In Utah, landlords are forbidden from denying tenants solely because they are recipients of housing vouchers or other government assistance programs. To deny a tenant, a landlord must have a legally valid basis for the denial aside from their source of income.
Illegal Voucher Policy
Because it’s illegal under Utah law to deny a tenant because their income (or a portion of their income) comes from government assistance, landlords should avoid implementing any “No Voucher”, “No Section 8”, or “No LIHTC” policies. This may also cover tenants on welfare or social security. Aside from denying an application, landlords cannot charge voucher holders more, segregate them to a different section of a building than non-voucher holders, or provide them with different services or amenities from non-Section 8 tenants. Landlords are free to deny tenants for other reasons that don’t violate discrimination laws, such as being a direct threat to another tenant in the building. Utah Code 57-21-7 , Utah Code Sec.57-21-5 .
Valid Reasons for Denying Applicant
Landlords are allowed to deny a tenant for reasons other than their source of income, so long as it doesn’t violate Utah’s or the federal government’s discrimination laws. This state protects tenants from discrimination based on their:
- Familial status
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Source of income
Exemptions for Second Homes
Utah includes an exception intended for landlords who are renting out their second homes. The law is intended to reduce the compliance burden for such non-professional landlords. Specifically, landlords who rent fewer than 4 single-family houses do not have to abide by most of the discrimination laws.
Such exemptions do not typically apply to discriminatory advertising (e.g., “Only accepting tenants over 40”) or where the landlord uses a professional property manager.
Utah Code 57-21-3 .
Exception for Landlord-Occupied Homes
Utah has an exception called the “Murphy Rule”, which is intended to allow landlords to rent out extra rooms in their home without a large compliance burden. If the apartment is in the landlord’s own residence, then the landlord is free to discriminate regarding whom they rent to. This exception only applies to smaller homes, specifically where the house or building has four or fewer apartment units.
This exemption does not typically apply to advertising (e.g., “Only accepting white tenants”) or where the landlord uses a professional property manager or other real estate professional. Some states may have additional see restrictions. See state law for more details.
Utah Code 57-21-3 .
What happens when a tenant reports a problem to the authorities of Utah or a local government? They may ask the tenant for information to help bring the case, including any evidence (e.g., emails and pictures). If the government finds there’s sufficient information between the tenant’s complaint (as well as complaints from other tenants), the landlord may be charged and taken to court to defend themselves. Landlords will likely receive fines if they lose. The amount of the fines will be determined in part by the severity of the issue. Fines increase significantly for repeat offenders. Utah Code Sec. 57-21-11 . Utah Code Sec. 57-21-11 .