Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs bill banning local governments from halting evictions

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. (Rich Sugg/The Kansas City Star/TNS)  (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/TNS)
By Kacen Bayless Kansas City Star

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday signed into law legislation to block local governments from issuing eviction moratoriums, part of a years-long effort targeting housing laws in Kansas City and St. Louis.

The legislation, which takes effect on Aug. 28, bans county and local governments from imposing or enforcing a moratorium on eviction proceedings unless approved by state law, giving state lawmakers and the governor the exclusive power to halt evictions.

After a bill signing ceremony in the state Capitol, Parson, a Republican, argued that the legislation would allow for a more uniform approach to how the state responds to a health crisis.

“It gives people that authority to make sure whatever we’re going to do, it fits the circumstances and it fits the state of Missouri,” he told reporters. “So we don’t have different people doing different things.”

The legislation was one of two bills that Parson signed on Tuesday that ban eviction moratoriums.

While the legislation has drawn sharp criticism from tenant advocacy groups, it sailed through both chambers of the General Assembly this year without much opposition. The bill also included several other provisions, including a measure allowing individuals to petition courts to remove “unlawful occupants” from property.

“Obviously this comes on the heels of COVID,” Rep. Chris Brown, a Kansas City Republican who sponsored the legislation, said on Tuesday. He pointed to money that property owners and landlords lost due to eviction moratoriums during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now in the state of Missouri … the state legislature and the governor, with his emergency powers, are the only entities within this state that can enact a halt on evictions.”

Brown later told The Kansas City Star that the legislation was about the “constitutional protections of property and the legitimacy of contract law.” He stressed that it was “not an orchestrated attack on tenants.”

But Rep. Ingrid Burnett, a Kansas City Democrat who opposed the legislation, said in an interview that she was “pretty disgusted” by the bill. She said it prevented local governments from being able to respond to future emergencies.

“It just makes no sense that you would tie the hands of the … public officials who are there at ground zero,” Burnett said. “Why would you tie their hands with restrictions on how they can respond?”

The legislation was backed by landlord and realty groups, such as the Missouri Association of Realtors.

It has been a priority for Missouri Republicans roughly four years after the Jackson County Circuit Court temporarily halted evictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar bills in Missouri have faced staunch opposition from tenant advocacy groups that argue the legislation places landlord profits over renters’ lives.

Health Forward Foundation, a Kansas City-based health care advocacy group, testified against the bill earlier this year, saying that it would halt local governments from meeting the needs of their communities during public health crises.

Jennifer Tidwell, a principal impact strategist for the foundation, said in an email on Tuesday that the foundation was disappointed by the legislation.

“The places we live have a direct impact on our health, wealth, and life expectancy,” Tidwell said. “A safe, stable, and stress-free home sets the stage for success in school, work, and beyond.”

More than 127,000 eviction filings have been made in Missouri since mid-March 2020, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. During that same period, there have been more than 28,000 in Kansas City.

The legislation that Parson signed came in response to local agencies such as the circuit courts in Jackson County and St. Louis that temporarily halted evictions in the early days of the pandemic.

In March 2020, Jackson County Circuit Court temporarily suspended the issuance of writs for two months to protect the health of the public and court employees. In landlord-tenant cases, writs are delivered by process servers to tenants requiring the tenant to be evicted from the property, according to previous reporting.

St. Louis Circuit Court suspended eviction proceedings from mid-March 2020 through July 2020. The St. Louis City Council later passed a 15-day eviction moratorium in December 2021.

Missouri never implemented a statewide eviction moratorium.