Rental Housing - Need to Know
On April 1st 2020 the State of Utah issued executive orders for a state wide rent moratorium. This moratorium is designed to assist those affected by COVID-19, as well as to protect the general economy of the State of Utah.
- Over the past couple of weeks the state courts have increased the total eviction time (as an average) from 3.5 weeks to 5-8 weeks.
- Some judges have already (personally) created rent moratorium's in their court room, and were not granting any evictions for non payment of rent.
- The entire court system, as well as county and city municipalities have been contemplating creating their own official rent moratoriums
- The official numbers are not available - but estimation is that unemployment is between 10%-20% right now in Utah (it was at 2% last October). There is a growing fear from economist that a large number of these individuals will file for bankruptcy. If they did - landlords would be unable to collect rent for 6-9 months while these tenants worked through their bankruptcies (including other types of evictions). This is what occurred in 2008 and state/industry leaders are very concerned about preventing a similar housing crash.
- Yesterday morning the Governors office reached out to the UAA and notified us that they were going to be issuing an executive order for a state wide moratorium. Their goal with the moratorium was to protect the well being of the public as a whole, to prevent bankruptcies and allow tenants time to receive state/federal assistance, and to prevent local moratoriums at court/municipal level. We worked with their office to try and remove as much harmful language as possible from their order.
Details of the Order: click here to view
The executive order goes into effect April 1, 2020. The order prevents a landlord from filing an eviction for non-payment of rent, given a specific set of circumstances, until May 16, 2020. Here are the details of the Order:
- This order only prevents evictions for non-payment of rent.
- This order only applies to tenants who were current on rent on March 31, 2020
- This order only applies to tenants who can document: a loss of wages or job as a result of COVID-19, has undergone self isolation/quarantine, or has tested positive for COVID-19
- This order does not require, create, or imply rent forgiveness. It is still the obligation of the tenant to have all rents and fees paid/current on May 15, 2020.
- This order does not prohibit a landlord from accepting rent during this time - only filing an eviction.
- Tenants are still encouraged to pay what they can when they can to prevent a situation where they are unable to pay by May 15th
While this order is not at all perfect - we understand the difficult situation we are all facing as a community. We commend our state leaders for being willing to take on difficult issues. We also commend the Governor, and his team, for working with the housing industry and hearing our concerns and accommodating this executive order accordingly. It should also be noted that as a response to our conversations, the state is working to allocate a $5million emergency housing fund for tenant in need. While COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges, our members are tenacious and will work together to overcome this difficult time - and for that we thank our dedicated members who are essential towards providing housing for over 1/3 of our States citizens.
Federal Regulation's on Rent
Unless your property is financially back by FHA, or other federal mortgages, there are no requirements to waive/defer rent or a moratorium on evictions. For more information on evictions please see that section below. It is recommended that all landlords who can work with tenants through any issues they experience because of COVID-19.
U.S. Stimulus Package
The United States of America passed a 2.2 Trillion dollar "COVID-19" relief bill on March 27, 2020. This bill does a few things to impact the economy. This bill is intended to flood the economy with money so that rent, bills, and services continue to get paid. Here are some details:
- Eligible small businesses, sole proprietors, independent contractors, etc. can a apply for an SBA loan guaranty program
- Larger businesses in distress can potentially apply for a loan
- Expanded unemployment insurance (including for self employed individuals)
- Tax rebate (from $1,200 - $7,400) available to eligible tax payers
- If you have an FHA, Freddie Mac, or Fannie Mae backed mortgage - you will be eligible for 90 days mortgage forbearance (delay) but will not be able to give an end of term notice or begin an eviction for 120 days.
Utah Courts and Evictions
There is a lot of confusion about how evictions are working right now and how the courts are functioning. The best way we can explain this is by simply saying, no, the courts are not closed and you can still proceed with an eviction. However, it's a little more complicated that that.
It is true that the courts are still proceeding with evictions but there are two things to be aware of:
- All court proceedings will take a little bit more time than usual, including evictions. You should plan on an extra 2-4 weeks to your already planned eviction time.
- The courts are going to be more sympathetic to tenants than usual (even on non-payment of rent issues). Now they will still grant an eviction - so don't think that tenants get off scott free. But it is in a landlords best interest to work with a tenant through these issues over the next couple of months. We are seeing that when the tenant is unwilling to work with a landlord in return the evictions are being granted.
Utah Stay-at-Home Order:
Governor Herbert, and the State of Utah, issued a stay at home order on March 27, 2020. This order was more of a "best practices" order with little consequences. However, if government entities do not feel like these recommended practices are working - they will move towards more strict requirements.
The orders/guidelines out right now consider real estate companies to be 'essential' and able to operate their business. Essential businesses should still practice social distancing guidelines and limit distance between individuals to 6'. We recommend that all rental operators practice these guidelines and work remotely where possible. Where working remotely is not possible practice, as strictly as possible, limiting distance between individuals to at least 6'.