Utah Eviction Blog

Free Utah Eviction Forms and Legal Information

When Can a Landlord Triple Their Claim for Damages?

Posted by Jeremy Shorts on December 18, 2009


In most lawsuits, the Plaintiff is limited to claiming only those damages they’ve actually suffered – nothing more.  Evictions are not like most lawsuits.  Landlords are often entitled to “treble damages” where they are permitted to claim three times the actual damages they’ve suffered.  The details are spelled out in the Utah eviction code.

Under Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-811, a Utah landlord making a claim for unlawful detainer (i.e. eviction)  is allowed to claim treble damages for the following items:

  • The amounts due under the contract (including rents, late fees, etc.).
  • Waste (damage caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear).
  • Abatement (or getting rid of) any nuisance caused by the tenant.

In addition to these amounts, Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-811(3) also states that a judgment shall include reasonable attorney fees.  While attorney fees cannot be trebled, a landlord who is forced to bring an eviction action is permitted to claim them.

These items permit a landlord to significantly increase the amount of their claim.  Collecting on these amounts are usually an issue in an eviction, but they at least provide the potential to (1) get the attention of a dead-beat tenant, and (2) provide an extra layer of protection against a dead-beat tenant.

What Does This Mean For You?

Now that you know what damages can be trebled under Utah law, it is important to keep clear records so that you can easily show what category the damages fall under (which allows me to easily determine whether these damages should be trebled).  Doing so makes it much easier and faster to file for eviction.  Also, the more clearly the case is presented to the judge the more likely they are to award a judgment because they understand where you are coming from.  I always have my clients break down what they are owed in terms of:

  • Past Due Rents (including the time periods rents were charged),
  • Late Fees (including a detailed description),
  • Penalty Fees (including a detailed description),
  • Waste (damage beyond normal wear and tear),
  • Attorney Fees (including any court costs), and
  • Any other charges the landlord can legally claim.

By keeping these records in a clear, easy to read fashion, you will not only save me time (and you money), but you will be in a better position to present a clear and concise case to the judge.

Final Exam: Mr. Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent…

Now it’s time to test what you’ve learned…  Your tenant (“Mr. Tenant”) didn’t pay December’s monthly rents of $800.  You’ve had problems with Mr. Tenant’s payments in the past so on Thursday December 7th you serve him with an eviction notice (“Three Day Pay or Quit Notice”).  Finally, he voluntarily leaves on December 22nd (before you file for an eviction), but when you inspect the property you find that he has caused $600.00 in damage (holes in the walls, a damaged door, etc.).  How much does Mr. Tenant owe you?

The answer is $3,528.80, here’s why:

  • Rents: $800.00 (for the month of December).
  • Treble Damages for Rents: $928.80.
    • It is important to take a minute to talk about how this is calculated.  The regular rent for December is $25.80 per day ($800 / 31 days = $25.80).  Triple rents would be $77.40 per day ($25.80 x 3 = $77.40), and Mr. Tenant stayed in the property for 12 days after the eviction notice expired (12/11 – 12/22 = 12 days).  $77.40 x 12 = $928.80.
  • Treble Damages for Waste: $1,800.00 (actual damages were $600 but they’re trebled under the Utah eviction code).
    • You should also know that the court will require detailed proof of any damages you claim for waste to the property.  Be sure to keep and organize any repair estimates or actual payments for these damages.  The court will ask for verification of these amounts.  Oral testimony at a trial or hearing isn’t good enough.
  • Total Amount of Claim: $3,528.80.

This of course doesn’t take into consideration any potential attorney fees, which you would be allowed to claim.

District Court or Small Claims?

Even if Mr. Tenant has now vacated the property, that doesn’t mean that the case is closed and he’s off the hook.  Evictions involve two aspects: (1) regaining possession of the property, and (2) a monetary claim for what is owed.  Even after a tenant leaves, landlords are entitled to continue to pursue their monetary claims in court.  Since this claim is only for a money judgment (no eviction) that is less than $10,000, this is the prime case for small claims (Click Here to read a recent post on Utah’s Small Claims court).

Visit my website for free rental contracts and eviction forms: www.utahevictionlaw.com
Contact me for a free consultation.
Jeremy Shorts – Attorney at Law
Phone: 801-610-9879
Email: jeremy@utahevictionlaw.com
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