Members of Utah’s COVID-19 economic task force clarified Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s executive order on rent and evictions.
Utah Apartment Association Executive Director Paul Smith says Herbert’s executive order doesn’t absolve tenants of their rent payments.
“Some people have been reporting that renters no longer have to pay rent,” Smith said. “That is not true. Some people have been reporting that renters are going to be forgiven or excused of rent. That is not true.”
Additionally, the order doesn’t halt all evictions, Smith says.
“Evictions for rent before April 1, criminal activity, nuisance or lease violations can proceed,” Smith said.
The order only applies to residential tenants, not commercial. Tenants can only qualify if they meet specific criteria: if they’re current on rent payments as of March 31 and if they’ve lost a job or wages due to COVID-19 or if they’ve tested positive for the virus or have been quarantined by the health department. Those able to pay rent now should.
The Utah Dept. of Workforce Services reported that last week, nearly 29,000 Utahns filed claims for unemployment benefits. Under the federal CARES Act, individuals qualify for a one-time payment of $1,200 and $500 per child. The act also provides an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits. Darin Mellott with the state’s economic recovery task force says the order is mostly intended to cover renters while they wait for that support to come in.
“The idea with the order is to account for this gap in time between when the safety net can kick in for these folks,” Mellott said. “The idea is that the safety net can carry them through the hardest period, and then as the economy recovers that things will begin to stabilize as they always do.”
Tenants will need to pay April and May rent by the time the order ends on May 15. After that date, landlords can begin the eviction process. Smith recommends tenants communicate with their landlords if they’re having trouble making rent payments.