People's Legal Aid asked Justice Lab at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law to conduct research and analysis regarding the current state of Utah's housing law. As a new nonprofit, People's Legal Aid hoped to partner with students to produce a fact-based report that could be used to educate tenants and community stakeholders while informing the organization’s legal strategy as it represents defendants in eviction lawsuits.
Below you'll find the introduction to their report, and we invite you to download the full report at the bottom of the page.
Utah's renter protections are weak compared to most other U.S. states, including Utah's neighboring states. From confusing or unfair terms in lease agreements to the harsh consequences of eviction, Utah renters face many structural obstacles that constrain, and sometimes block entirely, attempts to protect or assert their rights.
Utah's housing law leaves the terms of lease agreements mostly unregulated. As a result, renters are subject to many intimidating lease terms that, if challenged in court, may not be upheld. Renters do not have any meaningful ability to negotiate lease terms. Lease terms are confusing and lack transparency, including necessary information like the total monthly cost of rent.
Renters who violate lease terms face harsh penalties, including eviction and judgments that, by law, require tenants to pay triple damages to their former landlords.
In the fall of 2020, a team of students at the S.J. Quinney College of Law's Justice Lab conducted original research to understand the substance and practical consequences of the complex laws, policies, and practices that shape the landlord-renter relationship in Utah.
This report synthesizes the results of the Justice Lab team's research and analysis. It highlights the unfairness of common terms in lease agreements, compares Utah law to laws that protect renters' rights in other jurisdictions, and recommends a series of steps to reduce the inequities in Utah housing law, beginning with a Truth in Renting Disclosure.
The Justice Lab team's research revealed that Utah leases commonly include confusing terms, conflict with state statutes, and are unfair to tenants. For example, many lease agreements in Utah do not clearly state the total cost of a month's rent. A Truth in Renting Disclosure would require more clarity and transparency to Utah's lease agreements and offer renters (who almost universally lack access to lawyers) accurate, understandable, and actionable information about their legal rights.
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