CORONAVIRUS

Governor Issues Order That Temporarily Stops Landlords From Evicting Certain Renters

Apr 1, 2020, 2:08 PM | Updated: 10:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order aimed at helping renters who fear they may lose their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, but only some renters qualify.

Herbert announced during a press conference Wednesday that the order will allow certain tenants affected by the virus to defer rental payments until May 15, while landlords cannot initiate eviction proceedings until May 15.

“No one should fear that they are going to be evicted because their financial health has been hit by this crisis,” he said.

The order affects a growing number of people across the state who have lost their jobs or had hours cut back due to the coronavirus.

“It’s been hard. We don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Adriana Chihuahua, who lives paycheck to paycheck, and was laid off at Delta more than a week ago.

She and her husband — who has seen his hours cut back — talked to their apartment management company about April rent earlier this week, but were told there wasn’t anything they could do.

“Now we have to pay rent,” Adriana said. “We have a kid, and we have to buy food and diapers and a lot of stuff, so it’s been really hard.”

The executive order only benefits those tenants who are up-to-date on rent payments as of March 31, and who have either:

  1. Lost wages or their job because of the coronavirus
  2. Received an order from the health department to self-isolate or quarantine
  3. Tested positive for the virus

“The concept here is anyone who can pay rent, should,” said Paul Smith, the executive director of the Utah Apartment Association.

Smith helped with the language of the order, and emphasized this is not rent forgiveness.

“This is just an industry-supported and great idea to give the hardest hit a little bit of extra time,” he said.

That means the tenants who qualify can defer their rental payments until May 15, while landlords can’t evict them for not paying rent.

Some renters said they are worried that will create a loophole for landlords to evict for a reason other than nonpayment. The order mandated the Department of Workforce Services can offer free mediation if a landlord and renter disagree about whether the tenant qualifies.

“The first thing for landlords is to remain calm. We’re going to get through this,” Smith said.

He encouraged fellow landlords to work with their lenders. He said there are many mortgage forbearance programs they could benefit from.

Smith warned tenants, “pay rent as soon as possible, or this will come back to bite you.”

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Governor Issues Order That Temporarily Stops Landlords From Evicting Certain Renters