Ordinance Violations, Civil Suits, Zoning & Planning Laws

In Missouri, an individual may not sue a government or municipality for failure to enforce its ordinances. There are some indirect exceptions to this rule. Specifically, an individual may, in certain circumstances, sue another individual civilly for failure to follow zoning or land use ordinances.

Under Section 89.491, RSMo, a person aggrieved by certain zoning and planning ordinances or violations may bring a civil action against the party violating the law. Bender v. Forest Park Forever, Inc., 142 S.W.3d 772, 774 (Mo. Ct. App. 2004). To be “aggrieved” in this context, the plaintiff must have a specific and legally cognizable interest and must be affected distinctly and directly.

The Court is authorized to impose civil penalties, enter orders mandating that the violations be corrected, and is obligated to award attorney fees to the prevailing party. As such, Section 89.491 can be a powerful tool to allow one landowner to enforce land use ordinances if a municipality or government elects not to act.

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