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How To Evict A Residential Tenant In Utah


How does a landlord evict a residential tenant? Here is how the process works in a nutshell. Note that this is for a tenant renting a place to live (residential tenant), not a tenant renting a place to operate a business (commercial tenant). A contested eviction can usually be accomplished in three steps.

Step 1 - Serve an Eviction Notice. 

First, an eviction notice needs to be served on the tenant. There are generally 5 types of eviction notices in Utah. The one the landlord should use depends on the type of lease and the type of violation for which the tenant is guilty. For example, if a landlord wants to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent, the type of notice needed is commonly referred to as a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Vacate.

Sometimes, more than one eviction notice might apply to a given situation. Typically, when more than one eviction notice applies, I like to prepare a combined eviction notice that explains the alternative reasons for which the tenant can be evicted. This will give the landlord more than one bite at the apple in court.

Eviction notices can generally be served in 4 different ways. Two ways commonly used are to personally hand the notice to the tenant or to tape the notice on the door of the subject residence if the tenant does not answer. If the tenant vacates the property, the landlord need not proceed with the other steps. If the tenant is not in compliance with the lease and does not vacate the residence, he is "unlawfully detaining" the property, and the landlord must move to step 2.

Step 2 - File a Lawsuit.

Second, file a lawsuit seeking a court order evicting the tenant. This is called an order of restitution. In other words, an order restoring the property to the landlord. To file the lawsuit the landlord needs to file a complaint and a summons with the court and personally serve it upon the tenant. The tenant will typically have 3 days to file an answer to the complaint. If he does not file an answer, the order of restitution will be entered by default. 

If the tenant files an answer, either party may request an evidentiary hearing, i.e., a mini trial. If the eviction is for nonpayment of rent, the court must hold that hearing within 10 days after the tenant files an answer. If the eviction is for a nuisance maintained or criminal act committed by the tenant, the court will set the hearing automatically within 10 days after the complaint is filed. If the eviction is for some other reason, the court may schedule the hearing within a longer period of time, but 10 days is typically a timeline the courts try to meet.

The landlord or the landlord's agent (e.g. property manager) or attorney must be present at the hearing. The tenant must also be at the hearing. If the tenant fails to show up at that hearing, the judge will sign the order of restitution. If the tenant shows up at the hearing, the judge often allows the parties or their attorneys to negotiate. If a settlement cannot be reached, the court will hold the hearing. If the court is satisfied the tenant is in material violation of the lease, it will sign the order of restitution.

The order of restitution will direct the tenant to vacate the premises, remove the tenant's personal property, and restore possession of the premises to the landlord, or be forcibly removed by a sheriff or constable. It will give the tenant a certain period of time to do these things, usually three days, although the court can give the tenant a longer or shorter period of time if the court feels the circumstances justify it.

See Utah Code Section 78B-6-812 - Order of restitution -- Service -- Enforcement -- Disposition of personal property -- Hearing

Step 3 - Forcibly Remove the Tenant.  

If the tenant does not vacate the premises within the time allowed by the order of restitution, the landlord will have to contact the local sheriff or a constable to forcibly remove the tenant and the tenant's possessions. After that, the landlord can change the locks.

And there you have it. This is how a residential tenant in Utah is evicted. It is important to note that in many cases, the landlord will not only want to evict the tenant, but will also want a judgment for any rent and fees the tenant has not paid. Utah law allows landlords to obtain a money judgment in the same proceeding as the order of restitution. The judgment can be for unpaid rent and for three times the amount of damages, such as rent due while the tenant is unlawfully detaining the property, and for reasonable attorney fees.

See Utah Code Section 78B-6-811. Judgment for restitution, damages, and rent -- Immediate enforcement -- Treble damages.

This Article provides general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Please consult a professional regarding your specific situation.