Tenants’ Rights

December 14, 2023
Kit Keel

Renting in Utah? Know your rights.

Nationally, Utah is not known for being a tenant-friendly state.  

There are numerous unique laws that overwhelmingly favor landlords. For example, Utah’s 72-hour eviction notice is the shortest in the country. Utah’s treble damages policy, which requires evicted renters to pay three times the amount of monthly rent plus attorney fees, is only present in 4 states nationwide.  According to the Eviction Lab at Princeton, Utah scored 0.5 out of 5 in quality of pandemic housing laws during 2020. In 93% of eviction cases, renters do not have any legal representation. Utah lawmakers are known for conflict-of-interest when it comes to passing pro-landlord housing legislation.  

In a state where demand for housing is high, renters do not have the freedom to negotiate. Housing is a landlord’s market, and state laws enforce this situation in mentality and practice. So, what rights do tenants actually have, and what can they do when those rights are violated?

Utah Fit Premises Act

The Utah Fit Premises Act dictates responsibilities of tenants and landlords and the requirements for a building to be designated as a residential unit. Several sections also detail tenants’ rights and the standard for living conditions in residential units.

Each residential unit is required to have electrical systems, heating, plumbing, and hot and cold water. The owner is responsible for maintaining the rental unit in a condition which is “safe, sanitary, and fit for human occupancy”; this includes taking care of electrical, plumbing, heating, and hot and cold water systems as well as any air conditioning. For neglect of the vital responsibilities listed above, the tenant is not prohibited from pursuing legal action against the owner (Utah Law Code 57-22-4(1) and (9)).

This code includes additional laws for landlords to follow in their interactions with tenants. While a tenant cannot sue a landlord for violating these laws, a landlord is still breaking the law if he or she neglects to perform his or her duties. Among other stipulations, these regulations prohibit landlords from charging fees and costs not listed in the rental agreement (unless the lease is month to month) and require landlords to give tenants a signed copy of the agreement and a fair chance to assess the unit for prior damages.

Residential Renters’ Deposits

Utah also has laws about renters’ deposits and how a tenant can take action. If a landlord does not return the refundable part of the renter’s deposit within 30 days of the end of tenancy or does not provide an itemized list of deducted costs, then the tenant can serve the landlord with a Tenant’s Notice to Provide Deposit Disposition. The notice is served by the tenant on the landlord or the landlord’s representative by personal delivery or through the mail. The landlord has five (5) business days to respond. If the landlord or the landlord’s representative fails to respond within that time limit, the tenant can sue for up to four things:

  • The full deposit (if the landlord has not returned the remaining amount)
  • The full amount of prepaid rent (if the landlord has not returned the remaining amount)
  • A civil penalty of $100 (money paid by the landlord to the former tenant as restitution for causing unnecessary difficulty)
  • Court costs and attorney fees (only if the court finds that the landlord has acted in bad faith)

If you are a tenant or landlord seeking legal advice, Sumsion Business Law can help. Our attorneys have extensive legal knowledge regarding Utah real estate law (commercial and residential) and commercial law, and we look forward to providing you with the personalized, experienced, and expert legal help you deserve.  

Get in touch!

Speak directly with one of our attorneys.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
We will be in contact with you shortly.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get in touch!

Contact us to get in touch with one of our attorneys.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.