Note: The information in this article was compiled by attorneys in the Access to Justice Office of the Utah State Bar. It was compiled based upon the laws of the State of Utah. The information contained here should not be construed as legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship. Each situation is different and you should consult an attorney prior to taking any action
Always, always, always pay your rent
If you’re a renter in Utah, you have a strict legal obligation to always pay your rent.
People will often think “I’m not going to pay rent until my landlord fixes the toilet! (Or the heater, or the A/C, etc.) Why should I pay my rent if the place is in such bad shape?”
It’s understandable to think this way. After all, it doesn’t seem fair that you should have to pay rent if the landlord isn’t keeping up their end of the bargain. Right?
Wrong! Don’t fall for this way of thinking!
Utah has a law called the Fit Premises Act. This law outlines exactly what landlords have to do. Basically, a landlord has to keep the place “livable.” This means maintaining the electrical systems, the plumbing, the heating, etc.
A renter, on the other hand, has their own specific obligations. Basically, they have to pay their rentand comply with all the terms of the lease agreement. This usually includes not damaging the unit, not having guests stay for long periods of time, and not having pets without permission, etc. (You can see the full law here.)
If a renter fails to comply with the terms of their lease, the landlord will have every right to evict them, and usually collect a hefty fee on top of it all.
So, what does this mean for renters in Utah? It means that if you want your landlord to fix something, DON’T STOP PAYING RENT. Withholding your rent will only get you evicted, and that won’t help anyone.
Instead, you can choose one of the following options:
1. You can talk a lawyer for free either on the phone, or else at one of Utah’s many free legal clinics. This is the best way to make sure you’re not doing anything wrong and avoid getting evicted.
2. You can apply to have a lawyer represent you for free by contacting Utah Legal Services. They are experts in their field, but they can only help you if you qualify based on your income.
3. You can follow the steps outlined in this article to address the problem yourself. (Please note that these are only general steps – your specific situation might require more detailed advice from an expert attorney.)
FIRST, pay your rent. (Have we said this enough yet? We’ll say it again.) Pay your rent. Even if you hate the place you’re living in and you think it’s unfair, pay your rent. This will make sure you don’t get evicted.
SECOND, tell your landlord, in writing, what the problems are with the apartment and when you would like them fixed. Be sure to give your landlord at least three daysto complete the repairs. You should also give them written permission to enter your home at that time to make the repairs. You can see a sample notice created by Utah Legal Services here. The notice must comply with the law, so either contact us and we’ll put you in contact with the right resources or use the document created by Utah Legal Services.
Pro tip: Alternatively, you can tell your landlord that you will make the repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your rent. To do this, you must still have paid the rent, and given the written notice to your landlord. If you just do it without the proper steps, the only thing the landlord may be required to give you is a hearty, “thank you” and you might not get that!
With either remedy, you should be prepared to move out of the rental because the landlord can decide not to fix an issue when the rental is not fit for occupancy and terminate the rental agreement.
Also, PLEASE remember that you (the renter) have to be current on rent and abiding by the other terms of the rental agreement to pursue any of these actions.
If you believe you’re rental is unsafe or not fit for occupancy, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/utahlegalhelp.bar, or by calling 801-297-7049.