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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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 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 (Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-802). 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. 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 defences 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 (see the federal Fair Housing Act and the Utah Fair Housing Act). For more ideas on possible defenses against an eviction, see Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Utah. You should also contact a lawyer to ensure you are using the best defenses available to you. 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.
The eviction process begins with serving an eviction notice. Along with the eviction notice, we will personally serve an eviction demand letter letting your tenants know that they must comply with the eviction notices or face an eviction lawsuit. Selecting the correct eviction notice is critical because it forms the foundation of the eviction. If the tenants have caused multiple violations, the landlord should serve multiple notices that apply to the situation. This provides the landlord with a stronger eviction case because it provides multiple grounds for eviction (we don’t have to prove all of the notices, we only have to prove one notice to justify the eviction). Failing to provide proper notice to a tenant can easily result in a judge dismissing your entire eviction. If the tenant fails to comply with the eviction notices, the landlord must file an eviction lawsuit with the court. Most evictions are filed the same day and completed 2-3 weeks later with the locks being changed. Once the eviction case is filed we work through the case until the sheriff or constable is able to change the locks. Lawsuits can be complex and there are multiple reasons you should hire an attorney.
If not done properly, your case may be delayed or you may have to start the entire process over. Civil lawsuits in Utah’s District Court often take months or years before a judge renders a decision. If forced to wait through the regular timelines, landlords would often face default on their mortgage which may result in foreclosure. In order to avoid this result, and to provide landlords with relief from dead-beat tenants, Utah law provides landlords several significant opportunities to speed up the eviction process and have a judge review the case. If done properly, evictions can typically be resolved within days or weeks as opposed to months or years. Even though you may think that it will be easier to simply evict tenants without going through the necessary steps, it is illegal in all states to do a self-help eviction. You must follow the rules and regulations in your state. If you do have a situation that meets one of those categories and you have proof of it, then you can officially start the eviction process.
To do that, the first thing you will have to do is provide the tenants with a formal eviction notice. In most states, this is the first part of the legal eviction procedure. You will need to look at your local laws to determine how many days’ notice you need to provide to the tenants. This formal eviction notice is usually a document that is fairly simple in nature. It will provide the tenants with an ultimatum that will require them to fix the issue in order to avoid the eviction. For example, if they are behind on rent, the notice would detail that you need to receive the full rental amount in a set amount of days in order to avoid eviction. When you are creating your eviction notice, these are a few things to keep in mind:
• Include a specific date for them to either remedy the situation or vacate the property before you file for an eviction.
• Detail how much they owe you (if the issue is failure to pay rent) including any fees.
• Make sure you post this notice within the set amount of days to go along with the ultimatum date so you meet your local legal requirements.
• Put the notice on their front door. You should also send it to them through certified mail with a return receipt requested through USPS so you can verify that it was received by them. You may even want to check with your state laws to see if a specialized service company is required for this step. If so, you will have to pay them a small fee to deliver the notice.
• Consider using an eviction notice document to ensure that you fulfill all of the necessary aspects and can add in components that you require.
Once you have sent the eviction notice, the ball is in their court. In some cases, this may be enough for them to take care of the issue or move out. In fact, there are many evictions that never have to move past this point because they are fixed by the tenant after the notice has been delivered. However, this is not always the case. If nothing has changed since the eviction notice was sent and the deadline provided to the tenants has come and gone, then your next step is to file the eviction with your local courts. If you do have to move forward with the eviction process, you will need to go to your local courthouse to file. Typically, you will have to pay a fee to file the eviction; the amount for the fee will depend on your local courthouse. Once you have filed, the clerk may or may not immediately give you a court date. You may have to wait for the court notice to be mailed to you directly.
The court will also notify the tenant for you in the form of a summons. Evictions can be very stressful for all parties involved. Once you go through it for the first time as a landlord, you will want to take extra steps in order to prevent it from happening again in the future. While there is no way you can completely eliminate the possibility of eviction for one of your tenants, you can greatly reduce the probability of it happening by conducting background checks and credit checks for all applicants and thoroughly checking references. While it may cost you a little bit more in the beginning, it will save you a lot of time and money from pursuing an eviction later. A landlord can’t begin an eviction lawsuit without first legally terminating the tenancy. This means giving the tenant written notice, as specified in the state’s termination statute. If the tenant doesn’t move (or reform—for example, by paying the rent or finding a new home for the dog), you can then file a lawsuit to evict. (Technically, this is called an unlawful detainer, or UD, lawsuit.)
State laws set out detailed requirements to end a tenancy. Different types of termination notices are required for different types of situations, and each state has its own procedures as to how termination notices and eviction papers must be written and delivered (“served”). An eviction notice is meant to inform tenants that a legal process of eviction is about to begin if the landlord grievance cannot be resolved. If the eviction is not based on a particular grievance, there is generally a much longer deadline to respond – up to 30-60 days (as opposed to 3-5 days for many issue-specific notices in some jurisdictions).
If the issue is confronted and legal requirements are adhered to quickly and competently, a tenant may be able to delay the process for weeks or even months, or even prevent the eviction from happening altogether. In any jurisdiction, an eviction notice must provide all the information a tenant may need to understand the landlord’s reason for eviction, and all the information needed to respond within required time frames, in order to be valid. Legal eviction processes begin only if a tenant doesn’t use that information and respond appropriately before the deadline. Courts determine what kind of information is necessary and how it must be presented. In most states, a landlord can give an eviction notice for a tenant to move without giving any reason. The time allowed under state law for such a notice is usually 30 or 60 days, but it may be as short as 20 days or as long as 90 days. There may be different time periods if the tenant has lived in the unit for a long time, is a senior citizen or is disabled. The requirements also vary if the tenant is receiving federal housing assistance, or if the reason for the eviction is a condo conversion. Some states or cities require landlords to pay relocation expenses to senior citizens or disabled tenants or for units that are being converted to condos. Despite your best efforts to build a good relationship with your tenant, sometimes the relationship goes sour. Even if you’re a good landlord, you’ll probably have to go through the eviction process at least once in your career. Maybe a tenant didn’t pay the rent, maybe he’s disrupting the other tenants, or maybe she’s damaged your rental property. If you wish to evict a renter before the expiry of the Utah landlord-tenant lease agreement, you must have a cause.
In Utah, you may legally evict a renter for any of the following reasons:
• Expiration of a lease
• Wastage or nuisance
• Violations of the lease agreement, and;
• Non-payment of rent
Also, you cannot evict if you’re legally discriminating against a protected class. The protected classes are on the basis of pregnancy, familial status, national origin, sex, religion, and race. Again, Utah’s evictions law prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of source of income or color. Remember, the renter will also be given a chance to present their case during the eviction proceedings. As such, if you’re in violation of any of the lease terms, the case could be ruled against you.
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