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A family’s roof caved in and Todd Hollow Apartments ended its lease

Todd Hollow's Building 1, where the collapse occurred.

When an affordable housing complex’s ceiling collapsed, instead of repairmen coming in the family moved out.

Todd Hollow is an affordable housing complex beside the Jordanelle Reservoir, off of state Route 248 in Hideout.

Like other income-restricted housing in the Wasatch back, the waitlist at Todd Hollow stretches many months.

But now there are some vacancies, at least temporarily. Evergreene Management Group, which runs the Todd Hollow Apartments, terminated at least one family’s lease this month.

Public records show the residents of apartment 110 called 911 early in the morning on March 8 to report the collapse. Unbeknownst to them, an ice dam had caused snow to accumulate, melt and leak into their ceiling.

Damage to the Todd Hollow bedroom.

Eventually, the bedroom ceiling gave way, spilling insulation and creating a hole. Wasatch County firefighters responded to the scene shortly before 6 a.m. and there were no injuries.

They helped the family move their belongings out of the bedroom. The firefighters notified management and told the renters that, although there may be help available from the Red Cross, they should work with the landlord on a solution.

EMG terminated this family’s lease. A close friend said they’ve had to book a hotel with their own money and need a new place to live.

EMG President Wendy Pickering said in a statement multiple apartments have needed repairs this winter, during which the tenants were able to remain residents.

"In one instance, additional repairs were needed to make the apartment safe, and with our community at full capacity, they had to relocate outside of the community," Pickering said.

All of this is lawful. Landlords in Utah decide what’s livable, not tenants, emergency responders or law enforcement.

The Utah Fit Premises Act, passed in 1990, gives property owners that power. Even though it says landlords have a duty to maintain livability, it also says tenants can’t sue if landlords don’t live up to their duties.

But it gets even worse for Utah renters: the law says if their unit becomes unfit for occupancy, it’s the landlord’s choice to fix it or not.

If an owner decides they don’t want to make repairs, they can terminate a lease. That’s slightly different than an eviction, which is the court process triggered if a tenant doesn’t leave.

The only way for a tenant to avoid having a lease terminated is to notify the landlord that their home is unfit to live in before the landlord decides to act. And the law defines a narrow set of actions that count as “notifying” the landlord.

This week, snow removers were on site at Todd Hollow. And management gave notice it will inspect apartment 110’s next door neighbor, apartment 109. There were reports of another leak.

"With the record-breaking snowfall we have experienced this year, we have been working hard to ensure our community stays safe. There were a few apartments that required repairs, which we have addressed as quickly as possible, allowing them to remain in their homes. In one instance, additional repairs were needed to make the apartment safe, and with our community at full capacity, they had to relocate outside of the community. Our priority is always to maintain a safe and healthy community."

— Wendy Pickering, Evergreene Management Group President

Utah Code § 57-22-6 describes how renters and landlords can handle deficient living conditions, and Utah Code § 78B-6-805 describes how tenants need to give landlords notice of such conditions.

The Utah Housing Coalition makes information on tenants rights and other renter resources available at utahhousing.org.