There are good tenants and bad ones, just as there’re good landlords and bad ones. In Utah, the legal term for an eviction is an unlawful detainer suit. Landlords wishing to evict a tenant must go through a formal process and obtain a court order before they can have a tenant evicted. Any attempts to evict a tenant without a court order are illegal. Actions like turning off utilities or changing the locks without a court order are known as self-help evictions, and they could result in a lawsuit being successfully filed against you. Before landlords can file an eviction suit, the law requires you to provide 3-days notice to tenants to correct a deficiency or leave the premises.
Generally, the eviction process in Utah takes just a matter of days or weeks from the time the landlord files the lawsuit to the time the tenant is out of the property. 11 to 28 days is common, provided that the process has been followed correctly. If the tenant contests the eviction, it could take longer.
Utah is among the more landlord-friendly states. Courts in Utah normally award triple damages (minus attorney’s fees) to landlords in the event of an eviction especially for past due rent payments. However, it can be very difficult to actually collect on a judgment from an evicted tenant if they have few assets in their name to collect against.
Reasons to evict a tenant
Common reasons for evictions in Utah include non-payment of rent and material violation of lease terms.
Landlords can also file nuisance evictions due to suspected criminal activity on the premises, loud parties, rowdy behavior, gambling, and the like. The landlord must sufficiently demonstrate to the courts that the tenant has been causing a nuisance.
You cannot evict unless you have a court order authorizing you to take possession of the property. You can’t evict if you are illegally discriminating against a protected class. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and pregnancy. If you evict someone for a lease violation, the tenant may challenge the eviction and present evidence that they were, in fact, in compliance with the lease, or that they corrected the deficiency within 3-days. As a landlord, it is important to make sure there’s nothing that can be used against you in court. The eviction case could fail if the judge finds you in violation of the landlord-tenant lease. Before proceeding with the eviction process, ensure you were acting in accordance with the following laws:
According to the Law, Landlords should
• Maintain a habitable living space, by conducting all feasible and relevant repairs
• Maintain common areas, in a manner that guarantees safety and sanitary conditions
• Maintain electrical systems, plumbing, heating, and hot and cold water
• Follow the applicable local eviction procedures
• Maintain any air conditioning system in an operable condition
• Comply with all relevant building, safety, health, and housing codes
In some cases, the Law also allows tenants to repair any problems and deduct the cost of the repair from their rent. Remember, the renter will also be given a chance to present their case during the eviction proceedings.
Every part of the eviction process must be followed exactly or a landlord risks delaying the process, potentially allowing a renter to continue living on his property rent free. If, a landlord takes any illegal eviction steps, he could end up owing his renters money. Illegal eviction tactics include changing the locks or raising the rent with the intent of pricing them out of the rent and making them move.
Before filing an eviction a landlord needs to provide notice to his tenants regarding the reason a lease agreement has been terminated and the tenant needs to move. These notices include a Pay Rent or Quit, Cure or Quit Notice, or an Unconditional Quit Notice. Typically the reason for the notice dictates how much time you must give the tenant to correct the situation or vacate the property before filing for eviction. Some notices can provide as little as 3 business days for the tenant to pay rent or vacate, while other notices may require more than two weeks.
Filing The Eviction Lawsuit
If your tenant fails to vacate the property after having provided them with proper notice, the next step is to file an eviction lawsuit. Once eviction paperwork is drafted according to your state’s guidelines, the eviction lawsuit is filed with the court and the clerk of the court must issue a summons for each of the defendants.
Serving The Eviction Lawsuit
A notice for eviction must be served according to state laws. Some states allow a landlord to serve the eviction paperwork directly to the tenant. Alternatively you can hire a professional process server to serve the tenant their eviction paperwork if your state allows it. Some states allow you to post an eviction notice to the premise and mail a copy to the renters as a last resort if all other service attempts have failed. An eviction lawsuit usually has two main purposes:
To obtain a judgment for any amounts owed under the contract, and;
To regain physical possession of the property
Tenant’s Opportunity To Respond
After being notified of the pending court case, the tenant has the right to challenge the eviction. While that commonly consists of a sweeping denial of whatever they are accused of doing, the tenant also can raise defenses at this time. That means challenges to the habitability of the unit, failure to make repairs or unfair treatment. If the tenant has made a reasonable sounding denial, the landlord must then go to court and prove each aspect of the eviction claim. A landlord should have excellent records and support to disprove any claims made by the renter.
Setting A Court Date
Consider working with an attorney familiar with your local landlord tenant laws. They can review the pleadings and determine whether you might have a defense and advise you accordingly. If you have sufficient evidence of a breach of contract by the tenant and that all tenant claims are false or unsubstantial it is highly likely that the Court will sign a judgment and issue an order for a writ. The Writ of Possession is the court order executed by a law to remove a tenant and their belongings on a set date.
Delivering And Executing The Writ Of Possession
Assuming that the court found in the landlord’s favor, the court will issue a document called a Writ of Possession, which provides that the landlord now has the right to possession and directs the county sheriff to evict the tenant from the premises. The landlord must deliver the writ to the Officer, who then posts a notice to vacate on the premises.
After the applicable period, the Officer will come back, and this time he’ll do a civil standby while your landlord and helpers actually move your stuff out. If you tell them they have to transport and store your personal property somewhere safe and secure. They can make you pay to get your stuff back from storage, so this is not a great option.
From the day the tenant receives a notice to quit to the day they are removed from the property anywhere from 3 to 9 months may elapse. So much of eviction process depends on how aggressively the landlord pushes the matter and how vigorously the tenant defends it. When the landlord charges ahead and the tenant puts up no resistance the whole process may only take a couple months. On the other hand when a tenant digs in their heels and the landlord does not force the issue the case may linger for much longer. Failing to provide the correct eviction notice may lead to dismissal of your case. Ignorance of the tenant/landlord law is not a defense, and many local judges have a zero tolerance approach to infringements.
Dealing with an Evicted Tenant’s Property in Utah
You should have a crew of people ready when the sheriff arrives to carry out the eviction process. Have tarps, boxes, and bags on hand. Sometimes the tenant leaves some personal property behind in the rental unit. If that happens, the law enforcement officer should put the property in a safe location or storage. The officer will then notify the tenant of the property.
The tenant has 5-days to retrieve the property without paying anything. Otherwise, the landlord is allowed to donate or sell the property after 15 days. The period can however, be extended for further 15 days in certain conditions.
Rights and Responsibilities of Tenants When Signing a Lease Agreement
Lease is a legally binding contract between you and your landlord. Under a typical lease, a landlord can’t force you to move out of your rental apartment, unless you repeatedly violate any of the lease terms. The landlord must take specific procedures to bring to an end the tenancy. Should a tenant cause substantial damage to the property, landlords may give them an unconditional quit notice.
When a tenant breaks a lease, the law obligates them to continue paying the rent for the full lease term, regardless of whether they continue to live in the rental unit. In some cases, you are no longer obligated to pay rent, even if the lease term hasn’t expired yet. For example:
The Rental Unit is Unfit: If your landlord fails to adhere to the requirements of the local and state housing codes, it’s considered a violation of your rights under laws. In court, a judge may rule in your favor by declaring that you have been constructively evicted from the property.
Military Deployment: You also have the right to break a signed lease if you enter active military service afterward.
Your Landlord Violates Your Privacy Rights or Harasses You: In Utah, it’s illegal for the landlord to alter the terms of the lease agreement before the end of the existing lease term unless it’s explicitly permitted in the lease. If the landlord harasses you, attempts to enter the rental unit, or makes attempts to access the rental unit for reasons which aren’t legal, you can break the lease. Before you do so, get a restraining order against the landlord first. Should the landlord continue with their attempts to access your rental unit even after that, you’re free to provide a notice to break the lease.
The Apartment is Illegal: If you find out that the apartment you’re renting is, in fact, illegal, you won’t face any penalty for breaking your lease agreement. You may be entitled to a portion of the total rent you’ve paid during the course of your tenancy. The landlord may also be compelled to help you get a new rental property.
You are a Victim of Domestic Violence: Under state law, tenants who have been victims of domestic violence have the right to end their tenancy without facing any financial or legal repercussions. Specific conditions must be met, however, such as proof of the act of domestic violence, police report and copy of an order of protection.
If you’re leaving the unit for any reason, your landlord is required to find a replacement tenant as soon as possible. This means that you may end up paying only a portion of the rent due for the remaining lease term. In re-renting the unit, the landlord cannot relax standards for accepting tenants. However, the landlord can add legitimate expenses to your bills, such as the costs of screening a new tenant, advertising the property and the like.
If the landlord is unable to re-rent the unit quickly, you will be liable to pay the due rent for the remainder of the lease term. That’s why it’s important that you also help your landlord find a new tenant.
How to Minimize Your Financial Liability
Assuming you don’t have any legal justification to break the lease but you still want to, it’s important to consider your options carefully, as follows.
• Check if your landlord or property management company has another property available in the area where you can move.
• Check if it’s possible to move into another property within the same building. This can be an easy and attractive option if your reason for moving is the need to get more room, or conversely you need to downsize.
• Talk to the landlord about your situation. Be concise and clear about your circumstances. Sometimes the reason for leaving could be an issue with your neighbor.
• Offer the landlord a qualified replacement tenant.
Many times, doing your homework to select and properly qualified renter will help you avoid an eviction down the road. If the unfortunate ultimately happens, be sure to follow all rules and procedures. The rules may appear burdensome to you but they’re there for a reason.
Eviction Lawyer Free Consultation
When you need legal help with an eviction in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506