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Steve Griffin, KSL, File

Only 'narrow segment' of Utahns can defer rent under governor's order, task force says

By Graham Dudley, | Posted - Apr. 2, 2020 at 4:43 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force gathered online Thursday to elaborate on Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's Wednesday executive order that provides some rent relief for Utahns financially impacted by COVID-19.

The order allows Utahns who've lost jobs or wages to work with their landlords to potentially defer rent payments until May 15; it also prohibits landlords from evicting impacted tenants. The governor encouraged everyone who is able to pay their rent on time to do so.

Paul Smith, Utah Apartment Association executive director, said Herbert's order has been "widely misunderstood and mischaracterized" since it was issued.

"It is not a rent deferral order," Smith said. "Some people have been reporting that renters no longer have to pay rent. That is not true. Some people have been reporting that renters are going to be forgiven or excused of rent. That is not true.

"And last, it's been reported that this suspends or prohibits all evictions, and that is not true."

Smith explained that renters can still be evicted for criminal activity, nuisance and other lease violations.

Mike Ostermiller with the Utah Association of Realtors said the relief applies only for residential property, not commercial.

He said the order does not forgive rent payments but offers protection to a "small, narrow segment of the population." Ostermiller said tenants must be current with their rent as of March 31, have lost a job or lost wages because of COVID-19, or tested positive for COVID-19 in order to benefit from the order.

He said landlords should accept "basic documentation" proving that tenants have been impacted to allow them protection under the order.

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