Can I terminate my lease early as a landlord?

Break Lease UtahA lease agreement is nothing more than a contract. The owner of the property offers the give his or her right of possesion to the tenant in exchange for money. For many reasons, as  a landlord you may want to get your tenant out, even though the tenant is still current on rent. For example, maybe the property was you home and you want to move back into the home. This is more common than you might think. A home owner gets a job in another city, gets married, or has some other life-changing event that does not work out. Now, you want to move back into your old home.

First of all, if you are concerned about renting your residence for this reason, the answer is simple: do a month-to-month lease rather than a year lease. When you are ready to move back, all you need to do is give the renter 15 days’ notice before the end of the rental period that you will not be renewing the lease the following month. This is a no cause notice to vacate.

If you already have a lease agreement, then you may be in trouble. A lease is intended to protect the rights of the landlord and the tenant. If the tenant complies with the terms of the lease, then there is nothing you can do to force the tenant to leave before the lease expires. You are generally best off discussing possible alternatives with a tenant. One such alternative is to allow the tenant time to find a new place. If the tenant does not agree, and he or she is current on rent, then my advice is to avoid creating problems that may result in financial liability.

As the lease term draws to a close, make sure that you post a no cause notice to vacate at least 15 days prior to expiration of the lease. Otherwise, the tenant may try to holdover causing you an additional delay. If the tenant refuses to vacate after you post a notice, you can start an eviction.

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Can I put a provision in my lease that allows me to lock the tenant out?

After doing an eviction or two, you may be thinking to yourself what you could do to avoid having to evict another tenant. I have had many landlords ask whether or not they can modify their lease agreement so that in the event the tenant’s default, the landlord can change the locks and prevent the tenant from entering the premises. This type of provision is called a “self-help” provisions. Essentially, it would allow the landlord to take care of the eviction without needing Court intervention. Utah eviction law strictly prohibits self-help. So the short answer to this question is, no, you cannot include a provision in your lease that allows you to change the locks in the event of a tenant’s default.

We have all heard the phrase an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you have had several problem tenants in a row, it might mean that you should make some changes to your lease application procedure. Look for the signs of a problem tenant and do your homework. As you know, there is a substantial cost associated with a non-paying tenant, That cost can go up exponentially if you add on property damages from an angry tenant.

Many landlords will spend a month or more turning down potential tenants to find the right fit. The expense of a losing a month’s rent spending the extra time to find the right tenant is far outweighed by the expenses dealing with a bad tenant.

There is more to finding the right tenant than good credit and a stable job. To the extent you are able, look at a prospective tenant’s facebook to look for signs of behavior that may result in future problems. Don’t just ask for references, actually call them and ask questions about more than just payment history. Ask about behavior, frequencey of complaints, etc. After all, even if your tenant is paying on time, it might not be worth your time if you get a call every week just to flip a circuit breaker or test the smoke detector.

If you are looking for a landlord tenant lawyer, you have come to the right place. Our Utah eviction lawyers are experts in all aspects of landlord tenant law.

What is the Utah Fit Premises Act?

The Utah Fit Premises Act is located at Chapter 22 of Title 57 of the Utah Code. Primarily, the Utah Fit Premises Act describes the duties of a landlord and the duties of a renter. It prohibits an owner from renting a dweling that is not safe, sanitary, or fit for human occupancy.

The landlord must maintain the electival systems, plumbing, heating, and hot and cold water. Fortunately, a landlord does not have to fix problems caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests. If the owner receives a notice of deficient condition from a renter, the owner may refuse to correct the condition and terminate the rental until if the unit is unfit for occupancy. This option comes with on major caveat. That is, the renter is entitled to received the balance of the rent due and the deposit on the rental unit.

The renter has duties as well. The renter is required to maintain the premises in a clean and safe condition and use electical, plumbing, HVAC and appliances in a reasonable manner. The renter is required to follow all terms of the agreement including keeping the rent current.

A renter is forbiden from damaging the property and interfering with the peaceful enjoyment of the other tenants.

The Utah Fit Premises Act also provides the tenant with certain remedies in the event the landlord violates any provisions of the act. However, a renter may not use any of these remedies unless he or she is in compliance with all terms of the lease. Of course, this is an important condition. If one of your tenants recently gave you a Eviction Notices, there is a good chance the tenants has defaulted on the lease. In my experience, the tenants who post these notices are more often than not behind on their rent or violating the lease in some other way and posted the notice to avoid being evicted quickly.

The landlord’s remedy is a complaint for eviction. You can get an order from the cour requiring the tenant to vacate and seek damages for unpaid rent, damage to the property and your attorney fees.

What is Rapid Re-Housing?

Rapid Re-Housing is an entitlement program intended to limit the amount of families and individuals spending extended amounts of time in a shelter. The name is derived from its purpose: to get people who have lost a home or been evicted into a new home as quickly as possible. HUD began accepting applications for Rapid Re-Housing in 2008. In 2009, congress appropriated approximately $1.5 billion to the program.

Overall, the program has met some controversy. The biggest problem is that it offers no permanent solutions. Unlike Section 8, which so many of our landlord clients are familiar with, the Rapid Recovery program has a shelf life of a year.

We do not represent tenants nor do we assist tenants in using these programs. However, we do believe it is important to stay informed of such programs as these to better assist our landlords.If you have a tenant who is currently using the Rapid Re-Housing subsidy, there are a few things you should know.

First of all, the tenants share of the rent increases every three months. Generally, the increase is 10%. Thus, if the tenant is responsible for half of the rent at the time the lease starts, three months later he or she will be responsible for 60%. Three months after that he or she will be responsible for 70% and so on.

This is helpful to landlords because they can gauge relatively quickly whether or not the tenant is going to be able to afford to stay in the residence. After twelve months, the tenant will be responsible for 100% of the rent. A tenant can request an extension of the program, but those extensions are generally three months or less.

Despite what many tenants seem to think, no Landlord enjoys evicting a tenant. It is time consuming and can be costly. Even though our firm can evict a tenant relatively quickly and for a nominal cost compared to other Utah eviction lawers, lost rent and property damage is common.

Becoming involved with the Rapid Re-Housing proram may help you to fill empty unites quickly. Furthermore, our govenment has a very good record of paying its bills on time. That means you can expect to get the government’s portion of the rent on time, every month.

The downside is that you may get stuck with tenants who are unable to pay after a few months when their share of the rent increases.

What do I do with property left behind by the tenant?

If you have ever had a tenant abandoned the premises leaving a lot of property behind, you know how stressful it is to deal with a unit that is still full of someone else’s stuff. Fortunately, the problem is common enough that the Utah Legislature has outlined the process for  landlord to deal with abandoned property clearly enough that it easy to follow and stay within the boundaries of the law.

The first thing you need to do is post a Notice of Intent to Dispose of Abandoned Property. Additionally, you must mail a copy of the Notice via US First Class Mail, not certified, to the former tenant’s last known address. In almost every case, the last known address is the same as the leased property address. This notice will give the tenant fifteen days to make arrangements to recover the abandoned property. If you need a copy of this form or any Utah eviction form, you can download them for free by clicking the link to our free Utah eviction forms.

You are not required to store this property in the unit. In fact, you are allowed to hire a moving and storage company to come in, take inventory, box everything up and store it at a different location. When the tenant reaches out to you within the fifteen-day period you can require that he or she first pay all moving and storage fees before releasing the property to the tenant.

The landlord is not required to store dangerous chemicals or live animals. Additionally, if only garbage is left behind, this can be tossed out without waiting the fifteen days. The law used to require the landlord to give the tenant thirty days to recover his or her property. When the requirement was reduced to fifteen days, the law changed to require a landlord to give an extension of fifteen days if the tenant requests. That means, you might end up having to store the property for thirty days.

If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the owner may sell, at public auction, the property left behind to the extent necessary to be reimbursed for all amounts owed under the rental agreement. However, any unsold property must be returned to the tenant at the tenant’s request. Additionally, once enough has been recovered to cover all amounts due under contract, the remaining property must be released to the tenant.

Rarely is a public sale required. Most of the time, tenants do not leave behind property that is valuable enough to be worth selling at public auction. In these cases, the landlord is allowed to dispose of the property in a commercially reasonable manner. If the property has no real fair market value, then that usually means donating the property or throwing it away.

If you would like further clarification on any issues addressed herein, do not hesitate to give one of our Utah Eviction Lawyers a call.

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Utah Eviction Law

Utah Eviction Law highly favors the landlord over the defaulting tenant. In most cases, even if your tenant files an Answer to your complaint for eviction you will be able to regain possession of the residence within three to four weeks. Although many landlords are disappointed by this amount of time, compared to some other states, the process here is very fast. A good Utah eviction lawyer, who understands Utah eviction law can make an ordinarily stressful experience seemingly painless.

The Utah Code contains nearly all of the laws in Utah. Chapter 6 of Title 78B provides most of the laws and procedures relating to an eviction. This chapter is entitled Particular Proceedings because eviction procedures do not follow the same course as standard proceedings before the court. Perhaps the biggest difference is that any contested eviction is automaticalyl bifercated. Bifurcated means that some issues are separated from others and dealt with sooner. Utah evictions are bifurcated into an occupancy proceeding and then a subsequent proceeding on damages.

After a tenant files an answer, Utah eviction law allows the landlord to immediately request a hearing. This hearing is called an immediate occupancy hearing and, in most cases, is scheduled within ten days of the tenant’s answer. For some this may seem like a long time, however, this does not compare to the typical 60-90 days it takes to get a hearing on other matters in Utah. Most judges will not address the issue of damages at this hearing. The immediate occupancy hearing is intended to be a quick hearing and the only issue addressed is who will be allowed to possess the property. Usually there are several other cases scheduled at the same time. On the other hand, a hearing on damages will last anywhere from an hour to half a day or more.

If you are studying Utah eviction law in anticipation of evicting a tenant. Give us a call first. You may be surprised to find out it is much cheaper to hire an eviction lawyer rather than go it alone. Unless you have experience evicting tenants, attempting to do so alone can cause delays of a month or more costing you another month’s rent. Our Utah eviction lawyers charge a fraction of a month’s rent for most UtahnsUtah Eviction Law.

 

What is the good landlord program in Utah?

There are many individuals who own one or maybe just a handful of residential units for rent. Generally, these individuals have a separate full time job and life away from being a landlord. In fact, the idea is to find a good tenant and not worry about anything other than cashing a rent check each month and paying the mortgage. These individuals represent a significant part of the housing economy here in Utah. However, some problems arose where these part, part-time landlords did not know what to do when a problem arises. For example, can a landlord change the locks to a unit with a non-paying tenant? What obligations does a landlord have to make sure the home is free from dangerous substances (like asbestos), that the electricity is on, that the home complies with local housing ordinances, entering the property without notice, etc.

It soon became a problem where many landlords landed themselves in court simply because they didn’t understand that certain conduct violated the law. Because ignorance of the law is not a permissible defense, judges were put in a situation in which they had to assess fines and punish individual landlords who thought that they were doing the right thing.

Eventually, Salt Lake City adopted the Landlord/Tenant initiative intented to provide an incentive for landlords to become more well-informed. The program also focuses on general improvement of neighborhoods and helping landlords to find good tenants, reduce crime, improve dwellings, etc.

If you are looking for a Utah landlord attorney or a Utah eviction lawyer, do not hesitate to give us a call. Our lawyers are experienced in landlord/tenant law and will be able to answer your questions in minutes. Generally, those who own rental units do so in an effort to REDUCE the amount of time they ultimate have to work by providing passive income. Let us take burdens off your shoulders by dealing directly with defaulting tenants.

My lease expired and my tenant is refusing to vacate, what do I do?

Most residential leases last twelve months. Commercial leases on the other hand usually last much longer. For example, our law firm lease is an eight year lease. Commercially leases are usually for a longer period of time because finding commercial tenants takes longer than finding residential tenants (usually) and landlords will often renovate a property to suit the needs of their commercial tenant.

Expiration of the lease allows the landlord to make plans for major renovations or repairs and increase rent due to market fluctuations. It also allows the tenant to find a more suitable residence. At the same time, a lease that is too short may result in a landlord not being able to turn a profit. As you know by now, turnover in the leasing business is not cheap.

It is not uncommon for a landlord to be looking forward to the expiration of the lease. Although it means the property may be vacant for a month or two, it also means that the landlord will be able to find a more suitable tenant (maybe on that pays on time or doesn’t bother all of the other tenants).

It can be very frustrating when a tenant refuses to vacate at the expiration of the lease. This is called a holdover tenant. In Utah, a lease is automatically renewed for a month 15 days before the prior lease period expires.

For example, if your lease expires on December 31, you have until December 16 to post a Utah Notice that the Lease will not be renewed. Otherwise, your tenant may elect not to leave. A holdover tenant is still subject to the same provisions agreed to in the lease. That means that he or she must pay rent for the following period.

After the lease expires, the landlord and tenant operate on a month to month lease. To terminate a month to month lease, You must give the tenant notice at least 15 days before the expiration of the term. For example, if it is March 1, and you do not want the tenant to be able to stay through April, you need to Post a Notice to Vacate by March 16. The notice to vacate must give the tenant until March 31 to vacate.

If you have any quesions and would like to speak with a Utah Landlord Attorney, give us a call. We have Utah Eviction Attorneys who can help you in a wide variet of legal matters.

What are Treble Damages and How do you Calculate Treble Damages?

In Utah, the Law allows a landlord to seek treble damages against a tenant who is in unlawful detainer. Unlawful detainer basically means that the tenant has remained in possession of the property after a lawful notice to vacate expired.

If you have ever spent time in England, you may have heard the word “treble” used in everyday language, although the British still use the word “triple” more often than “treble.”  For some reason, English in the American Court system kept the word “treble.” This is a long way of saying treble simply means triple.

Section 78B-6-811, Utah Code Ann., states that the judgment shall be entered for three times the amount of damages assessed under 1) forcible entry; 2) forcible or unlawful detainer; 3) waste of the premises; 4) the amounts due under contract; and 5) the abatement of nuisance by eviction.

Unless you are from the attorney general’s office, don’t worry about number five. That applies to evictions brought by the AG’s office to prevent certain activity (like using a residence to distribute drugs).

Waste is basically a fancy way of saying damage that results in a change in value to the property. Cooking meth would be an example but so would repainting a room without permission with poor quality paint and unappealing colors.

Most commonly you just look to the amounts due under contract. If rent is $1,000.00 per month then it is $12,000.00 per year and divided by 365 it is $32.88 per day. On the fourth day after a notice to pay or vacate is posted, treble rent starts to accrue. Multiply the daily rent by three = $98.64. That means each day that the tenant remains in possession of the property after the Notice to Vacate expires, he or she is liable for $98.64. If the eviction takes another fifteen days, then judgment should enter for$1,479.60 representing treble damages for rent.

You use this same method for daily late fees. If the lease has a daily late fee of $5.00, then you would have treble damages of $15.00 for each day the tenant remains in possession after the Notice to Vacate expires.

Getting the damage calculation just right is another reason why having a good eviction attorney in Utah is smart. Most eviction attorneys work on flat fees (we charge $290.00 plus $150.00 for a hearing), which means you will know exactly what you are going to spend. The good news is that in nearly all eviction cases, the Court will require the tenant to pay your attorney fees. That means, assuming the tenant actually pays what he or she is ordered to pay by the court, it will cost you very little or nothing to have an attorney handle the eviction.

If you have any questions, we would love to help. Call our office and ask to speak with attorney Brad Carr (801) 254-9450.

Can you appeal an eviction in Utah?

Evictions are generally very simple matters in Utah. For a nonpayment of rent eviction, the court need only address a few basic questions. First, the plaintiff must establish ownership of the property. Second, the plaintiff must establish that the tenant agreed to pay a certain amount of rent per month. Third, the plaintiff must establish that the proper notices were posted (Notice to Pay or Vacate). Fourth, the plaintiff must state that rent is past due. The burden then shifts to the defendant to prove that he or she has in fact paid rent.

In almost every eviction, the first two questions are not disputed. Occasionally, a tenant will try to dispute whether or not a notice was posted. Fortunately for landlords, the Court will almost always give the Landlord the benefit of the doubt provided a copy of the Notice is filed. To prevent this from becoming an issue, I tell all of my clients to take a picture on their phone of the Notice that is posted.

Surprisingly, less than a third of tenants being evicted dispute whether or not rent is current. Most tenants bring up other issues such as disrepair of the residence or a landlord’s refusal to take late payments. In Utah, this is not a defense to an eviction. Nevertheless, if the Tenant can show at court that he or she has the ability to bring the entire arrearage current, the court might refuse to restore possession of the residence to the plaintiff.

For the record, the tenant’s ability to bring the past due rent current should never be an issue because the time to comply with payment of the arrearage has long expired by the time you are in court. This doesn’t always mean the law will be strictly enforced in every instance.

Many judges, for better or for worse, will allow principals of equity to guide their decision making. That means that even though a tenant is unlawful detainer by the time a complaint is filed, if the tenant has the ability to pay at the time of the hearing, the judge will allow the tenant to remain in the property. This can create a problem for many landlords (especially those who rely on timely payments to service a mortgage on the property).

So what happens if the court issues a ruling that is not properly established on principals of the law? In most cases, you can file an appeal. The problem with an appeal in an eviction matter is that it will take anywhere from six months to two years or more to reach a resolution. So, yes, you can appeal an eviction, but frankly it rarely makes sense.

Instead of appealing an eviction, you can file a motion to set aside the court’s ruling (or for new trial if applicable). The problem with these Motions is that you will appear before the same judge who will almost certainly reach the same result.

Lost an eviction hearing? My advice is almost always to just wait for the tenant to default again, and initiate a new eviction proceeding. Pray that lightning doesn’t strike twice.

NOTE: It should be a very rare situation in which an eviction doesn’t go smoothly. If you are having trouble with your current eviction process, give on of our Utah Eviction Attorneys. We can either give you some advice over the phone or handle all of your evictions moving forward.