What rights do I have?
“I got a three-day eviction notice on my door? That’s not even time enough to pack up!?”
Keep in mind the eviction clock changes depending on why you’re being evicted.
- If you haven’t paid rent, you have 3 BUSINESS days (doesn’t count Saturday, Sunday and most holidays).
- Your landlord says you broke the rules or broke the law and are being a nuisance then you only have 3 CALENDER days (counts the weekends and holidays). That could include smoking in your unit, unauthorized roommates, not cleaning up after pets and breaking other rules.
- If you are “at-will” it means you should get a 5-day notice. Being “at will” could mean that the landlord thinks you are a squatter, or that you are living at a place without permission from the landlord.
“This is so unfair. I had worked out something with my manager and then out of nowhere I get this notice and they’re threatening to take me to court! And now my landlord won’t even answer my phone calls.”
When it comes to your landlord GET EVERY AGREEMENT IN WRITING. It doesn’t matter how nice your landlord is, how cool they seem—it doesn’t matter if your landlord is your mother. Under Utah law renters can’t rely on verbal agreements or handshake deals.
If you want to work something out with your landlord. Do it in writing so you have a RECORD.
THIS WORKS BOTH WAYS—If your landlord wants to change the terms of the lease agreement they need to put it in writing and get your signature.
You might also consider recording phone calls with your landlord and their attorney. You are not legally required to tell a landlord that you are recording a conversation with them, and in fact it is generally better if you don’t tell them.
“Rev Call Recorder” is a popular, free app for recording phone calls on iPhones. For Android phones a popular recording App with a free option is Automatic Call Recorder.
“They sued me in court, so I just left the apartment. Will they leave me alone?”
If your eviction went to court and there is a complaint against you and you don’t answer the lawsuit, you will receive a default judgment. That means you will owe “treble damages”—that’s legalese for TRIPLE the amount of back rent, plus other fees including paying for the landlord’s attorney fees. It will be a lot.
If you are in Salt Lake County you can take advantage of “mediation” a chance to work out a deal with your landlord with help from the Utah courts. This will likely always be a better deal for you then NOT showing up for court.
“I got evicted months ago, and never showed up for court. If they got a judgment against me, it couldn’t get any worse right?”
WRONG. Under Utah law landlords can basically sue you twice. They can get a first judgment and then if they decide that there was more damage to the apartment then they first realized they can file a motion to get more money in from you. Some Utahns have been hit by this double whammy YEARS after they were first evicted.
Utah law says this is not supposed to happen six months after an eviction but in dozens of cases apartment attorneys were able to squeeze thousands more in damages 8, 9, 10 even a year after the first eviction.
If you get evicted you need to keep your address updated with the court. This is because the landlord’s attorney might just mail the legal papers about all this EXTRA money you owe them to the apartment that you got evicted from. (Yes that is legal under Utah law).
Click HERE to make a filing with the court to keep your address current
If you need help with that filing the good folks at the Utah State Courts Self Help desk can walk you through it. Reach them toll free at 888-683-0009 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Should I represent myself in court?
It’s true renters can get pushed around with evictions. If you don’t have money for rent, you probably don’t have money for an attorney and that can make you an easy target.
But it’s also true that you can represent yourself in court and you can even file an answer to an eviction lawsuit for free.
Now this site can’t offer legal advice, you need to speak with a lawyer for help on your specific situation. But we can offer a warning—court records show that most renters who do represent themselves in court, will pay more if they lose.
Because if the landlord wins you will pay their attorney fees. If their attorney has to work more on the case then they can and will bill more—and you get that bill.
“So there’s no way to win!? Why even file an answer?”
There are advantages to filing an answer.
It can buy you time. If you got a three-day notice and the lawyer then filed an eviction lawsuit against you, filing an answer can buy you maybe another 1-2 weeks to stay in the apartment. That might give you time to find a new place. Or find rental assistance, have you gone HERE yet?
If you go to court in Salt Lake City or Farmington volunteer lawyers can help you with your case.
If you are in Salt Lake City and you file an answer and go to court you can take part in mediation.
Mediation is like a time-out in the process, where you can work out a deal. This might include a strict payment plan that would give you a chance to pay what you owe and stay in your apartment.
Or filing an answer could even get you time to find an attorney.
The Utah State Bar has a service for finding a lawyer, click HERE to use it.
You can also use the site to see if you qualify for reduced rates.
“But I’m not an attorney so how can I even file an answer?”
An answer to a lawsuit can actually be pretty simple.
Now an eviction lawsuit against you might be very scary. The lawyer will throw a lot of legalese at you and quote all sorts of case law and legal decisions. That lawsuit will include a numbered list of accusations against you.
But an answer can sometimes be as simple as saying “I deny allegations 1, 2,3, 4 etc…”
Again the answer can be simple. It might not be effective in court, but it can buy you time to find a lawyer, work out a payment plan, or just move out.
“OK how do I do it?”
The Utah State Courts has excellent staff eager to help you out.
Click HERE to visit their page on how renters can defend themselves and file an answer.
If you have questions reach out to them toll free at 888-683-0009 or email@example.com
The Utah Courts even have an online system called OCAP where you can file all sorts of legal documents on your own. Click HERE to access it.
But remember if you really want to fight it in court. You need to pay attention and you need to stay in the loop with the court and the landlord’s attorney.
That means when you move to a new place that you have to update the court with your new address.
You can make that filing with the court by clicking HERE.
And if you need help with that make sure to reach out to the court’s self help desk for assistance.