Starting Nov. 1, 2016, a new court rule will require residential landlords and tenants to exchange more information and to do so earlier in all unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuits, with failure to comply potentially costing a party the case.
If you’ve ever been involved in an eviction or other unlawful detainer lawsuit, you know how fast it can move. In a typical case the defendant has 21 days to respond, and it can take months to get in front of a judge and years to get a decision. In an eviction case, the process has been streamlined so the tenant is usually required to respond within 3 business days, and the parties can get in front of the judge and get at least a partial decision within 10 days after that.
One problem with this streamlined process is that it doesn’t work well with other rules requiring the parties to exchange information “early” in the case (typically 2 to 6 weeks after the first answer is filed). Because parties were able to get in front of the court before the deadlines to exchange information, they were sometimes able to ambush the other side with new information (especially when the other side was not represented by an attorney), and to ask the court to make decisions based on that information, which could be both inefficient and unfair.
The new rule, approved by the Utah Supreme Court addresses this issue. Starting in November, landlords will have to give the tenant copies of the rental agreement, copies of the eviction notice, calculations of damages, and an explanation of the basis for the eviction when they file their complaint. If either party requests an “occupancy” hearing, both parties are required to exchange information, including a list of witnesses and other evidence at specified times before the hearing. Notably, the new rule requires the landlord to tell the tenant about this obligation. Finally, the parties are required to exchange additional information with each other at least two weeks before trial.
The consequences of a party’s failure to follow the new rule could range from delays, which can be costly for both landlords and tenants, to the court’s refusal to let that party present its evidence, which can change the entire outcome of the case. Need help getting it right? Feel free to give me a call.
 See Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 26.3.
Mark B. Thornton