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Problem Tenants? Here’s How to Approach Them in Utah County

If you’re a landlord for any significant length of time you’re going to encounter tenants that you wish had rented the house up the street (or in another state entirely). They may not be bad people, who are we to judge after all, but they’re definitely bad tenants. Late rent. No rent. Noise complaints. City fines for a trashed yard. Late night calls over a dripping bathroom faucet “Rightsy-tightsy, Janet! No, to the right! OK I’ll send someone over.”

Sometimes, even a consistent rent-payer breaks the rules of their lease with bad behavior, but what do you do when they’ve reached that point? Eviction is the logical conclusion, so we’ll cover that first, but there are a number of other solutions to the headache of problem tenants.

Welcome to the Jungle

If you’ve decided to say goodbye to your current tenants and they have an existing lease, then take a deep breath and a big drink of water first. You are about to enter the labyrinthine hell of eviction law. We can’t (or rather, don’t want to) cover all the minutiae in this post because most of it won’t apply to your situation and we think there are more palatable solutions to the problem of er, problem tenants. That said, we’ll take a comprehensive look at all the most likely circumstances and give you the appropriate order of operations for evictions in Utah.

First, rule out the fringe cases. Is your tenant’s rent subsidized by the government? Are you evicting them from a mobile home park? If so, do they own the mobile home and rent lot from you?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, then your tenant has extra legal protections that you’ll need to navigate. You can read about those protections at the Utah Court’s official website.

If you answered no, then the only other consideration is if your tenants are behind in rent—regardless of your reason for evicting them, you’ll want to apply for rental assistance. This demonstrates a good-faith effort to work with your renters in the final evaluation of things. From here on out it’s a smooth as a massively bureaucratic legal process can get.

Step 1: Walk Softly

According to the Utah State Courts, the eviction process takes just three simple steps:

  1. Serve the tenant a notice to vacate
  2. File the Summons and Complaint and have them served
  3. File the Order of Restitution and have it served

This is a classic example of oversimplification as Steps 2 and 3 clearly involve more than one operation. Altogether the process takes 6 to 7 steps depending on how you count serving both the Summons and Complaint. Suffice it to say it’s neither short nor simple. As a result, it is dangerous to you as the landlord. The longer and more complicated a process is, the more likely you are to make a mistake in its undertaking. And when it comes to eviction, every mistake is a de facto extension of your tenant’s lease.

That is a daunting prospect, and the temptation as you watch your property fall into disrepair or see the code violations pile up on your desk might be to speed things along a little. Maybe change their locks while they’re away. Or call them late at night for a change and hope they just leave out of sheer annoyance. However strong the urge, DON’T. First, it would be colossally stupid behavior—and at Wasatch Cash we encourage maintaining the high ground a la Major General John Buford or Obi-Wan Kenobi a long time before him. Second, it would be illegal, which would absolutely jeopardize your eviction.

Here are some other illegal things that landlords consider in their dark imaginings (so don’t do them):

  • Shut off utilities
  • Take tenant’s belongings
  • Block tenants from entering the unit
  • Hire the local clogging team to do a flash mob on the front lawn late at night

Instead, go to utcourts.gov, choose one of the 11 forms supplied by the Utah State Courts and serve it to your tenants following the directions on the site. This will involve delivering it to the tenant personally (not advised), mailing it via registered or certified mail, or leaving it at the residence with someone of a suitable age AND mailing it to the tenant at the residence, OR by affixing the notice to someplace conspicuous on the property in the event none of the above is an option. You’ll also need to repeat this 15, 5, and 3 days prior to the eviction.

Congratulations, you’ve completed the first step of seven!

Step 2: Carry a Complaint

If your repeated notices to vacate fell on deaf…eyes, then you can use OCAP to prepare papers for the following filings:

  • A Summons, which gives 3 days to respond to the Complaint
  • The Complaint
  • Written rental agreement
  • Notice to Vacate
  • Calculation of damages, missed rent, attorney fees, etc.
  • An explanation for the eviction
  • Notice to the defendant (the tenant) of their required disclosures
  • And as of more recently, the COVID Eviction Declaration

As you can see, our original three steps have grown wildly out of control. We haven’t even served them yet, which requires more strict guidelines than serving the Notice to Vacate did. Once successful service has been rendered, however, you may have to request an occupancy hearing depending on whether or not your renter “Answered” the Complaint. If they don’t, then “hallelujah” you can request a default judgment instead.

Step 3: The Order of Restitution

If the occupancy hearing goes well or you’ve received a default judgment, then the court could grant your request for an Order of Restitution. This tells your tenant that:

  • they need to leave your property and remove all their belongings or be forcibly removed
  • the date they need to vacate by
  • their right to a hearing to contest how the order is enforced

Though this is, indeed, the final step in your eviction process, it involves preparing and filing more orders and requests. The end result, however, should be that you are able to retake possession of your property along with any other restitution the tenant is ordered to render…that is, unless they file their Request for Hearing Regarding Enforcement of an Order of Restitution, which doesn’t prevent the eviction and is not an appeal, it’s just a pain.

This brings us to a potentially more savory alternative.

Take the Money and Run

Depending on the equity you have in your property and depending on the damage your tenants have wrought, it may not be worth the amount of time and money you’ll have to expend to evict your tenants. There are countless real estate investors, Wasatch Cash included, that are willing to take on an untenable tenant in order to build their portfolios. It’s a simple transaction that doesn’t require realtors or the 1000+ wordcount that an eviction did.

You forgo notices of any kind and your investor counterpart pays cash or enters a contract with you to seller finance the rental unit as-is. That means no repairs, no due diligence, no broken contracts. Flexible closing dates and sigh of relief instead of exhasperation.

If you’re a landlord or absentee homeowner stuck with problematic tenants or just a property that isn’t worth the hassle anymore, then give us a call or fill out any of the forms on this page. We’ll be happy to help you with the same expertise and dry wit that led you to read this guide all the way to the end.

Best wishes whatever you path you choose.