No matter how tough your screening process, at some point in your career as a property owner, you’ll likely have to evict a tenant. It's important to understand the Utah eviction process in case of having to take an eviction action. Also, facing an eviction lawsuit, eviction hearing, or an eviction trial are situations where knowing the law will help.
Common reasons for tenant evictions in Utah include:
- Non-payment of rent
- Negligent property damage
- Lease violation such as unauthorized subletting
- Staying in the unit after the rental period has ended
Utah, just like other states, has a statewide landlord-tenant law that landlords must abide by when evicting tenants. The following is a simple breakdown of the step-by-step Utah eviction process.
Evicting a Tenant in Utah: The Steps
Step 1: You must have a legal reason
It goes without saying that you can't just evict a tenant for no legitimate reason. The eviction process in Utah cannot let a landlord evict their tenants unless there is a justified legal reason. The reason must be sufficient enough to warrant an eviction, from a legal standpoint. Legal reasons for evicting a tenant in Utah include:
- Excessive property damage
- Housing an unauthorized tenant
- Subletting the unit without following the proper process
- Failing to move out after the lease or rental agreement is finished
- Failing to abide by the community health and safety hazards
- Committing an act of domestic violence
- Engaging in criminal activity while at the rental premises
- Failing to pay rent
Once you have a legally justifiable reason or a tenant violates any of the terms in the lease agreement, you have a reason to evict.
You cannot remove a tenant's property or other actions in order to force the tenant out of your unit. Locking the tenant out of the unit or removing their personal property is considered illegal. A good attorney-client relationship would benefit in these situations as they can discuss the possible court process with you and help you see what your options are moving forward.
Step 2: You must serve your tenant the proper eviction notice.
Utah eviction notice laws are very specific. Different eviction notices serve different purposes depending on the violation. The different types of written notice needed for every situation are as detailed below as stated under Utah law:
3-Day Notice to Pay.
You may be able to evict a tenant for not paying rent. As per Utah law statutes, rent becomes late a day after it’s due. If you provide a grace period, make sure to mention it in the lease or rental agreement.
Once the rent becomes due and you want to evict the tenant, you must serve them with a 3-Day Notice to Pay. This eviction notice will give your tenant a maximum of three days to either pay rent or move out.
If the tenant pays within the notice period of 3 days, you must stop further eviction proceedings against them. But a tenant fails to pay or move out, you can move to court for further help.
3-Day Notice to Comply.
You can evict a tenant if they fail to uphold the terms of the lease. Examples of lease violations that may be applicable include exceeding the occupancy limit, causing negligent damage, and having an unauthorized pet.
This notice simply gives the tenant 3 days to correct the violation. For example, to fix any negligent damage they may have caused. If they don’t do so within the 3 days, you may be able to use their security deposit to cover the repairs.
3-Day Notice to Quit.
If the tenant is conducting illegal activity in your rental, you must serve them this type of notice before proceeding with the eviction. In Utah, illegal activity is defined in three ways.
Firstly, it’s defined as setting up or carrying on an illegal business. Secondly, it’s defined as permitting/maintaining a “nuisance” in a rental unit.
Third, it’s defined as committing a “criminal act” on the rental property. Unlike other notices, with this one, the tenant has no other option than to move out. If the tenant remains in the unit, you may proceed with the eviction process in court.
15-Day Notice to Quit.
This type of notice is intended for tenants whose leases are coming to an end. You need to send them a Notice to Quit 15 days before their lease ends, unless your lease specifies more time.
For ‘at-will’ tenants, you must provide a 5-Day Notice to Quit.
Step 3: You must file and serve a complaint against the tenant.
In Utah, landlords have two options when it comes to proceeding with the eviction process. The first option is to file a complaint with the court and then serve the tenant a copy of the summons and complaint. You must do so within 120 days after filing the complaint with the court.
The second option is to serve the summons and complaint against the tenant, then file the paperwork with the court afterwards. The filing fee in Utah is $75 if you're not seeking damages above $2,000. The court will serve the documents to your tenant for $35 (or you could have a friend serve them for free.) The Utah eviction process timeline depends on each case.
For either of these options, we'd advise you seek legal counsel from a reputable law firm to help you with the proceedings before, during, and after the court order, if it comes to that. Every eviction case is different, but having legal counsel will best protect your rental unit from further damages.
Step 4: Your tenant will have the option to file a dispute.
After a landlord files a summons and complaint and the tenant wants to contest the eviction, the tenant will file an answer with the court. Their answer must be written, and they must file it within 3 days after they've received the summons and complaint.
If a tenant chooses not to file an answer, the court or judicial officer decides the outcome of the summons and complaint. It is likely the court will file a default judgment in your favor. However, if a tenant chooses to file one, then the court will schedule a hearing. In Utah, a tenant may object to their eviction during an eviction hearing by stating:
- You didn’t follow the correct eviction process
- You failed to provide proper notice of eviction
- You failed to maintain the rental unit to habitable standards. According to the Utah Fit Premises Act, you have a responsibility to keep the rental premises sanitary and habitable for your tenants.
- The eviction is based on discrimination. According to the Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal for landlords to discriminate against their tenants based on sex, religion, race, age, disability, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.
- The eviction is a retaliatory act. Utah law protects tenants from landlords who retaliate against them for exercising their rights.
Step 5: The court will give a judgment.
If the judgment of the eviction trial is in your favor, either through a default judgment or at a hearing, the district court will issue an Order of Restitution. The Order of Restitution demands the tenant to take their personal belongs and leave your residence, or be forcibly removed. This usually gives them a notice period of 3 days or fewer to vacate. If a tenant does not vacate even after being given the court order, officers can come and forcibly remove the tenant from your rental unit.
Disclaimer: This blog is only intended to be informational. If you have specific questions or need expert help, kindly get in touch with a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company in Utah.