Landlord-Tenant Law

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Lease Drafting and Review

As a landlord, having an attorney draft an unambiguous and detailed lease agreement that sets out the responsibilities of each party in regards to maintenance, repairs, and replacements as well as any prohibitions (and penalties for violating those prohibitions) can prevent a lot of headaches and a potentially very angry tenant. While some landlords may be tempted to go with a form-lease and not hire a lawyer, having a lawyer draft a lease that reflects not only your preferences but also takes into consideration the particular property that you are renting can provide an invaluable benefit. For example, most rental properties in Utah require regular snow removal during the winter but most form-leases do not have a clause covering snow removal; therefore, having a lease that sets out which party is responsible for keeping the walkway and driveway clear of snow, and if the landlord is responsible, which party shall pay for the cost of the snow removal, will allow for a good landlord-tenant relationship.

As a tenant that is considering leasing a commercial property, having an attorney review all of the language and clauses in your lease, both in terms of content and context, can be invaluable to your business. In commercial leases, the language used in the lease can have an extreme impact on the financial figures you use within your business plan or while forecasting your company’s future profits. For instance, if the lease agreement is a triple net lease, as the tenant you will be agreeing to pay your annual, pro-rata share of all common area maintenance fees, real estate taxes, and building insurance as well as the full amount of all other fees included in the lease agreement–fees such as rent, utilities, etc.. Therefore, before entering into a commercial lease, every business should consider hiring a lawyer to not only explain the language used within the lease but also to negotiate a lease agreement that will allow the tenant’s business to succeed in that location.

Eviction

Regardless if you are the tenant being evicted or the landlord evicting the tenant, an eviction is a very unpleasant ordeal. With emotions and tempers running extremely hot, one of the many roles an attorney assumes during an eviction is that of a calm intermediary. However, while having a lawyer as an intermediary can greatly reduce the emotional strain on all involved, the primary role of a lawyer is to make sure that both the landlord and the tenant comply with Utah law and that neither parties’ rights are infringed upon.

Eviction Notice

Eviction Notice

In Utah, a landlord may not forcibly evict a tenant. If the tenant chooses to not comply with the landlord’s notice to quit, the landlord must first serve a notice of eviction and then file a lawsuit in the district court where his or her property is located.

Since, under Utah law, a landlord must follow the code exactly in order to evict a tenant, an attorney can be an invaluable resource to either party, especially if the parties choose to litigate the matter.

If you are a landlord, an attorney at Saunders Law can make sure that you are in compliance with Utah law during every step of the eviction process. From drafting the notice of eviction to making sure that service is procedurally correct, our legal staff will ensure that the tenant is evicted from your property as quickly as legally possible. Additionally, another reason to hire an attorney from Saunders Law is that an attorney may be able to convince the court to award you treble damages for the hold-over period (three times the amount that the tenant owes in rent for the period in which they hold-over) and attorneys fees on top of what the tenant already owes you in back rent.

If you are the tenant, you should seriously consider hiring an attorney to protect your rights as a tenant as well as protect you from any additional monetary liability that you may incur as a result of your actions after the notice to quit has been posted.

Recovery of Past Due Rent

As a landlord, attempting to collect any unpaid rent from a tenant can often be frustrating, time consuming, and expensive. However, under Utah law, if the Court enters a judgement against the tenant for unpaid rent, the Court will usually also require the tenant to pay the cost of the landlord’s attorney’s fees. Therefore, as a landlord, instead of attempting to collect any unpaid rent on your own, you should hire an attorney to recover any rent that your tenant owes for non-payment.

As a landlord, if you have already served your tenant with an eviction notice for non-payment, you may want to consult a lawyer before accepting any payments from that tenant. While a landlord can normally accept partial rent payments from a delinquent tenant and then serve that tenant with a notice of nonpayment for the rest of the rent, under Utah law, if a landlord has served a nonpayment eviction notice upon the tenant and then accepts a partial payment, the landlord must serve the tenant with a new eviction notice before they can proceed with an eviction. Additionally, if the landlord chooses to accept a partial rent payment after the eviction notice has expired, Utah Courts will normally construe the landlord’s acceptance of that partial payment as evidence that the parties desired to enter into a month-to-month tenancy agreement–an agreement where the tenant is only obligated to pay rent at the amount the landlord accepted as partial payment.

Return of a Security Deposit:

(Utah’s Residential Renters’ Deposit Act)

Given the amount of most security deposits, the landlord’s decision to withhold a portion, or the entire amount, of the deposit can quickly turn a great landlord-tenant relationship into an extremely hostile relationship.

As a landlord, if you are considering withholding any portion of a tenant’s security deposit, you probably want to consult an attorney. An attorney can advise you on which deductions are allowed under Utah law, the documentation that needs to accompany any deduction, and the period of time you have to either provide the tenant with their security deposit or to provide the tenant with a detailed accounting of the allowable deductions taken out of the security deposit.

As a landlord, pursuant to U.C.A. § 57-17-3, if you keep any portion of a tenant’s security deposit, you must detail all your expenses, deduct those expenses from the deposit, and then refund the difference to the tenant. In Utah, Landlords may keep a deposit to compensate for unpaid rent, damages beyond reasonable wear and tear, cleaning, and other costs provided for in the lease agreement.

Additionally, under Utah law, a landlord MUST return a tenant’s deposit within thirty days after the the tenant moves out, or within fifteen days after the landlord is notified of the tenant’s new address, whichever is later.

If you are a tenant and you believe that your landlord is illegally withholding any portion of your security deposit, you should consider hiring a lawyer to recover your security deposit. Under Utah’s Residential Renter’s Deposits Act, as a tenant, if your landlord does not return your deposit and does not provide you with a detailed accounting of allowable deductions, the landlord, in addition to returning your security deposit, may be subject to a $100 civil fine and have to pay your court expenses.