Utah Eviction Law
In Utah, you can be evicted for a number of different reasons, including not paying rent or violating the lease. However, there may be a few things you can do to postpone the eviction, or perhaps even stop it altogether.
Understanding Your Eviction Notice
If your landlord decides to evict you, you will first receive a written notice that states the reason for the eviction and a time period to either comply with the notice, if possible, or move out of the rental unit. In Utah, you could typically receive one of three types of eviction notices, depending on the reason for the eviction:
• Three-day notice to remedy: You will receive this notice either because you failed to pay rent when it was due or you violated the lease or rental agreement. Under this notice, you will have three days to either pay rent or fix the lease violation.
• Three-day notice to quit: You can receive this notice for a variety of reasons, including committing a crime at the rental unit or running an unlawful business out of the rental unit. Under this notice, you will have three days to move out of the rental unit.
• Fifteen-day notice to quit: You will receive this notice if you have a month-to-month lease or rental agreement that your landlord wants to end. Under this notice, you will have 15 days to move out of the rental unit.
It is important to note that you are not automatically evicted when the time period runs out. An eviction is a legal proceeding. If you did not comply with the eviction notice by the time the notice period ends, your landlord can then go to court and file the necessary paperwork to begin the eviction lawsuit against you. Depending on how busy the courts are, it could take anywhere from a week to months before a sheriff is ordered to evict you on a certain date. You can remain living in the rental unit until the sheriff is ordered to evict you, but remember that you will be required to pay the landlord rent until the day you move out of the unit. Also, keep in mind that there are negative consequences to being evicted, other than losing your home. An eviction will have a negative impact on your credit report, and it could affect your prospects for future housing. Some landlords will not rent to people who have been evicted from a previous location. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy to stop your eviction, you should look at Evictions and the Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy may not stop an eviction, and you should carefully consider your options before doing so.
Talk to Your Landlord
If you receive an eviction notice, you should first try talking to your landlord. You may be able to come to an agreement without going to court. An eviction will cost both of you money (as well as time), and your landlord may be willing to stop the eviction if you agree to certain terms, such as paying rent you owe or stopping behavior that violates the lease. If you can’t come to an agreement that prevents you from moving out, perhaps you can agree on a certain date and time for when you will move out of the rental unit. If you and the landlord are able to agree on anything, be sure to get the agreement in writing, signed and dated by both of you.
Comply With the Eviction Notice, If Possible
If you are being evicted for not paying rent or violating the lease, then your eviction notice will state the reason for the eviction. If you comply with the eviction notice by either paying all the rent due and owing or correcting the lease violation, then, in Utah, the landlord must not proceed with the eviction If you are not able to comply with the eviction notice within the time period stated in the notice, then you should talk to your landlord. For example, if you are being evicted for failure to pay rent, you will receive a three-day notice to remedy. If you can’t pay the rent in full within three days but you could by the end of the week, you should talk to your landlord to see if you can arrange to pay later. If your landlord agrees to terms that are different from the eviction notice, then you should get the agreement in writing.
Attend the Eviction Hearing
If you do not comply with the eviction notice and you and your landlord are not able to reach an agreement, then your landlord can file the eviction lawsuit with the court. You will receive a copy of the paperwork after your landlord files, and you will then be required to file an answer in response to your landlord’s complaint. An answer is a document that allows you to state the reasons why you should not be evicted. This is where you need to put any defenses to the eviction, such as the landlord evicting you based on discrimination. In Utah, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on source of income, race, or religion, among other things. If your landlord is evicting you based on one of these protected classes, then you can use that as a defense against the eviction. You must file an answer if you wish to postpone or stop the eviction. If you do not file an answer, then the judge will most likely rule in the landlord’s favor, and the eviction will proceed. For more information on the eviction process, see the eviction help website published by the Utah courts. If you do file an answer, then a hearing will be scheduled. You must attend this hearing. At the hearing, the judge will consider both sides of the argument and make a decision regarding the eviction. Even if you don’t have any defenses against the eviction, you should still attend the hearing and talk to the judge. Depending on your circumstances (such as if you have minor children living at home or health issues), the judge might not schedule the eviction right away. The judge might give you a little extra time to prepare and move out of the rental unit before ordering a sheriff to perform the eviction. Keep in mind, though, that you will still owe your landlord rent until you move out of the rental unit.
Utah Eviction Process
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, Utah 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.
What are some reasons that I can evict a tenant in Utah?
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 federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and pregnancy. In addition, Utah state law prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of color or source of income. 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. If you fail to maintain your property in accordance with the Utah Fit Premises Act, the tenant may have a defense to eviction on the basis of non-payment of rent. In some cases, the Fit Premises Act allows tenants to repair a deficiency and deduct the cost of the repair from their rent. The tenant must provide all applicable receipts to the landlord, and the cost of the repair must not exceed two months’ rent. Before you can file for an eviction, you must provide a formal written notice to the tenant to pay rent, correct the lease violation, or vacate the premises. If you’re evicting because of a violation of the lease, then you would present the tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Quit or Perform Covenant. Utah law allows you to present this notice in person to the tenant; to mail it to the tenant’s residence via registered or certified mail; or to leave the notice with a person of suitable age and discretion at the residence. If you cannot find anyone suitable at the residence, then you may post the notice in a conspicuous place on the property. In Utah, if you have a squatter occupying your premises without a lease, you must provide a 5-day notice to quit the property as a tenant-at-will. If the tenant pays their rent during the 3-day period, and the reason for eviction stated in the notice was non-payment of rent, then the process stops there. However, if the 3-day notice does not solve the problem, then you can file your unlawful detainer lawsuit in the district court where the property is located. The court will schedule a hearing within 10 days. Court officials will deliver a summons to the tenant alerting them of the lawsuit, as well as the time and location of the hearing. If the defendant wants to contest the eviction, they can state their case at the hearing. Utah law allows landlords to recover attorney’s fees if they win the lawsuit, provided that a provision stating such is in the lease signed by the tenant.
Once you win your eviction hearing, you can apply for a writ of restitution from the court. The writ of restitution generally directs the tenant to vacate the premises within 3 days (though occasionally the timeline could be shorter—especially where vandalism or property damage is threatened or suspected). You can serve or post this notice on the property, but you must also provide a blank request for a hearing along with the notice to vacate. (You must provide proof of service to the court). If the tenant does not request a hearing, and does not vacate the premises, then the writ of restitution allows a sheriff or constable to enter the property using the least forceful or destructive method necessary.
Dealing With An Evicted Tenant’s Property In Utah
You should have a crew of people ready when the sheriff arrives to clear out the former tenant’s property. Have bags, boxes, and tarps on hand. You or the constable/sheriff must store the property and provide reasonable notice to the tenant to pick it up, if the tenant is not present to take possession.
Separate these items:
• Financial documents
• Documents about the receipt of public services
• Medical information
• Prescription medications
The tenant can retrieve these items within 5 days without paying anything. Otherwise, the tenant must pay reasonable transportation and storage costs to reclaim any personal property collected from the dwelling. Utah Code Section 78B-6-816 allows the landlord to sell or donate unclaimed property after 15 days if the tenant has made no reasonable effort to reclaim it, and if no hearing about its disposition is scheduled. This time period may be extended another 15 days in the event of hospitalization; domestic violence; or death, where the tenant has passed away and their surviving heirs are attempting to recover the property.
Evictions During The Coronavirus Outbreak
Many states and cities have implemented eviction moratoriums for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. Even if there isn’t a ban, most courts across the Utah have postponed hearings on non-essential matters—including hearings on eviction and landlord-tenant matters. However, most courts are still hearing eviction matters that are based on reasons other than nonpayment of rent such as selling drugs on the property or posing a threat to other people or property. No matter if there is an eviction ban in your area, you are still obligated to pay rent. Depending on the language of a ban, your landlord might be able to assess late fees, interest, or other penalties for not paying the rent on time. If you don’t think you can pay your rent due to COVID-19 related hardships, you have options, and you should consider talking with your landlord as soon as possible. Check your local court’s website for more information about the status of eviction lawsuits where you live. Also, consider looking into obtaining assistance from federal, state, local, private, or non-profit sources.
When a Landlord Might Send a Notice of Termination for Cause
Although terminology varies somewhat from state to state, there are basically three types of termination notices that you might receive if you have violated the rental agreement or lease in some way:
• Pay Rent or Quit Notices, which are typically given to someone who has not paid the rent. These notices give you a few days (three to five in most states) to pay the rent or move out (“quit”).
• Cure or Quit Notices, which are typically given to someone who violates a term or condition of the lease or rental agreement, such as a no-pets clause or the promise to refrain from making excessive noise. Usually, you have a set amount of time in which to correct, or “cure,” the violation.
• Unconditional Quit Notices, which are the harshest of all. They order the tenant to vacate the premises with no chance to pay the rent or correct a lease or rental agreement violation. In most states, unconditional quit notices are allowed only if you have:
• repeatedly violated a significant lease or rental agreement clause
• been late with the rent on more than one occasion
• seriously damaged the premises, or
• engaged in serious illegal activity, such as drug dealing on the premises.
When a Landlord Might Send a Notice of Termination Without Cause
Even if you have not violated the rental agreement and have not been late paying rent, a landlord can probably ask you to move out at any time (assuming you don’t have a fixed-term lease) as long as the landlord gives you a long enough notice period. A 30-Day Notice to Vacate or a 60-Day Notice to Vacate to terminate a tenancy can be used in most states when the landlord does not have a reason to end the tenancy. (The length of the required notice might be slightly longer or shorter in some states.)
Rent Control Exceptions
Many rent control cities go beyond state laws and require the landlord to prove a legally recognized reason for termination. These laws are known as “just cause eviction protection.” (Tenants in only a couple of states also enjoy just cause eviction protection.)
When a Landlord Might File an Eviction Lawsuit
Following receipt of a termination notice, if you haven’t moved out or fixed the lease or rental agreement violation, the landlord must properly serve you with a summons and complaint for eviction in order to proceed with the eviction. The court will set a date and time for a hearing or trial before a judge. You must show up to this hearing. If you don’t, the judge will likely rule against you, even if you have a possible defense to the eviction.
Possible Tenant Defenses to Eviction
If you do get hauled into court, you may be able to diminish the landlord’s chances of victory. Perhaps you can point to shoddy paperwork in the preparation of the eviction lawsuit. Or maybe the landlord’s illegal behavior, such as not maintaining the rental property in habitable condition, will serve as a good defense, as would a claim that the eviction lawsuit is in retaliation for your insistence on needed, major repairs.
Sheriff’s Escort During an Eviction
Even if the landlord wins the eviction lawsuit, the landlord can’t just move you and your things out onto the sidewalk. Landlords must give the court judgment to a local law enforcement office, along with a fee. A sheriff or marshal gives you a notice that the officer will be back within a few days to escort you off the property. At that point, it’s best to acknowledge defeat and leave on your own steam.
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