Landlords in Utah, and across the country, who wrongly evict renters protected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Eviction Moratorium Order could face stiff penalties from state and federal authorities.
Groups that advocate for affordable housing say many landlords are ignoring the ban. But, because the moratorium is a federal program, agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission say they will enforce sanctions against landlords who violate the order.
Tara Rollins with the Utah Housing Coalition said renters in arrears are encouraged to file a declaration of eligibility under the moratorium, but it doesn’t always help.
“We have seen in court, tenants being challenged based on the declaration,” said Rollins. “We’ve also seen a lot of evictions for nonpayment. But still during the moratorium, when there is funding available, it’s bad to see someone evicted for nonpayment.”
The Biden administration has extended the eviction moratorium through June 30. Rollins said agencies such as People’s Legal Aid and others can help renters file a complaint against a property owner.
Rollins noted some landlords take advantage of tenants who don’t understand their rights – and says Utahns who fall behind on rent need to take action to protect their rights.
“The first thing that they need to do is make sure that they have filled out the Moratorium Declaration Form,” said Rollins. “And they can send it directly to their landlord.”
Funds to prevent evictions are still available through state and local agencies to help people catch up on rent payments, as well as other bills, if they’ve lost a job due to the pandemic. Still, Rollins said, it’s an uphill battle for many tenants to save their home.
“If a landlord wants to get rid of a tenant, there’s a way to do it,” said Rollins. “That’s because our laws, the way they’re written in Utah, really side with the landlord.”
Rollins said numerous legal-aid and Community Action Agencies across Utah administer programs to help tenants facing eviction. One way to find the right source of help is to call the Utah 211 helpline.