This page includes information about residential leases, not commercial leases.
The court eviction process happens quickly. Do not ignore notices that have been served on you.
When calculating the time in which to do something after service of notice, the day on which service occurs is day 0, the day after service is day 1, and so on. Time stated as "calendar days" includes Saturday, Sunday and holidays in the calculation. Time stated as "business days" does not. Whatever is required to be done must be done on or before the last day. See also URCP 6.
Communicate in writing with your landlord or tenant. If your landlord or tenant agrees to something, get it in writing and signed.
Keep a copy of everything for your records, including all notices and court papers.
A tenant may evict a subtenant for the same reasons and using the same procedures as described on this page. Utah Code Section 78B-6-804.
A tenant includes a subtenant, a guest or a relative, even if not paying rent.
Utah Legal Services (utahlegalservices.org) also has information and forms for the tenant and landlord.
Talk to an attorney
The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice. You are not required to hire an attorney, but eviction and landlord and tenant rights can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. One way to talk to an attorney is to visit a free legal clinic. Clinics provide general legal information and give brief legal advice. You might also hire an attorney for just part of your case or to do one particular thing, rather than represent you for the whole case. For more information, see our webpage on Finding Legal Help.
Court evictions and other disputes between landlords and tenants can be costly and frustrating. A tenant who is properly evicted could be liable for three times the money owed to the landlord for rent and other things, such as damage to the property. To try to avoid expensive litigation, consider one of the free or low-cost mediation services available in your area. For more information, see our page on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
Eviction without a court order is against the law
It is against the law for a landlord to evict a tenant without a court order. Utah Code Section 78B-6-814. Utah Legal Services (utahlegalservices.org) has information that may help a tenant who has been illegally locked out.
Summary of Eviction Procedures
This is a description of the most common procedures for getting a court order, but some procedures may vary from court to court. And the judge may require procedures not described here based on the circumstances of your case.
Unlawful detainer; Notice to vacate
"Unlawful detainer" means remaining in possession of premises after receiving and failing to comply with notice to vacate. So the first step in the eviction process is for the landlord to serve the tenant with a notice to vacate. The required type of notice to vacate depends on the tenant's circumstances and is governed by Utah Code Section 78B-6-802.
The notice must be in writing, and it must strictly follow the statutory requirements.
3-day notice to pay or vacate
This notice is used if the tenant owes rent or other money. This notice tells the tenant s/he has 3 calendar days to pay the money or move out. It must give the tenant the option to pay the money. If the tenant pays the money, then the tenant can remain on the premises. If the tenant does neither within 3 calendar days after notice, the tenant is "unlawfully detaining" the premises.
3-day notice to comply with rental agreement or vacate
This notice is used if the tenant has violated a term of the rental agreement that can be corrected. This notice tells the tenant s/he has 3 calendar days to comply with the agreement or move out. If the tenant complies with the agreement, then the tenant can remain on the premises. If the tenant does neither within 3 calendar days after notice, the tenant is "unlawfully detaining" the premises.
3-day notice to vacate for nuisance
This notice is used if the tenant is creating a nuisance. A nuisance is not just any bad act. A nuisance is something that injures health, is indecent, offensive to the senses, or interferes with someone's free use of their premises. This notice orders the tenant to move out within 3 calendar days. It does not have to give the tenant any other options. If the tenant does not move out within 3 calendar days after notice, the tenant is "unlawfully detaining" the premises.
3-day notice to vacate
This notice may be used only if a tenant:
- has assigned or sublet the premises contrary to the rental agreement;
- is damaging the landlord's premises;
- conducts an unlawful business on the premises;
- has violated a term of the rental agreement that cannot be corrected; or
- commits a criminal act on the premises.
This notice orders the tenant to move out within 3 calendar days. It does not have to give the tenant any other options. If the tenant does not move out within 3 calendar days after notice, the tenant is "unlawfully detaining" the premises.
15-day notice to vacate
This notice can be used if the tenant is renting the premises from month to month (or some other period), and the landlord wants the tenant to move out at the end of the month. The landlord does not have to have a reason for wanting the tenant to vacate. The notice must be served at least 15 calendar days before the end of the month. Otherwise, the tenant can stay until the end of the next month. If the rental agreement requires that more than 15 days notice be given, the landlord must give the longer notice required by the agreement.
This notice orders the tenant to move out within 15 calendar days. It does not have to give any other options. If the tenant does not move out within 15 calendar days after notice, the tenant is "unlawfully detaining" the premises.
5-day notice to vacate to tenant at will
This notice can be used only if there is no rental agreement, oral or written. This situation may occur if:
- a guest refuses to leave;
- the rental agreement has expired and the landlord has told the tenant that the contract will not be renewed;
- a new owner has purchased the premises through bankruptcy, foreclosure, or sheriff's sale and has received a title terminating all rental contracts. (If the new owner is evicting a tenant after purchasing the premises in a regular sale and the tenant is on a month-to-month tenancy, the new owner must serve the tenant with a 15-day notice. Otherwise, the tenant has a right to live in the home until the rental agreement expires.)
This notice orders the tenant to move out within 5 calendar days. It does not have to give the tenant any other options. If the tenant does not move out within 5 calendar days after notice, the tenant is "unlawfully detaining" the premises.
How to serve the notice to vacate; Utah Code Section 78B-6-805.
The notice to vacate must be served on the tenant as required by Section 78B-6-805. The notice to vacate may be served by any person, including the landlord:
- by delivering it to the tenant personally;
- by mailing it registered or certified mail to the tenant at the tenant's residence;
- if the tenant is absent from the residence, by leaving it with a person of suitable age and discretion and also mailing it to the tenant at the tenant's residence; or
- if a person of suitable age or discretion cannot be found at the tenant's residence, by affixing it in a conspicuous place on the premises.
Saving the lease from forfeiture; Utah Code Section 78B-6-802.
Some of the notice types require that the tenant be given the option to move out or to pay the rent (or to perform a requirement of the rental agreement). If the tenant pays the rent or does whatever else is required to be done, then the tenant is not "unlawfully detaining" the premises and cannot be evicted. This is called "saving the lease from forfeiture."
A landlord can accept payment for part of the rent and then serve another 3-day notice to pay or vacate. Or the landlord and tenant can agree about when the remaining rent will be paid.
If the tenant is "unlawfully detaining" the premises—that is, has failed to comply with proper notice properly served—the tenant can be evicted by court order. For court forms see our OCAP page.
Complaint; Utah Code Section 78B-6-807.
The complaint to evict must describe the facts that constitute unlawful detainer—essentially that the tenant has been properly served with notice to vacate that is appropriate for the circumstances, has failed to comply with the notice, and remains in possession of the premises. The complaint may also allege any fraud, force, or violence on the part of the tenant, and may claim damages and compensation for the occupation of the premises. If the eviction is for failure to pay rent, the complaint must state the amount of rent due.
Summons; Utah Code Section 78B-6-807.
A landlord may not personally issue a summons. The landlord's lawyer or the court must issue the summons.
The summons in an eviction is similar to the summons in any civil case. It states the time in which the tenant is required to answer or face judgment by default. And it must contain the other information required by URCP 4. However, the time to answer is very short: usually only 3 business days from the date of service, unless the tenant objects and the court allows more time.
Serving the complaint and summons
Serving the complaint and summons on the tenant is governed by URCP 4 and Utah Code Section 78B-6-807. The complaint and summons may be served by any person over 18 who is not a party to the case or a party's lawyer. This means that the landlord may not personally serve the summons. For more information and forms, see our page on Serving Papers. The landlord is responsible for filing proof of service with the court.
The court can authorize service by alternative means if the tenant's identity or whereabouts are unknown and cannot reasonably be learned, where service upon all of the tenants is impractical, or where the tenant is avoiding service. For more information and forms, see our page on Alternative Service.
Who is the plaintiff?
Who is the defendant? Utah Code Section 78B-6-806.
The tenant and anyone who has signed the lease can be named as defendants. If there is a subtenant occupying the premises, the subtenant also can be named as a defendant. The landlord may, but does not have to, sue all of them. But the landlord can obtain a judgment only against those who are served with process or appear in the proceedings.
Answering the complaint
Once the complaint and summons are served on the tenant, the tenant may file a written answer with the court within the time stated in the summons. The tenant must serve a copy of the answer on the landlord by one of the methods described in URCP 5. For more information and forms for filing an answer, see our page on Answering a Complaint or Petition. Tenants can find information about answering a complaint (utahlegalservices.org) and possible legal defenses, including habitability problems (utahlegalservices.org), through Utah Legal Services.
Tenant fails to answer
If the tenant defaults (does not file an answer), the landlord should file an affidavit of damages and request an occupancy hearing to get an order of restitution of the premises. Even if the tenant defaults, the landlord must serve the tenant with the affidavit of damages and notice of the occupancy hearing. URCP 5.
If the complaint alleges an offense designated by Section 78B-6-810 as a criminal nuisance, the court will hold an evidentiary hearing within 10 days after the day on which the complaint is filed to determine whether the alleged act occurred. The hearing will be set when the complaint is filed and notice of the hearing must be served upon the tenant with the summons at least 3 calendar days before the scheduled time of the hearing.
Occupancy hearing; Utah Code Section 78B-6-810.
The judge will hold a hearing within 10 days after the day on which the tenant files an answer if:
- the complaint to evict claims failure to pay rent; or
- the new owner of the premises is evicting the former owner after a forced sale.
At the hearing the judge will determine who has the right to occupy the premises while the case moves forward. If the tenant fails to appear at the hearing after having received notice of it, the judge will issue an order for restitution of the premises directing the sheriff or constable to return possession of the premises to the landlord.
If the judge finds that all of the issues can be decided without further proceedings, the judge will decide those issues and enter judgment on the merits. If the judge decides there is a need for further proceedings and the tenant remains in possession of the premises, the judge will begin the trial within 60 days after the day on which the complaint was served unless the parties agree otherwise.
If an answer is filed, then all parties must follow the Rules of Civil Procedure governing discovery and disclosure. For more information, see our page on Discovery and Disclosure. Because evictions occur quickly, there may be court hearings scheduled before either party needs to make initial disclosures. For more information about civil procedures, see our page on Summary of Civil Procedures.
Judgment for restitution, damages and rent; Utah Code Section 78B-6-811.
If the judge enters judgment for the landlord—whether after trial or after the occupancy hearing; whether by deciding the merits of the claims or after the tenant's default—the judgment will include an order for restitution of the premises directing the sheriff or constable to return possession of the premises to the landlord.
If the complaint to evict claims failure to pay rent or failure to perform a requirement of the rental agreement, the judgment will also end the rental agreement, but the tenant still owes the rent for the remainder of the agreement, limited by the landlord's duty to reduce damages, usually by renting the premises to someone else.
The judgment may also award to the landlord the rent for the time the tenant lawfully possessed the premises and three times the actual damages from:
- rent and other money due under the contract for the time the tenant unlawfully detained the premises;
- forcible entry;
- forcible or unlawful detainer;
- waste of the premises; and
- the abatement of the nuisance by eviction.
The judgment may also include the landlord's reasonable attorney fees, and this amount is not tripled. The landlord must prove all of these damages and the rent and the attorney fees, and this is often done by the landlord filing an affidavit describing these items.
Even if the tenant defaults (does not answer the complaint), the landlord must serve the tenant with the affidavit of damages and notice of any hearing to determine damages. URCP 5.
Order for restitution of the premises; Utah Code Section 78B-6-812.
The restitution order:
- directs the tenant to vacate the premises, remove the tenant's personal property, and restore possession of the premises to the landlord, or be forcibly removed by a sheriff or constable;
- advises the tenant of deadline to vacate the premises, which is usually 3 calendar days following service of the order, but it might be less; and
- advises the tenant of the tenant's right to a hearing to contest the manner in which the order is enforced.
The restitution order and a form for the tenant to request a hearing must be served on the tenant by a peace officer, a sheriff or constable, or a private investigator. The restitution order and form must be served by one of the methods for serving notice to vacate, unless those methods are impossible or impracticable. If those methods are impossible or impracticable, service may be made by mailing the order and form by first class mail to the tenant's last-known address and posting them at a conspicuous place on the premises.
The date of service, the name, title, signature, and telephone number of the person serving the order and the form must be legibly written on the order and form served on the tenant. The person serving the order and form must file proof of service under URCP 4. For more information and forms, see our page on Proof of Service.
Hearing on the order for restitution of the premises; Utah Code Section Section 78B-6-812.
The tenant may request a hearing to contest the manner in which the order for restitution of the premises is enforced. The tenant must nevertheless obey the order and vacate the premises unless the court stays the order after the tenant files a bond. The bond must be in an amount sufficient to pay the landlord's probable costs, attorney fees and damages if the court awards judgment for the landlord and against the tenant. Any prepaid rent is a portion of the tenant's bond.
The court will set the hearing within 10 calendar days from the filing of the request for hearing or as soon as possible after that.
Forced eviction; Removal of tenant's personal property; Utah Code Section Section 78B-6-812.
If the tenant fails to comply with the order for restitution of the premises, a sheriff or constable may enter the premises by force using the least destructive means possible to remove the tenant.
The sheriff or constable may remove the tenant's personal property and store it. The tenant may not recover the property until the moving and storage costs have been paid. However, the tenant must be provided reasonable access within 5 business days to retrieve:
- financial documents, including all those related to the tenant's immigration status or employment status;
- documents about the receipt of public services; and
- medical information, prescription medications, and any medical equipment required for maintenance of medical needs.
If the tenant does not pay the moving and storage costs and recover the personal property within 15 calendar days, the property is considered abandoned and may be sold or donated. For more information, see our page on Tenant's Personal Property.
Except for a complaint for eviction claiming nuisance, a party may appeal within 10 business days after the judgment is entered. In a nuisance action, a party may appeal within 3 business days after the judgment is entered. Utah Code Section 78B-6-813 and URCP 6.
Possession bond; Utah Code Section 78B-6-808
The purpose of a possession bond to allow the landlord to take possession of the premises while the eviction case moves forward, and, at the same time, to have money to pay the tenant's damages if, in the end, the landlord is not entitled to possession. But a possession bond may not be needed. Eviction cases are designed to conclude quickly. The landlord may prefer simply to wait to take possession, since resolving disputes about the possession bond does take time.
If the landlord wants to take possession of the premises before the occupancy hearing or before the trial, the landlord can file a possession bond. The judge must approve the amount of the bond. The amount must be sufficient to pay the tenant's probable costs and damages if the court awards judgment for the tenant and against the landlord. The bond may be a corporate or cash bond or certified funds. A cash bond is money deposited with the court. The court will hold the money in trust until the case is finished. If the landlord wins, the court will return the money to the landlord upon request.
The bond may be a property bond executed by two persons who own real property in the state and who are not parties to the action. A property bond must meet the requirements of URCP 72.
The landlord must notify the tenant that the possession bond has been filed. This notice must be served in the same manner as service of summons. For more information, see the section of this page titled Serving the complaint and summons. The notice must inform the tenant of all of the remedies and procedures available to the tenant under Utah Code Section 78B-6-808(4).
Remedies and procedures available to tenant after landlord's possession bond
The tenant has the following remedies and procedures available after landlord's possession bond:
- Within 3 business days after being served with notice of the bond, the tenant may demand a hearing, which must be held within 3 business days after the tenant's demand.
- If the eviction is based solely upon failure to pay rent or other money due, the rental agreement will remain in force and the complaint will be dismissed if the tenant, within 3 calendar days after service of the notice of the possession bond, pays accrued rent, all other money due, and other costs, including attorney fees, as provided in the rental agreement.
- For any eviction, the tenant may remain in possession of the premises by filing a counter bond. The counter bond must meet the same requirements as the original possession bond. Any prepaid rent is a portion of the tenant's counter bond.
- The tenant must file the counter bond within 3 business days after service of notice of the landlord's possession bond or within 24 hours after the court sets the amount of the counter bond, whichever is later, unless the court allows additional time.
If the tenant does not comply with any of the remedies and procedures, the court will enter an order for restitution of the premises directing the sheriff or constable to return possession of the premises to the landlord.
Hearing demanded by the tenant
If the court rules after the hearing demanded by the tenant that the landlord is entitled to possession of the premises, the court will enter an order for restitution of the premises directing the sheriff or constable to return possession of the premises to the landlord. If the court allows the tenant to remain in possession and if further issues must be decided, the court will require the tenant to post a counter bond. The court will expedite the remaining proceedings. If the court rules that all issues between the parties can be decided without further proceedings, the court will decide who wins.
If there is no unlawful detainer or the landlord or tenant wants only to sue for damages, the landlord or tenant can file a small claims case or a civil case depending on the amount of damages claimed.
The landlord must deliver to the tenant the balance of a refundable deposit and any pre-paid rent with a written itemization of any deductions, such as payment of accrued rent, damages to the premises beyond reasonable wear and tear, other costs provided for in the contract and cleaning the premises. Utah Code Section 57-17-1.
If any part of the deposit is non-refundable, the rental agreement must say that. This must be stated in writing to the tenant when the deposit is taken by the landlord. Utah Code Section 57-17-2.
Upon termination of the tenancy, the landlord may apply deposits toward the payment of rent, damages to the premises beyond reasonable wear and tear, other costs and fees provided for in the rental or lease agreement, or cleaning of the premises. Utah Code Section 57-17-3(1).
No later than 30 days after the day the tenant vacates and returns possession of the rental property to the landlord, the landlord must deliver to the tenant at the tenant's last known address the balance of any deposit, the balance of any prepaid rent, and a written notice itemizing and explaining any reason for any deduction the landlord made from the deposit or prepaid rent. Utah Code Section 57-17-3(2).
If the landlord fails to follow the requirements of Utah Code Section 57-17-3(2), the tenant may serve the landlord or the landlord's agent a notice that states the names of the parties to the rental agreement, the day the tenant vacated the rental property, that the landlord failed to comply with Utah Code Section 57-17-3(2), and the address where the landlord may send the deposit or remaining deposit funds. For a sample notice, see the forms section below.
- The tenant may recover from the landlord, if the tenant has served the required notice:
- The full deposit if the landlord fails to timely return the balance of the tenant's deposit;
- The full amount of prepaid rent if the landlord fails to timely return the balance of the tenant's prepaid rent; and
- A civil penalty of $100.
The tenant may file an action in district court to enforce the landlord to comply with the requirements of Utah Code Sections 57-17-1 through 5
Under Code of Federal Regulations Title 24, Subtitle B, Chapter VIII (law.cornell.edu) landlords must take special steps to evict a tenant from government subsidized housing. Tenants should promptly contact Utah Legal Services (utahlegalservices.org) for information and assistance. More information is available in the Utah Legal Services' Renter's Handbook (utahlegalservices.org). See the sections on "Section 8 Problems" and "Subsidized Housing." Landlords may also want to contact the Utah Apartment Association (uaahq.org).
Tenants of foreclosed properties
If you are renting premises being foreclosed, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 gives some tenants the right to stay in a foreclosed property up to 90 days after the date of foreclosure or through the end of their lease, depending on whether the property will be used as a primary residence by the new owner. The tenant must continue to pay rent to the new owner, but identifying the owner may be difficult. Contact an attorney who handles foreclosure or housing cases to see if this law applies to your situation. Or see the Utah Legal Services flyer on Tenants in Foreclosed Property (utahlegalservices.org).
The former owner of premises that are foreclosed can be evicted by the new owner using regular eviction procedures. Utah Code Section Section 78B-6-802.5.
Tenants in Mobile Home Parks
If a tenant rents a mobile home, the landlord can evict the tenant from the mobile home using the procedures on this page. However, eviction of an owner-resident of a mobile home follows different procedures governed by Utah Code Title 57, Chapter 16, Mobile Home Park Residency Act. The Utah Legal Services (utahlegalservices.org) website may provide useful information.
Forms for the landlord
Use OCAP to
- prepare the initial notice to the tenant required before a court case can be filed (three, five or 15 day notice)
- prepare eviction documents to be filed in court (including complaint, summons and order of restitution)
- prepare possession bond documents to be filed in court
- prepare judgment for damages to be filed in court
Forms for the tenant
Use OCAP to
- prepare an answer to the complaint
- prepare a response to a possession bond
Utah Legal Services eviction forms
- Basic guide to answering an eviction complaint (utahlegalservices.org) - PDF
- Request for Hearing on Order of Restitution (utahlegalservices.org) - PDF
- Request for Return of Personal Property (utahlegalservices.org) - PDF
- Setting Aside a Default Judgment (utahlegalservices.org) - PDF
Forms and other information for landlords and tenants
- Tenant's Notice to Provide Deposit Disposition - PDF | Word
- Utah Legal Services (utahlegalservices.org)
- Utah Apartment Association Good Landlord Program (uaahq.org)