FENTON, Mo. (KTVI) — A Missouri woman said her landlord took off the front door to her apartment because she was two months late on rent and now an attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri said that violates a state statute.
Hannah McGee said she lost her restaurant job due to COVID-19 and said she is two months late on paying her rent. That totals $1,000 owed to her landlord. She said she’s lived in her same Fenton, Missouri apartment for three years without any issues and her mom has rented the apartment next door for the last 13 years.
“He’s always been a good landlord. I guess it just took one slip up,” McGee said. “I’ve lived here without a problem, no incidents whatsoever, I’ve been on time every month, but since COVID happened, I lost my job, I was working in a restaurant.”
Since the front door has been removed, McGee has put her closet doors in front of the space where the door used to be to try and trap heat inside.
“At night it gets definitely really cold, it’s kind of unbearable without it,” she said.
Her four-year-old daughter is spending the night at her grandmother’s next door to stay warm at night.
Attorney Rob Swearingen said McGee’s story is common. He said his law office is now getting calls at least once a day from tenants who are having their doors or locks taken off, being locked out, or having their utilities shut off.
“We try to call landlords and inform them that they’re violating the law by illegally evicting people. You can only be evicted by a court order and with the sheriff present executing an eviction and right now that can’t be done in St. Louis City and St. Louis County,” Swearingen said. “The landlord needs to realize that the landlord has committed a tort and is liable for anything that happens to this tenant, its more than negligence, its intentional infliction of emotional distress, it’s a violation of Missouri statutes and it’s unlawful eviction.”
When NewsNation affiliate KTVI arrived at the tenant’s home Monday afternoon the landlord was there, but would not answer questions before driving off.
“I would never be able to do that to somebody, just make things even harder on them, especially with everything going on,” McGee said.
She said it is difficult, but she is trying to keep a smile on her face for her daughter.
“My Christmas tree is right next to my door frame where there’s no door, I don’t know how we’re going to open presents on Christmas like that,” she added. “At least we have three walls. All I can do is find the humor in it and try to get by. I mean, a lot of people go through worse.”