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Bad Landlord? St. Louis Attorney Explains Tenants’ Rights And How You Can Fight Back

EHOC attorney Kalila Jackson joined Monday's talk show to discuss tenant rights in Missouri.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Bad living conditions are stressful enough. But what about landlords that are neglecting their properties and abusing the rights of the tenants? 

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Kalila Jackson joined us to discuss how tenants can exercise their rights without escalating the situation. She’s a staff attorney at the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, better known as EHOC. Also joining the conversation was Sunni Hutton, a volunteer grassroots organizer with Homes for All St. Louis.

Jackson explained that the core fundamental right for tenants boils down to safe living quarters. 

“When housing conditions fall below that, tenants have some rights to withhold their rent and do some other things,” Jackson said. “But we see far too often … that landlords aren’t being held to the same standards as tenants are.”

She said that Missouri pales in comparison to other states when it comes to being a tenant-friendly state. And Hutton agreed. Through the fair housing advocacy organization, she’s helped residents organize strikes against property owners, such as T.E.H. Realty.  

Homes for All St. Louis volunteer Sunni Hutton joined Monday's talk show to discuss how tenants can organize rent strikes.
Credit Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
Homes for All St. Louis volunteer Sunni Hutton joined Monday's talk show to discuss how tenants can organize rent strikes.

“The first thing that you want to do is pull that lease to determine what is the landlord in violation of, so you have some legal backing for that,” Hutton said. She reiterated not spending the rent money, that it’s important to set that money aside and store in savings. 

“If you have such a monstrous landlord … then don’t go at it alone. Reach out to your neighbor, start having conversations with them and organize a rent strike collectively,” Hutton added. “Maybe $600 out of that landlord’s pocket isn’t much to them, but when that $600 turns into $4,800 and $48,000 … they have no other choice but to listen to you. It gives you a lot of leverage.”

Jackson also recommended tenants document the conditions of the properties and interactions with landlords. 

Listen to the full conversation: 

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.