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More tenants in Kansas City and St. Louis are being evicted: ‘I was scared’

Single-family homes are seen during a LightHawk flight on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, in Ballwin. Mo. St. Louis landlords filed 10.8% more evictions in 2023 than in 2022.
Eric Lee
St. Louis Public Radio
Single-family homes are seen during a LightHawk flight on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, in Ballwin. Mo. St. Louis landlords filed 10.8% more evictions in 2023 than in 2022.

Nationwide, rents and the cost of living are increasing. Eviction filings are "a great indicator of housing insecurity," says a researcher from Princeton University's Eviction Lab.

Eviction filings in Kansas City and St. Louis continued to rise last year, meeting or surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Kansas City landlords filed 8.7% more evictions in 2023 than in 2022, while across the state in St. Louis, eviction filings rose by 10.8%.

That’s according to an annual report on eviction filings patterns across the country from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. In 25 of the 32 cities Eviction Lab monitors, the rate of eviction filings increased between 2022 and 2023.

“We're definitely seeing a lot more eviction cases in the past year than we did in the previous years,” said Grace Hartley, a research specialist with the Eviction Lab. “And we find filings are a great indicator of housing insecurity.”

The lab compares current eviction filing rates against rate averages from before the COVID-19 pandemic when eviction rates skyrocketed. Hartley said it's the best way to reflect the current rate of eviction filings versus a more stable rate.

“People are losing support from the government but besides that, we're seeing that rent is going up everywhere across the country,” Hartley said. “The rent is going up and the cost of living is going up — yet wages aren’t going up to combat that.”

Nationwide, the report found landlords filed 10.5% more eviction cases in 2023 than in 2022, and 60% of evictions nationwide were filed against women, while half of all evictions were against Black tenants.

Last year, Jessica Hatstat’s landlord evicted her from her apartment in Independence while she was temporarily laid off. She said she initially found out about the eviction through a search on Missouri’s online court records portal, Case Net.

“I was nervous. I was scared,” Hatstat said of the ordeal.

Hatstat is a single mother with two children. After getting behind on rent, late fees piled up leading to her eventual eviction.

“It was more of what am I going to do to keep a roof over my kid's head,” Hatstat said. “That was my main priority. I didn’t feel like I knew where to turn. You kind of feel like you're just in this cage.”

Jessica Hatstat faced eviction in 2023 after she was temporarily laid off from her job.
Jessica Hatstat faced eviction in 2023 after she was temporarily laid off from her job.

During the eviction, Hatstat said she wasn’t sure what her rights were as a tenant. She said she’s since learned about organizations like KC Tenants, the citywide tenant union in Kansas City.

“There's so many people going through this and there are people out there that will help,” Hatstat said.

Tara Raghuveer, founding director of the KC Tenants, said she isn’t surprised the eviction rate in Kansas City and Missouri is on the rise given the current housing demand. Over the past few years, she’s seen KC Tenant membership steadily increase.

“We've seen landlords increase rents beyond the rate of inflation, we've seen a growing trend of lease non renewals, and we've seen evictions — both formally and informally — spike,” Raghuveer said. “And to me that represents landlords' awareness of their power in the market, as it exists today, and their willingness to use more and any tactics to maximize their profits.”

That’s partially due to the lack of legal protections for tenants in place in Missouri and nationwide, said Raghuveer, whose organization succeeded in getting the Kansas City Council to pass a Tenant Bill of Rights in 2019.

Rahuveer said state and federal laws that protect tenants fall short of what’s needed in the current housing landscape. She said landlords almost always have more power than tenants.

Missouri law requires landlords to provide safe, sanitary and livable housing conditions to tenants and provides tenants with several rights. According to Missouri Landlord-Tenant law, landlords must:

  • make properties habitable before tenants move in;
  • make and pay for repairs due to ordinary wear and tear;
  • refrain from turning off a tenant’s water, electricity or gas;
  • provide written notice to tenants when ownership of the property is transferred to a new landlord;
  • not unlawfully discriminate. 

Under the same law, landlords are barred from entering a residence without permission, charging late fees not included in the lease and may not evict a tenant from their home without a court order.
In Missouri, court dates for eviction filings are typically scheduled roughly four weeks after an eviction is filed. If a tenant does not appear for the court date, judges enter a default judgment, meaning the tenants will be evicted.

This story comes from the Midwest Newsroom, an investigative journalism collaboration including IPR, KCUR 89.3, Nebraska Public Media News, St. Louis Public Radio and NPR.

Do you have a tip or question for us? Email midwestnewsroom@kcur.org.

Kavahn Mansouri is the Midwest Newsroom's investigative reporter.
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