As Utah Valley's housing shortage worsens and rents rise, the number of landlord/tenant conflicts is increasing.
Local housing officials say landlords are using the housing shortage to get the most rent possible from tenants. For the most part, officials can't blame them. After all, landlords are in the business to make money, not as a public service.But housing officials are being flooded with calls from tenants who say landlords are abusing their rights in order to increase rents.
"Complaining tenants has always been a problem, but nothing like it is now. It used to be something we dealt with some of the time. Now it is something we deal with most of the time," said Susan Griffiths, managing attorney of Utah Legal Services' Provo office.
Tenants' most common complaint is that landlords are unjustly accusing them of lease violations. A landlord can legally evict a tenant for violating a lease agreement.
With an old tenant out, a landlord can increase rent before accepting a new tenant.
"If they can find some reason to say that the tenant broke the lease, then they can get someone new to move in for $100 or $200 more a month. They are really motivated right now to find reasons to get tenants out," Griffiths said.
In fact, landlord/tenant complaints are so common that Utah Legal Services recently hired an additional law clerk to work 20 hours per week on such cases. Another attorney who used to spend about five hours a week on landlord/tenant complaints is now spending about 30 hours a week on the problem.