SALT LAKE CITY — Utah renters affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic won’t be evicted for lack of payment, but that doesn’t mean a month of living rent-free.
On April 1, Gov. Gary Herbert issued a moratorium on all residential evictions in the state through May 15. The moratorium included Utah renters who have lost a job because of COVID-19, are under quarantine, or who have tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus.
Herbert stressed it’s not rent forgiveness for Utah renters. Tenants who can pay rent immediately must continue to do so. All tenants who are unable to pay rent now will be required to pay back rent when the order expires. The order is only for tenants who are up to date on their rent payments through March 31.
Utah renters given a reprieve
June Hiatt of the group Utah Renters Together spoke with Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to talk about the governor’s executive order and what it means for tenants in the state.
Hiatt said she wanted to thank Herbert for his order and for standing with workers who lost their jobs because of COVID-19.
“Is this a good thing,” Dave asked, “or is it going to create more of a financial burden on tenants come May 15th?”
“Both, but there are still some questions that have to be answered before we can feel completely comfortable with this option moving forward,” Hiatt said.
“This is not an automatic ‘don’t-pay-your-landlord’, right?” Debbie asked.
“Absolutely, and we would never encourage that anyone not pay their landlord if they have the means,” Hiatt said.
“For example, I’m a renter. I’m still working from home. I’m still getting my regular income, so I will continue to pay rent.”
How about contracts for Utah renters?
“I guess one of the things that maybe concerns me a little bit is when the governor comes in and he starts changing some obligations,” Dave said. “I mean these are contracts that people entered in. Any concerns about the governor kind of wiping out some of these contractual obligation?” he asked.
“I think it’s important to understand that he hasn’t wiped out any contractual obligations,” Hiatt said.
Renters are still required to pay the back rent, she stressed.
She encouraged renters to work with their landlords. Homeowners who can’t make their mortgage payments for a month or two can call their bank and work out payment arrangements, Hiatt noted.
“What we’re trying to do,” Hiatt said, “is make sure that over the next 45 days as renters are really hurting and starting to feel their loss of wages and their loss of jobs, is they have some time to work with their landlord, and they’re not going to wake up tomorrow … with an eviction order on their door, which is very likely what would have happened if the governor hadn’t signed this directive,” she said.
What happens to Utah renters on May 16?
“The flip side of this is renters are still going to owe the money on May 15th,” and if their jobs are not restored by then, “they might find themselves in a deeper hole come mid-May,” Debbie pointed out.
“Right, and that’s a huge concern that we have,” Hiatt said. “May 16th is kind of a scary day for Utah renters. We’re talking about someone who has lost their job because we are in a public health emergency.
“The governor and other leaders have mandated that certain businesses deemed unessential close,” she said. “Even though it is the right thing to do for the public health crisis that we’re in, the government has ordered the shutdown of a lot of people’s jobs.”
“We’ve seen a 41% increase in the number of unemployment claims that have been filed for the state of Utah . . . We know Utah families are hurting, but what does it look like on May 16th if you’re not back to work or this public health crisis has gotten worse? There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Hiatt said.
“What happens if you don’t qualify [for rent deferment]. Are there other options?” Dave asked.
Hiatt said she encouraged anyone who is struggling to reach out to Utah Renters Together.
“We have a lot of resources to help people. And we’re happy to help guide that uncertainty for folks who don’t qualify,” Hiatt said.
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
- If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
- Get a flu shot.
State of Utah: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1–800–456–7707
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