Landlord Not Due Rent From Women Living in Dilapidated Housing

Mid-Missouri Legal Services (MMLS) client: Sharon, age 45, contacted MMLS for legal assistance when she was served with an eviction notice. She was living in a farmhouse in rural Missouri that was owned by a friend. The structure had been empty for many years, but the owner kept his horses on the property. The only source of heat was from a woodstove that sat outside in the dooryard and which vented minimal heat into the house. The roof leaked badly, and water pooled on the floors during heavy rains. Nonetheless, Sharon needed a place to live while she applied for a USDA loan to purchase a home nearby. Her friend offered to let her stay in the farmhouse if she would feed, water and care for the horses and keep the yard mowed. Sharon agreed, but no contract was put in writing.

Although the arrangement went well for several months, Sharon and her friend had an argument. A few days later he served her with an eviction notice and also claimed that Sharon owed him hundreds of dollars in rent for the months that she had lived on the property. Although she willingly and promptly left the farmhouse, she was adamant that she did not agree to pay any rent. Mid-Missouri Legal Services represented her at the court hearing and introduced into evidence a USDA loan document that had been completed and signed by Sharon's "landlord" during her stay at the farmhouse, in which he acknowledged that Sharon was not being charged rent and had paid him nothing.