SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Executive Director of the Utah Apartment Association said the new moratorium implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t mean much for landlords and tenants in Utah.
Paul Smith said if the moratorium expired on Saturday, he believes the state wouldn’t have seen a big spike in evictions.
“We have asked all of the apartment community management companies, we’ve asked attorneys and said ‘is there going to be a spike in evictions?’ and they said ‘no.’ Utah is deploying rental assistance so well that we have very few renters, like a very small fraction of a percentage even past due, are struggling to pay rent. Most people are paying rent just fine,” Smith said.
Smith said the state has been giving out rental assistance to Utahns quickly and has eliminated barriers while doing so. In return, he said the majority of Utahns are able to pay their rent.
“The extension will make very little difference because it’s really just a defense not a moratorium,” Smith said.
Smith said there are three things renters can do to avoid being evicted. This includes applying for rental assistance, doing partial payments, and most importantly communicating with your landlord.
“The tenants that are applying for rental assistance are getting it and rent is caught up and they can stay in their homes,” Smith said.
He said the federal government gave the state over $400 million to help those who continue to struggle in the pandemic.
“We’ve only spent about $40 million of what they’ve given us, plus the $25 million from last year, so we have lots of money,” Smith said.
However, he believes many renters don’t know how to get rental assistance.
“The first thing they ought to do is call 211 where they’ll be assigned a housing counselor. They can also go to rentrelief.utah.gov and apply online,” Smith said.
“I think people are getting a double whammy because last year most landlords didn’t increase prices so they might be increasing it twice as much this year,” Smith said.
His advice to those who are still struggling to pay rent is to negotiate.
“I think they ought to try to explain their situation to their landlord and ask their landlord to make accommodations,” Smith said.
If you know you’re going to have to move by the time the moratorium expires he suggests looking for places immediately.
“The people who are getting apartments are the first people through the door, or the first person to call…so you have to look early, look often, and stay on top of it,” Smith said.
According to a report by the Utah Apartment Association, eviction filings were down 44% in the first six months of 2021. Smith said this is due to renters taking advantage of assistance programs to help them pay rent.
“That tells me that the rental assistance is working, landlords are working with their tenants and tenants are finding a way to make their payments,” Smith said.