Eviction Basics

Are you being evicted? Did your landlord say you must leave? If so, there are things you should know. Landlords are not above the law. In order to evict someone, they must follow the law.

Below are some of the most often asked questions about evictions.

What is an Eviction?

An eviction is a court process a landlord uses to remove a tenant renting a room, apartment, house, or mobile home.

What can the landlord evict me for?

You can be evicted for the following things:

  • Not paying rent, late fees, or other amounts owing under the lease,
  • Not paying for damages you did to the apartment,
  • Violating the lease,
  • Bad behavior or criminal activity,
  • Your lease is up and the landlord gave you notice to move.

Can my landlord evict me without going to court?

No, unless the landlord claims you abandoned the rental unit, the landlord must get a court order called an "Order of Restitution” before you can be forced to move. This is true even if you owe rent or your lease has ended. The landlord cannot force you out by:

  • Changing the locks,
  • Removing the front door
  • Turning off the utilities
  • Or anything else that prevents you from living in your housing.

If your landlord tries any of these things, call the police or local sheriff’s office. Tell the police that the landlord does not have a court order to evict you. If you are told, "Sorry, that is a civil matter," don't give up. Ask for the officer's name and badge number. Then ask to speak to the officer's supervisor. If the police still refuse to help, call Utah Legal Services. You can also give the landlord and the police our Notice to the Landlord flyer.  More information is available on our webpage Locked Out Without A Court Order

Table of Contents

  1. Getting an Eviction Notice
  2. Eviction Part 1: Occupancy
  3. Eviction Part 2: Money Judgment
  4. Eviction, what can happen to me?

Getting an Eviction Notice

How is an eviction case started?

Before a landlord can start an eviction case in court, the landlord must first give you a written notice. Even though this notice may state it is a notice of eviction, it is not a court order. This is just the first step the landlord must take before evicting you. This notice may give you time to fix the problems with your landlord or move out before the eviction case is filed in court.

What is on the eviction notice?

The notice may ask you to pay any rent that is owed, comply with any lease terms you are violating, or move. The notice will give you a certain number of days to do these things or face eviction. Below are examples of some of the notices you may receive from your landlord:

If you do not do the things listed in the notice or move within the number of days stated, the landlord can file a lawsuit in court to evict you. You will then be served with the court papers, called a Summons and Complaint. These court papers may be served on you in person, by certified or registered mail, or left with another person of suitable age who lives in your residence. The landlord cannot just post the court papers to your door.

Note: Special protections for public housing and Section 8 tenants. If you live in public housing or have a housing voucher, such as HUD housing or Section 8, there are special rules for evictions. Read any notices you get carefully. See our information on these programs, and be sure the call Utah Legal Services right away if you get any eviction notices or court papers.

What should I do if I get an eviction notice for not paying rent?

If you do not want to move, you need to take steps right away to fix the problems with your landlord. If you received an eviction notice because you owe rent, try to pay the rent as soon as possible. You can ask the landlord to agree to a repayment plan. If you do a repayment plan, make sure you get the agreement in writing and have the landlord sign it. If you only pay part of the rent, the landlord can still evict you for nonpayment unless you have a separate agreement in writing. If you need help coming up with the money, call 211 to see if they can help you find emergency assistance to pay the rent.

Can the landlord evict me if I pay part of the rent?

Yes. Even if the landlord accepts most of the rent from you, the landlord can give you another 3-day notice to pay or vacate. If you think you and the landlord have agreed to a repayment plan over a period of time, get that agreement in writing and signed by the landlord. The safest way to stop the eviction process is to pay the full amount demanded in the 3-day notice.

What do I do if my eviction notice is for another reason?

If you are being evicted because your lease is up or for some other reason, you can try to work with your landlord to stay or agree to a later date to move out.  Again, make sure you get any agreement in writing and have the landlord sign it.  If you need help working out an agreement with the landlord, you can try mediation.  In mediation a neutral third party helps you and the landlord talk to each other to see if you can reach an agreement. The landlord does not have make an agreement with you and can refuse to do mediation. For mediation help, call Utah Dispute Resolution at 877-697-7175, or, if you live in Salt Lake County, the Community Action Program at 801-359-2444.

What if I move out before the time in the notice is up?

The landlord cannot file an eviction case against you if you have already moved out. The landlord can, however, file a collection action against you for any unpaid rent or damages to the property.

What if I cannot move out or do the things in the eviction notice in time?

If you cannot move out or do the things in the notice in the time given, the landlord can start the eviction case. If you are evicted, you may have to pay any back rent, court costs, and legal fees as well as three times the amount of rent for the time you stay beyond the notice period. Staying beyond the time on the notice is called an unlawful detainer.

Working out an agreement with your landlord.

If you know you cannot move out by the time in the notice, ask the landlord if you can move out at a later date in exchange for not filing an eviction case. For example, if the notice says you have to be out by Monday or an eviction case will be filed, you can ask the landlord to give you until Friday to move. The landlord may agree to let you stay until that time and not file an eviction against you. If you agree to this,get the agreement in writing! If you stay beyond the time given, the landlord will start the eviction case and you may end up owing a lot of money in court.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.

Eviction Part 1: Occupancy

How do I know if the landlord filed an eviction case against me?

If your landlord filed an eviction case against you, you will be served with a Summons and Complaint. The Summons will state the amount of time you have to respond to the eviction. The Complaint lists the reason why the landlord wants to evict you.

What should I do if I have already been served with a Summons and Complaint?

If you are served with a Summons and Complaint for eviction, there is very little time to respond—usually only 3 business days. If you do not respond, the court will issue a judgment against you. This means the court will issue an order to evict you and order you to pay money to the landlord. You should always file an Answer, even if you do not believe you have a defense. 

Remember, you usually have only 3 business days to file an Answer. This time starts the day after you were served with the Summons. Your must file your Answer with the court by 5:00 p.m. on the third business day.  For more information on filing an answer, see our flyer at the bottom of this webpage.

What happens after I file an answer?

The landlord must request a hearing before a judge unless you agreed to everything the landlord said in the Complaint. The hearing will likely be held within 10 business days of filing your answer. You must go to the hearing. If you do not go to the hearing, you may be evicted the same day as the hearing without any further notice!

You will get notice of the hearing in the mail or by a phone call. If you agree to everything in the complaint, the landlord will ask the judge for an order to evict you.

How do I prepare for the hearing?

Gather all of your evidence and witness information.  Get a copy of your evidence and witness list to your landlord/landlord attorney two days before the hearing. Make sure to get to court on time. Your case may be the last one called, or it may be the first one. If you are even a few minutes late, the judge may have already called your case and made a decision. 

What happens in court?

When your case is called, let the judge know you are there and go to the front of the courtroom. The judge will then determine whether or not you should be evicted. When the judge asks for your side of the story, briefly tell the judge the facts of your case and any defenses you want to raise. Be polite and calm while you are talking. Do not talk while the judge or someone else is talking. This can be hard when you are nervous or angry, but it helps your case. If you have any evidence, make sure to show it to the judge.

If you are being evicted because your lease is up or because your landlord is claiming you violated the lease, be sure to raise any defenses you have. If you did not receive a proper eviction notice or you are not violating the lease, explain this to the judge. The judge will hear from the landlord before making a decision. If the judge agrees with you, the case might be dismissed and you will not need to move. If the judge agrees with the landlord, he will issue an Order of Restitution. This is the order that evicts you and gives the landlord possession of the rental unit.

If you are being evicted for not paying rent, the judge will see if you owe something to the landlord (rent, late fees, deposit, damages, etc.). Be sure to tell the judge if you have any defenses. Below are some examples of defenses you can raise:

  • You never got a 3-day written notice.
  • You moved out before the time on the notice was up.
  • You paid the rent already (bring witnesses or receipts to court).
  • You are withholding rent due to poor conditions. (See our flyer on bad housing before withholding rent. click here). Bring a copy of the housing inspector's report, photos, and any other proof.
  • The Housing Authority is holding back the rent because the landlord won't make repairs. Bring a copy of the notices from your caseworker.
  • You offered the rent during the three day period or before you received the eviction notice, but the landlord refused to take it. Bring the rent money and any other evidence you have to court.

Again, if the judge agrees with you, the case may be dismissed and you do not need to move out. If the judge finds you owe money, he will issue an Order of Restitution and you will have to move. Except in rare cases, the judge will not deal with how much money you need to pay the landlord at this hearing. Usually, there will be a second hearing held a couple of months after you are evicted to decide how much money you will be ordered to pay the landlord.

If the judge evicts me, when do I have to move out?

The judge may tell you at the hearing how long you can remain before you must move out. This is usually three (3) calendar days. If the judge does not tell you when you have to be out, you will be served with the order by a constable. The order will usually give you three (3) calendar days to move out. But if at the hearing the judge already gave you three (3) additional days, you may have to move out as soon as the constable comes. If you have not moved out by the time ordered, the constable can remove your property and let the landlord change the locks.

The landlord is supposed to store any property you leave behind somewhere safe. Your property should not just be thrown out, or put on the curb. Your landlord cannot refuse to give back your property until you pay rent, but your landlord may be able to charge you moving and storage fees if you leave your property. The landlord cannot charge you storage fees for necessary items such as prescriptions, personal documents or clothing if you request these things back within five days.  For more information, please see our page on Getting Your Personal Property Back.

NOTE:  You MUST update the court and the landlord with your new address if you moved out before the hearing or you are evicted.  You need to file a notice of change of address with the court, give a copy to your landlord and their attorney.  You can find the form at https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/filing/info_change/docs/Notice_of_Change_of_Address.pdf

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.

Eviction Part 2: Money Judgment

Does the eviction case end when I leave the rental unit? 

NO. The landlord can pursue you for a money judgment. Some landlords (and their lawyers) never seek a money judgment. Most always do. 

How will I know whether the landlord is seeking a money judgment? 

The landlord asks the court to set another hearing along with a statement of what the landlord claims is due.  The court will give you notice of the time and date. If you previously gave an email address to the court, that is how the court will notify you of the new hearing date and amount claimed due. Otherwise, the court will mail the notice to your “last known address”. You have the duty to provide a current mailing address to the court and the landlord (or the landlord’s attorney) whenever your mailing (or email) address changes. If you rely on the forwarding of your mail, you may not get the notice of hearing in time. 

How much money can the landlord ask the court to award? 

Here’s a list of the possible charges a court may award: 
• past due rent (the amount not paid before the end of the pay-or-vacate notice period) and late fees if the contract allowed late fees 
• treble damages (see below) 
• attorney fees 
• court costs (the charge paid by the landlord for filing the eviction case in court) 
• service of process fees (the amount charged by whomever served the summons and complaint) 
• damage to the rental unit (cost to repair/replace damage caused by the tenant above reasonable wear and tear) 
• “future rent” (the value of the rent not collected by the landlord between the time you vacated and the date the unit was rerented IF you had a long-term lease and your tenancy was terminated by the eviction. Landlords have a duty to mitigate (“reduce”) this damage claim by rerenting as soon as possible.) 

What are “treble damages”? 

Utah law allows a landlord to collect three times (“treble”) the usual daily rental amount from the day after the expiration of the initial eviction notice until the tenant actually leaves the rental unit. This is the period of “unlawful detainer”. That first eviction notice might have been pay-or-vacate or a “no cause” notice or for nuisance. In addition, any amount (other than rent) still due under the rental contract can be trebled if the reason for eviction was nonpayment of this amount. And, if the landlord alleges “waste” in the eviction complaint and proves it in court, that too can be trebled. (“Waste” often means excessive damage to the rental unit.) If the landlord asks for treble damages in the eviction complaint, the court must award what the landlord can prove.  

Is there any defense to treble damages? 

YES but the defense would almost certainly be rejected by a trial court judge. Utah law requires the judge in eviction cases to award three times the usual daily rent in eviction cases. The counter argument is that treble damages are meant to punish a tenant for bad behavior. That “bad behavior” is remaining in the rental unit after the end of the notice period. But sometimes a tenant has no choice. Perhaps there are no shelter beds available in the community and the tenant has no other lawful alternatives. The tenant may have no malice toward the landlord and has every intention to leave immediately. In those circumstances, it may be argued that the tenant should not be punished. Only the usual daily rent should apply. Other tenant circumstances may also warrant no such punishment. 
Only an appellate court (Utah Supreme Court or Court of Appeals) is likely to look favorably on this claim. Of course, the Utah legislature can always change the law. Interested citizens may contact their elected representatives to voice an opinion. 
If a tenant wishes to make the argument that trebles are punitive and should only be awarded if a judge finds the tenant’s behavior “bad” or inexcusable, that argument should be made in writing to the judge. ULS can provide that written argument for a self-represented tenant. Call us if the landlord seeks a monetary judgment.

When can I challenge treble damages? 

As soon as the landlord sends you a list of damage claims prior to a court hearing, you can file your objections to the claim. You can also state your objections during the hearing. If a money judgment is entered against you that includes treble damages, you can ask the court to reconsider the amount. You must ask for that reconsideration within 28 days of the entry of the money judgment. 

Can I contest the claim for damage to the rental unit?

Yes. Landlords sometimes try to collect money for items not damaged by the tenant or for the cost to replace old or worn-out fixtures (such as a stove or carpets). A tenant should have as much evidence as possible (such as pictures taken upon moving out or damage checklists filled out when the tenant moved in). You can contest broad claims, such as a claim for “general cleanup” or “repairs” or to “replace flooring”. A landlord must satisfy the judge that the claims are reasonable. 

What happens if I ignore the notice of hearing about damages? 

The landlord will get a default judgment. That means the court will award whatever the landlord claims is due. 

Can I get a default judgment set aside? 

Yes, in some situations. Generally, you must make that request within 3 months of the date of the judgment. 
You must explain why you did not participate in the hearing (such as not receiving notice of the hearing even though the court had your current address).  You must also claim that the money judgment entered against you would have been less if you had participated in the hearing. 

How does the landlord collect the judgment against me? 

After a money judgment is entered, the landlord can garnish wages or seize property that is not exempt from execution (such as most household goods). The landlord can also demand that you appear in court at a “supplemental proceeding” where the landlord can ask about your assets, where you work, what banks you use, etc. You must answer the questions. Some of your property will be exempt. But you must go to the hearing when ordered to do so. Otherwise, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest – not because you owe a debt but because you failed to appear when ordered. 
If you get a notice for a hearing on damages or a default money judgment is entered against you, call us. 

Eviction, what can happen to me?

How does an eviction affect me after I move?

Once an eviction action is filed, it is a permanent public record. This record cannot be expunged. Landlords often do background checks when someone fills out an application to be a tenant. Some landlords will not rent to people against whom an eviction action has been filed, even when the defendant wins or the case is dropped.

If you are evicted, the judge may issue a money judgment against you. A money judgment is a court order stating that you owe the landlord money. This judgment can often include attorney’s fees, court costs, late fees, interest, and treble damages. Court judgments affect your credit rating. Also, if the landlord gets a money judgment, he can garnish your wages or get a court order to take some of your property to pay off the judgment. The landlord can also require that you appear in court every so often to answer questions about your income and assets. If you get such a notice to appear (for a “supplemental proceeding”), you must go. If you do not go, a warrant for your arrest may be issued by the court. This warrant is issued because you did not appear when ordered, not because you cannot pay.

Will an eviction affect my housing subsidy?

Yes. If you are evicted, you will likely lose your subsidy. This means if you have a Section 8 voucher, you will probably lose it and will not be able to get Section 8 assistance at your new apartment. If you are evicted from a rent-subsidized property, where the subsidy is connected to the apartment, you may not be able to receive rental assistance again for several years.

What can I do to save my housing subsidy?

The best way to save your housing subsidy is to avoid an eviction in the first place. If you have a Section 8 voucher and are behind on rent or having issues with the landlord, see if you can work something out with your landlord to avoid an eviction. Filing an eviction costs the landlord money and many landlords also hire an attorney who charges fees for handling an eviction. Because of this some landlords will agree to waive some or all of the rent that is owed in exchange for not having to file an eviction lawsuit if you agree to move out. To take your Section 8 voucher to another apartment, your landlord will have to sign several releases for the housing authority. This includes a release stating you do not owe any rent.  If the landlord will not sign that release, you can use our formJust fill out the form and give it to the housing authority.  

If you live in public housing or a rent-subsidized property, you should request an administrative hearing as soon as you get the first eviction notice. You may be able to keep your subsidy by going to the administrative hearing. An administrative hearing is usually just a meeting where you explain your situation to the hearing officer and try to work something out.

If you come to an agreement to move out, get this agreement in writing. We have a mutual lease termination available for you to use, it is located at the bottom of this webpage. It may also be best to get your landlord to agree to give you a neutral reference in the future. This means that the landlord will promise not to say anything negative about you should a future landlord contact him. Landlords do not have to agree to this and even when they do it is very difficult to enforce.