Are You Getting The Most Out of Your Rental Property?

Every landlord knows, or if you haven’t been in the renting business for very long, you soon will know, renting property comes with a certain amount of risk. At some point in time, there will come that tenant who seemed like the golden renter – good credit, quiet at night, only owned a goldfish. But then, after a good run at renting, you come to find out he’s running an illicit business out of his back room. What do you do?

Some states have what they call “self-help evictions”. Utah is not one of them. Utah law requires judicial evictions. However, in spite of the requirement of judicial eviction, Utah has a very expedited process for evicting unsavory tenants.

There are a number of pitfalls, however, that can trip up a landlord and, potentially, cost a landlord more money than he or she thought they were losing. This article addresses some of the issues, pitfalls and safety measures landlords can take to protect their property, get the most out of it and avoid their own legal troubles.

Evictions:

Utah landlord/tenant laws have countenanced just about every scenario. There is a way out. First of all, it’s important to remember that the importance of a good rental/lease agreement cannot be overstated. This is the legally binding document that will govern the relationship between the landlord and the tenant. If you sign an agreement with a term of two years with what seemed to be the perfect tenant and two months later you decide you just don’t like the way he combs his hair, you can’t just up and evict him – unless it’s in the agreement. (even then, you’d likely have to give him the opportunity to cure the hair cut before you can actually oust him)

The most common reason to evict tenants continues to be tenant’s failure to pay rent. With these and most other issues, the landlord’s remedy is swift. Utah has a “3-day notice” requirement for most breaches of the lease. Upon the first day after the rent is due and hasn’t been paid, the landlord can serve the three-day notice to quit or pay. There are a few other reasons to terminate a lease besides failure to pay rent. In each of these notices, the operative word is “or”. Which means, there is an alternative to leaving. In such cases, the tenant simply cures the breach (pays the rent) and there is no longer a breach and landlord is back where he was in the first place.

Other Reasons for Evictions:

Then there are other reasons to evict which do not require an alternative to moving out. For instance, if the tenant is conducting illegal activities on the property or damaging it, the landlord can notice to move out without an alternative to cure. The three-day notice is still required.

Once the three days have expired, the landlord can then file the complaint about eviction and summons. The tenant is now in “unlawful detainer”. The court will issue a time required for answering the complaint, usually about ten days. If the complaint is not answered, the tenant is in default and the court will order the eviction. If the tenant answers, then its obligation to appear in court and defend the eviction.

Pitfalls:

Landlords, beware! Utah may seem like it is landlord friendly because of the short windows it allows for the notice and answer periods. Do not be fooled into thinking the court will side with landlords if they don’t treat tenants fairly and to the letter of the law. For example, notices must have very specific content. If the landlord’s notice to quit is found insufficient, it must be redone. That means you would be back to square one if you miss something in the notice or complaint. This costs time and money (especially if

For example, notices must have very specific content. If the landlord’s notice to quit is found insufficient, it must be redone. That means you would be back to square one if you miss something in the notice or complaint. This costs time and money (especially if tenant continues in the property and there is little or no chance of recovering any real money after the suit). Remember, in most cases, the objective is just to get a bad renter out so the property can be rented to someone who will actually pay. In these instances, your mistakes can only set you back and give the bad renter extra time.

An Example For You

Also, a court will look to the landlord’s treatment of the lease as well as the tenant’s. A landlord’s duty to fulfill all her obligations pursuant to the lease is just as important as the tenant’s. A court will hold a landlord responsible to the tenant in every meaningful way.

Here’s an example. Rental agreement goes until the end of the month. After serving all the proper notices that the lease will not be renewed, the tenant legally has possession of that property until the end of the month, assuming rent has been properly paid. Tenant moves out three days before the end of the month. After tenant leaves, but before the end of the month, landlord goes in to inspect and clean carpets. When landlord sued for damages, tenant countered that the month hadn’t ended, he had cleaned the carpets himself, he took pictures and the landlord’s own footprints had soiled the carpets since he moved out. Judgment for the tenant.

Speaking of judgment for the tenants:

Good rental agreements will or should have a clause for attorney’s fees stating that if the landlord has to sue under the agreement, he has the right to coverage for the attorney’s fees. This goes BOTH ways. If the landlord sues tenant under the lease agreement and tenant prevails, tenant may also be awarded attorney’s fees. Moral of the story is, choose your weapons carefully and use them judicially. A landlord sued a tenant over $1,300 dollar security deposit and the tenant subsequently hit him with a judgment in excess of $13000.00.

Many landlords believe they can navigate the eviction process themselves and save the costs of legal assistance. While the process may look simple on its face, it has in reality, many pitfalls if not executed properly.

Peter ChristensenAre You Getting The Most Out of Your Rental Property?