There’re 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.’ As a landlord, sometimes you’re left with no other choice but to evict a tenant.
The first step in attempting to remove a renter from your rental property begins by handing them an eviction notice. Without the right information, the Utah eviction process can often feel like a legal jargon.
What Are Some Reasons For Evicting a Tenant in Utah?
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
You must be able to demonstrate to the courts that the tenant has committed any of these violations.
Are There Situations in Which I Cannot Evict a Tenant Under Utah Eviction Laws?
Yes, there are. 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 Utah Fit Premises Act.
According to the Act, 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 Act also allows tenants to repair any problems and deduct the cost of the repair from their 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.
So, you Want to Know How to Evict a Tenant. Here’s How the Utah Eviction Process Works in a Nutshell.
Step 1: Serve a Utah Eviction Notice
If you have a legal cause, you can begin the eviction process. The process begins by serving the tenant with an eviction notice. Selecting the right eviction notice is important because it forms the foundation of the eviction.
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.
Needless to say, it pays to have an expert on hand to make sure you’re well-versed and comply with these laws.
If the lessee is in violation of multiple rules, you’re required to serve multiple notices. This provides an even stronger case for you.
· Failure to Pay Rents
This is the most used Utah eviction notice. It notifies the renter that they have three days to pay or move out. It is used when your tenant is behind on payments owed under the lease agreement (deposits, late fees, rents, etc.).
What is a nuisance? A nuisance is anything which is indecent, injures health, is offensive, et cetera. A nuisance can also be any action or inaction which interferes with another’s comfortable enjoyment of their life or property.
· Lease Termination
This is a “No Cause” notice that can be used if you want to terminate the tenancy when the current lease term expires. If the lessee is on a month-to-month agreement, this notice would require the renter to vacate the rental premises at the end of the month.
· Lease Violations
You can serve this notice when the tenant is not complying with the lease agreement. Examples include parking non-functioning cars in common areas or having far too many guests.
Other eviction notices include Abandonment, Subleasing or Assigning, Tenant At Will, Criminal Acts, Wastage to Property, and Unlawful Business.
Step 2: File a Lawsuit
Next, file a lawsuit. This is called an order of restitution; seeking a court order evicting the tenant. In other words, the order of restitution helps restore your Utah property. To make it functional, you first need to comply with the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure.
In simple terms, you’re required to serve the renter with a properly drafted a Utah Complaint and Summons notice. Remember, all this time, the tenant has been staying on your property legally. However, after the expiration of the three days given in the Complaint and Summons notice, the tenant will be staying illegally.
If the tenant doesn’t respond within 3 days, the order of restitution will be entered by default. However, if the renter files an answer, any of the parties may request a mini-trial. Usually at the District Court in the County where the property is located.
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
Utah Tenant Eviction Defenses
A renter could still choose to fight an eviction even if a landlord has a valid legal cause. For example, the tenant may argue that you have failed to maintain the property or have discriminated against them.
Step 3: Removal of Tenant in an Uncontested Case
Suppose the tenant doesn’t fight the eviction, you can then forcibly remove them. You’re not required to do it yourself though. Utah law has made it illegal for the landlord to force the tenant from the rental unit.
Rather, you should contact a constable or the local sheriff to remove the tenant. You’ll want to file three things right away: a default certificate, a motion for an Order of Restitution, and an Order of Restitution.
The court will then sign the Order. Next, you’ll be required to hand it to the lessee through a Sheriff or a process server.
Step 4: Lockout
If the tenant doesn’t vacate the premises after 3 days, the writ of restitution comes into effect. The writ allows a sheriff or constable to enter the property using the least destructive method necessary.
Suppose the tenant leaves some property behind, you need to follow certain procedures.
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 Utah 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 renter will then have 15 days to claim it.
Separate these items:
- Prescription medications
- Medical information
- Documents about the receipt of public services
- Financial documents
The tenant has 5 days to retrieve the property without paying anything. Otherwise, the Utah Code Section 78B-6-816 allows the landlord to donate or sell the property after 15 days. The period can, however, be extended for further 15 days in certain conditions.
For example, in the event, the tenant is hospitalized or has passed away.
Step 5: Additional Proceedings
After you have possession of the premises, additional motions or proceedings may be necessary. This usually happens when you need to collect amounts owed by the tenant. If the defendants defaulted in paying, you’re required to file an affidavit.
Precisely describe any damage and/or losses to the property along with relevant evidence. Then, include the affidavit with a prepared default judgment. If it matches the amounts in your affidavit, the judge may sign it.
But if an answer is filed by the Defendants, a trial will be necessary. The judge will then determine the outcome of the case based on the evidence presented.
Utah Eviction Process Timeline
Civil lawsuits in Utah’s District Court often take months or years before a judgment is rendered. Luckily, Utah eviction laws provide landlords several significant opportunities to accelerate the eviction process. By using this strategy, you can have an eviction process resolved within days or weeks.
A delay in the eviction process can have devastating effects on the landlord. For example, a foreclosure due to default on their mortgage. Having a good local property management company and an attorney can save you lots of time and hassle associated with the process.
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.