If you’ve ever owned a rental property before, you’ve probably dealt with honest, hard-working tenants who pay their rent on time and cause virtually no trouble for the most part. They may even help with the upkeep of your home and follow your specific clauses right down to the smallest detail.
But if you’ve owned more than one rental property, chances are you’ve run into the opposite sort of tenant. The sort of tenant who seems intent on making your life miserable. They’re consistently late with rent—without an excuse. You’ve dealt with property damage. Noise complaints. Unwanted “boarders.” And every other manner of nuisance that has you tearing out your hair in frustration.
That’s what happened to Maggie James of Ogden. What at first seemed like a perfectly pleasant if quirky young couple she rented her two family home to soon turned out to harbor one of her biggest fears.
“They seemed nice enough,” Maggie explained. “Gainfully employed, but somehow… a little short with their rent every other month. When I came to collect one night, that’s when I found out why. Their side job was breeding and selling illegal snakes online… and I’m deathly afraid of snakes!”
Maybe your story isn’t as… unusual as Maggie’s. Perhaps it’s even worse. But what can you do? Tenant-at-will laws in Utah can sometimes be unclear and difficult to figure out. And frankly, you’re not even certain if the law would be on your side in most situations. And if you wanted to sell your home with terrible tenants making your life miserable, could you? Here’s some potential dilemmas to be prepared for.
Your Right To Evict
Utah State Law actually enacts eviction proceedings very rapidly—frequently in about three days in many cases, including failure to pay rent, failure to comply with a lease, subletting, property damage, criminal activity and, more importantly, non-criminal nuisance including:
- Disturbing other tenants or neighbors
- Having frequent parties .
- Having so many visitors so frequently as to interfere with any neighbor’s quiet enjoyment.
- Smoking if the landlord so prohibits it
A 15 day notice to vacate can be given at any time if there is no set end date contained in a lease, while a 5 day notice of tenancy at will can be given if there is no rental agreement or if one has expired and you don’t plan on renewing.
There’s just one catch. With the exception of criminal complaints, a notice to vacate typically requires a court date—if not multiple ones. Which in Utah, can be a lengthy, costly and slow moving process. And to make matters worse?
Horrible tenants can claim as many legal rights as a landlord. And they frequently do. Unless you have photographic documentation that there was no property damage prior to your tenant moving in, for example, or any written statements from neighbors regarding loud parties, you may actually stand less of a chance in court than you might think.
How Secure Was Your Lease?
Rental lease agreements can be notoriously vague in their wording. Did you actually detail what you expected out of a tenant’s behavior in writing—or did you expect it out of good faith? With the possible exception of criminal activity, bad tenants will use every trick in the book to find a clause in your lease. Document everything. Phone calls, emails, face to face conversations… every possible interaction you may have had with a problem tenant should it ever escalate into legal proceedings.
Background checks are never a bad idea prior to renting a property. The big mistake many property owners make is assuming they’re solely limited to credit checks. They’re not, nor should they be. There may be a very good reason why a perfectly respectable tenant can have bad credit. But have you verified a tenant’s employment? Their ability to pay rent monthly? Their criminal background? Their history of past evictions? If not, these are all things to take into consideration in the future.
Legally, Utah does not require screening to be performed on a renter. Legally… most states don’t. But there are also no laws prohibiting how much an application fee can cost, nor are they refundable. There’s also no limit on how much a landlord can charge as a security deposit. So the next time you have a tenant who you have “that feeling” about but their background passes a check, those are two tips to keep in mind to avoid a potentially nightmare situation.
Can I Sell My House With Horrible Tenants?
Yes, you can. It’s actually quite common to sell rental property with tenants in Utah. Even with an active lease, Utah does retain the right for property owners to send early termination letters.
Here’s one problem you didn’t expect that may find yourself running into. And it’s a common problem. If you inform a problem tenant you plan on selling the property and they need to vacate within a given time, the chances of finding irreparable property damage are high. In fact, very high—even with a court eviction notice. And the chances of you finding a qualified buyer after the damage left by a terrible tenant are… not going to be so high.
At Gary Buys Houses, we’ll buy your home as is, even with the mess left behind by bad tenants; many times in as little as 3-5 business days. We’ve been helping hundreds of other Utah residents do so for a decade now, and we can even give you legal advice on how to best pursue a problem tenant.
Sometimes, lapses of judgement happen. And they can happen to the best of us. But that shouldn’t discourage you from property rentals in the future.
It should just encourage you to exercise just a little bit more caution.