Renting out property or space in an existing home that is not being used can seem like an easy way to make some extra cash, but property owners and their renters should make certain they are in accordance with the landlord and tenant laws defined under the Utah Fit Premises Act.
Photo by: Mark Moz
According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 37% of households in the U.S. are renter-occupied. Of those households renting, 35% live in single-family homes, 18% live in 2-4 unit structures, 43% live in buildings such as apartments with 5 or more units, and 4% of renters live in mobile homes. With such a large percentage of households living in a structure owned by another person, there are laws in place to ensure that both landlord and tenant are protected while ensuring safe and clean housing.
Utah Fit Premises Act
The Utah Fit Premises Act found in Utah Code Title 57 Chapter 22 defines the duties associated with the owners of rentals in Utah as well as what is legally expected from their tenants. The owners or landlords can be those who legally possess the property in question or those who are hired as a “managing agent, leasing agent, or resident manager [who are] considered an owner for purposes of notice and other communication [unless otherwise stated]”. Utah Code 57-22-2 defines a renter as “any person entitled under a rental agreement to occupy a residential rental unit to the exclusion of others.”
Owner duties prior to rental agreement
According to the Utah Fit Premises Act, before an owner or manager of a property accepts a rental application fee, the owner should inform the potential renter whether or not a unit is even available and if a background check, credit check, verification of employment status, or other condition of rentals will be conducted that could disqualify the renter’s application from being accepted. Once an application is accepted, and prior to both parties signing a rental agreement, which is strongly encouraged, the owner must document the condition of the property, disclose it to the potential renters, and allow them a period of time to agree on the state of the unit. Owners may instead allow prospective renters to do a “walk-through” to inspect for damage or wear not included in the rental agreement. Upon signing the rental agreement, the property owner or lessor must include their contact information as well as a copy of the rental agreement and any rules associated with the property.
Living conditions of the property
Utah Code 57-22-3 states that the owner or rental management must “maintain that unit in a condition fit for human habitation [and that] each residential rental unit shall have electrical systems, heating, plumbing and hot and cold water.” Additionally, according to 57-22-4, “to protect the physical health and safety of the ordinary renter, an owner:
(a) may not rent the premises unless they are safe, sanitary, and fit for human occupancy; and
(i) maintain common areas of the residential rental unit in a sanitary and safe condition;
(ii) maintain electrical systems, plumbing, heating, and hot and cold water;
(iii) maintain any air conditioning system in an operable condition;
(iv) maintain other appliances and facilities as specifically contracted in the rental agreement; and
(v) for buildings containing more than two residential rental units, provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for garbage and other waste and arrange for its removal, ( . . . ).”
If the tenant feels the property is in dangerous condition, the property owner shall take immediate action to repair or remedy the property within a corrective period or the rental agreement shall be terminated with the security deposit and any prorated amount given back to the renter. If the renter is the victim of a crime such as domestic violence or burglary, the property owner must comply with the tenant’s request for a lock change.
The tenants of rentals in Utah have their own rules to follow as well. According to Utah Code 57-22-5, renters must keep the premises clean and sanitary, cleaning up all garbage while complying with the rules of the board of health. They may not have more occupants than allowed and must “use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, and other facilities and appliances in a reasonable manner”. They are expected to pay their rental payment on time and follow the rules outlined in their rental agreement which could include the prohibition of “smoking tobacco products within the residential rental unit, or on the premises, or both.” The tenants of a rental should not “destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the ( . . . ) unit”. They are not to “interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of [other nearby renters]” and must allow the owners or management entrance for necessary repairs.
Failure to comply
If the owner or tenant fails to comply with their duties defined by state law, the other party could take civil action against the other. If damage is done to property or if injury occurs due to negligence of another, criminal charges could arise.