The Ugly Reality of the Eviction Hearing

As Utah’s premier tenant defense law firm, we have seen eviction proceedings shake out in almost every way imaginable. And if you’re a tenant looking for help on our website, you probably don’t need us to tell you that the deck is stacked against you. Tenants in Utah tend to get the raw end of the bargain no matter how dishonest and underhanded the landlord’s behavior. We know that this is unfair. And we truly believe that evictions are a highly destructive force in our society.

But how, exactly, do you survive the eviction hearing breathing down your neck? We all know that larger, more substantive change is necessary. But legislative action is slow and maybe even unlikely. If you are faced with eviction, and you’ve been called into court, what can you expect, and what will help you receive a favorable outcome at that hearing?

The vast majority of evictions—if not all of them—come with a heartbreaking story. And if you are staring down an eviction, we know that your circumstances are difficult at best, and devastating at worst. And we want to hear about those circumstances. But, as heartless as it sounds, you can’t expect a judge to offer help based solely on the terrible circumstances surrounding your eviction. And it isn’t because the judge him- or herself is heartless. Not in the least. A judge is duty-bound to apply the law, and the judge is not empowered to forgo the law even when the law results in tragic consequences.

So if the law is so often deaf to your circumstances, what is the answer? What is the silver bullet of eviction proceedings?

Based on our repeated experiences in court, side-by-side with our clients, the one question that a judge inevitably has to address is this: Has the rent been paid? That’s it. This one question controls the fate of 99% of tenants facing eviction.

So even when your landlord hasn’t repaired the gaping hole in the roof, or refuses to call an exterminator for those cockroaches, when the judge asks, “Has the rent been paid?” and you reply, “Well, no, but…” that’s it. That’s all the judge needed to hear.

But if you can’t pay the rent anyway, why should you call us? Because we understand what you’re going through. And we know that there is more than one way to get through this process with your credit, your life, and your dignity intact. Your story matters. We can help it to be heard.

Michael Hepworth

Michael Hepworth

Managing Attorney at Hepworth & Associates
Michael is the Managing Attorney of Hepworth & Associates, LLC.
Michael Hepworth

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