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 $450.00 plus $225.00 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.