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Rent relief: good news for some, troubling news for landlords

Advocacy groups for landlords and renters are trying to understand more fully an order given by Ut. Gov. Gary Herbert that allows some renters to defer their April rent payment. Image credit: Getty Images.

SALT LAKE CITY — When Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order this week temporarily preventing a landlord from evicting a tenant, and, allowing some renters to defer their April rent payment, he did so with the intention of helping some of those Utahns who are struggling to pay the bills in the wake of COVID-19.

His order puts a halt to any eviction proceeding through May 15th. It’s the same for a very specific group of renters, they’ll have a 45-day extension to pay their April rent.

But today, an advocacy group for landlords says the Governor’s order came too soon. Paul Smith with the Utah Apartment Association told KSL Newsradio’s Dave and Dujanovic program that the order has confused a lot of people. Even though his group helped to craft it.

“It’s been a very frustrating day for landlords. They don’t understand the background, they don’t understand what we got in return,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the Governor’s office was supposed to roll out the bill next week, after people had paid rent for April. He says it was supposed to be a stopgap measure until Americans got their stimulus checks.

The order doesn’t leave landlords out in the cold. Smith told Dave and Dujanovic that the order released $5 million for “immediate rental assistance.” So imagine that a person who worked for a ski resort or a restaurant can’t make the rent payment quite yet. They can apply for this money, and it’s supposed to go directly to the landlord.

“[The order] doesn’t forgive rent. It is really not designed to hurt landlords,” Smith said. “It’s designed to protect them.”

And for a specific group of renters, the governor’s order gives them a little time.

“They have some time to work with a landlord and they’re not going to wake up tomorrow or Monday with an eviction order on their door,” said June Hiatt, of the Utah Renters Together advocacy group.

Hiatt says this also gives the Utah State Legislature time to come up with a package to help renters if things haven’t improved in 45 days.  According to Hiatt, lawmakers are currently working on such a plan.


KSL Newsradio anchor Todd Fooks contributed to this story.