If you rent in Utah, you need to know these 8 things

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HAMDEN, CT – AUGUST 02: New housing stands at Canal Crossing, a luxury apartment community consisting of 393 rental units near the university city of New Haven on August 2, 2017 in Hamden, Connecticut. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau housing data, more U.S. households are headed by renters than at any point since at least 1965. Sixty-five percent of households headed by people under the age of 35 were renting in 2016, an increase from the 2006 figure of 57 percent. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(ABC4) – In a state of more than 3 million residents, only 2,000 homes were listed for sale as of March 2021.

Utah currently has a hot housing market coupled with a historically low inventory of homes for sale. Prices of homes are expected to rise as they receive dozens of competing offers. With a tight market on top of the financial impacts of COVID-19, buying a home simply isn’t possible for many Utahns, which means they’re now turning into long-term renters.

According to Paul Smith, executive director of the Utah Apartment Association, about 30% of households in the state of Utah are rentals. Here are some important rights and informational tidbits that Utah renters should know about.

Note: In some cases, leases may waive these rights and supersede Utah law.

For this story, ABC4 reached out to Paul Smith with the Utah Apartment Association, Angela McGuire, Assistant Director of People’s Legal Aid, and Aro Han, Attorney for People’s Legal Aid.

  1. Renter’s insurance may cover all of your possessions.

Smith recommends renters purchase renter’s insurance, which protects renters’ possessions in the case of a disaster.

“The landlord’s insurance only covers their property- the physical building and appliances and things like that,” Smith states. “It doesn’t cover the contents. So we highly recommend that renters have renter’s insurance to cover their contents in the cases of flood, fire, or other disasters.”

2. Your landlord must disclose all fees and costs upfront.

Those who have applied for apartments know that very often the costs and fees don’t end with rent. There can be gas and utility bills, parking fees, internet fees, and more, and renters must be made aware of these fees prior to signing a lease, Smith states. However, Angela McGuire warns that fees for gas and utility bills may fluctuate and renters may end up paying more than expected.

“And I think that’s one of the biggest issues is the actual utilities- they can say this is what you’ll be responsible for, but you might not actually get a number until your first bill shows up,” McGuire states.

3. Renters can apply to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Renters who make less than 80 percent of the Annual Median Income by household size for their county are eligible to apply for rental assistance through September 2022, Smith states. Those who are interested can apply at rentrelief.utah.gov.

4. Under the Utah Fit Premises Act, your rental unit must be fit for human habitation.

According to Smith, habitability is defined as providing working heating, plumbing, electrical systems, and hot and cold water. Owners must also ensure that air conditioning units are working and that common areas are sanitary and safe.

5. Domestic violence victims are given certain exceptions.

If you are a victim of domestic violence you can have the locks changed or be let out of your lease, Smith tells ABC4.com. However, victims must meet certain qualifications that can be difficult for the average person to achieve, Han explains.

“One, you have to be able to prove that you are a victim of domestic violence, and that involves you need some kind of documentation and the most common one is police reports,” she explains.

“You need to actually have police reports. The second one is you need to be current on rent. The third issue is that even if you are a victim of domestic violence, if you are using this law to get out of your lease, you need to pay 45 days worth of rent, in order to get out,” she adds.

6. If you have to pay to fix something, you may be able to have that amount deducted from rent.

If a landlord fails to make certain repairs within a mandated time period, tenants can pay for the repair themselves and then deduct what they paid from future rent, Smith explains. For a safety issue, the landlord must comply with the notice within 24 hours. For a habitability issue, which includes issues with electrical systems, hot and cold water, air conditioning systems, and locks on doors and windows, the landlord must comply within three days. For deficient conditions, including contractual obligations and appliance and utility malfunctions, the landlord must comply within ten calendar days.

7. There are resources available for landlord-renter mediation.

Utah Community Action and Mountain Mediation are two organizations that provide mediation for disputes involving renters and landlords. A mediator is a neutral third party, McGuire explains.

8. An eviction is a court process.

“An eviction is a court process which requires an order signed by a judge,” Han tells ABC4.com. “If a landlord gives an eviction notice and the renter vacates before the notice expires, that renter was not evicted.”

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