long-winded, and I appreciate any advice! Thanks!