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Abandoned premises defined
A landlord cannot evict a tenant without a court order, but a landlord does not need a court order to decide whether the premises have been abandoned. Under Utah Code Section 78B-6-815, there are two times that the landlord can decide that the premises have been abandoned:
- There is no reasonable evidence that the tenant is occupying the premises other than the tenant's personal property in the premises, and the tenant has not notified the owner that s/he will be absent, and the tenant fails to pay rent within 15 days after the due date.
- The tenant's personal property has been removed from the premises, and the tenant has not notified the owner that s/he will be absent, and the tenant fails to pay rent when due.
Removing and storing the tenant's personal property
If the premises have been abandoned, the landlord may take possession of the premises and attempt to rent them at a fair rental value. If there is personal property on the abandoned premises, the landlord may make a list of it, remove it, store it, and recover the moving and storage costs from the tenant. In order to legally take possession of the abandoned premises and remove the tenant's property, the landlord must post in a conspicuous place a notice that the premises are considered abandoned. The landlord must also mail a copy of the notice to the tenant at his or her last known address. Utah Code Section 78B-6-816.
A landlord is not required to store:
- chemicals, pests, potentially dangerous or other hazardous materials;
- animals, including dogs, cats, fish, reptiles, rodents, birds, or other pets;
- gas, fireworks, combustibles, or any item considered to be hazardous or explosive;
- perishable items; or
- items that when placed in storage might create a hazardous condition or a pest control issue.
These items may be disposed of immediately upon determination that the premises have been abandoned, and the tenant cannot recover them.
Removing a motor vehicle
Utah Code Section 78B-6-816 does not authorize the landlord to remove a motor vehicle from abandoned premises. Instead the landlord must follow the special procedures in Utah Code Section 41-6a-1406 and Section 41-6a-1407.
A motor vehicle is any self-propelled vehicle intended primarily for use on the highways. A vehicle includes a motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer, off-highway vehicle, manufactured home, and mobile home. Utah Code Section 41-1a-102.
Recovering tenant's personal property
If the landlord has removed and stored the tenant's personal property, the tenant may recover the personal property within 15 calendar days from the date of the notice by paying the landlord's costs to move and store the property. For more information, see our page on Tenant's Personal Property.
Tenant's liability for money damages if the premises have been abandoned
Under Utah Code Section 78B-6-816, a tenant who abandons the premises is liable for the lesser of:
- the rent for the remainder of the term; or
- the rent accrued during the time necessary to rent the premises at a fair rental value, plus the difference between the fair rental value and the rent agreed to by the tenant, plus a reasonable commission for renting the premises, plus the costs necessary to restore the premises to their condition when rented by the tenant less normal wear and tear.
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