What’s the deal with evictions in Utah?
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.
Are there situations in which I cannot evict a tenant in Utah?
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.
What is the Utah eviction process usually like?
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.
Evicting a month-to-month tenant in Utah
In Utah, you can terminate month-to-month tenancy with 15 days’ notice, presented at least 15 days prior to the end of the rental period. However, you can’t use this procedure if the tenant’s lease specifies a specific term of tenancy.
Where can I learn more about the Utah eviction process?
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