FENTON, Mo. (KTVI) — A Missouri woman said her landlord took off her front door because she was two months late on rent, but a local attorney says that violates a state statute.
Hannah McGee lost her restaurant job due to COVID-19 and is behind on her rent, totaling $1,000 owed to her landlord. She said she’s lived in her Fenton 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 slipup,” 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.”
McGee put her closet doors in front of the space where the front door used to be to try and trap heat inside. “At night, it gets definitely really cold,” she said. “It’s kind of unbearable without it.”
Her 4-year-old daughter is spending the nights next door with her grandmother, whom she calls Nana, to stay warm.
Attorney Rob Swearingen, with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, said McGee’s story is unfortunately common. He said his law office usually takes a few calls from renters, but now they are 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. It’s more than negligence, it’s intentional infliction of emotional distress. It’s a violation of Missouri statutes and its unlawful eviction.”
On Monday, the landlord refused to answer questions from KTVI and drove away.
“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.”
A friend has set up a GoFundMe to help McGee with her expenses.