SALT LAKE CITY – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Peterson has joined a statewide coalition of consumer advocates urging Gov. Gary Herbert to extend Utah’s residential eviction moratorium until late summer.
“We need to act to protect Utahns and their children from being turned out of their homes,” said Peterson, a University of Utah professor and former federal consumer advocate.
As part of Utah’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, Herbert issued an April 1 executive order that blocked landlords from evicting tenants who had been directly impacted by the pandemic until May 15.
The order applied only to tenants who had suffered wage or job losses due to the coronavirus, were in mandatory self-isolation or quarantine or had tested positive for COVID-19.
In a letter dated April 6, the state leaders of 21 religious organizations, non-profit groups and other consumer advocates appealed to Herbert to extend the ban on all non-essential evictions through July 15. They also requested that the governor prohibit rent hikes, late fees, damages or interest charges for affected tenants and mandate a grace period of up to one year for renters to catch up on missed payments.
The letter addressed to Herbert was signed by the leaders of the Crossroad Urban Center, the League of Women Voters, the Utah Health Policy Project, the Voices for Utah’s Children and several christian demoninations.
That correspondence drew vocal opposition from the Utah Apartment Association.
“Our landlords have already done enough,” according to UAA spokesman Paul Smith. “We’re proud to have been so accommodating. But 45 days is enough.”
But Peterson’s last-ditch appeal to Herbert on May 13 included some incentives for landlords as well.
Noting that the owners of rental properties are often small businessmen and women themselves, the candidate suggested that Utah create an emergency Residential Housing Landlord Support Task Force to assist landlords in obtaining financial assistance from local banks as well as federal, state and local governments.
Other aspects of Peterson’s proposal were likely to be less popular with property owners, however.
Those provisions included extending the current moratorium on evictions until at least August; providing counseling for tenants on federal protections against eviction; and, requiring landlords and tenants to negotiate repayment plans based on the tenant’s ability to repay missed rent.
Peterson also urged that the state expand its current moratorium to include home mortgage foreclosures.
“In this time of economic uncertainty, these are necessary precautions to come together in the pioneer spirit and stop the rising tide of homelessness in our state,” said Karina Brown of Nibley, Peterson’s running mate. “Many Utahns still have not received their promised federal stimulus check, meaning both landlords and tenants haven’t received assistance from the federal or state governments.”
“Our state leaders should put their shoulders’ to the wheel and develop a real plan for Utahns whose homes and livelihoods are at stake,” Peterson added. “Many people will be left behind if the state does not step up.”