It’s no secret that Utah is a landlord-friendly state, with some of the toughest tenancy and eviction laws in the country. But one element of state law that favors renters is security deposit protection.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported in February that a dozen J-1 visa workers paid $12,000 a month to live together in a one-bedroom apartment at the base of Park City Mountain.
After being evicted for violating the fire safety law, which limits the number of occupants in apartments, the workers have since found new housing and are expected to return to Argentina later this month.
But one problem remains: they didn’t get their $7,000 bail back.
Park City attorney Robert Rosing, who usually handles business and real estate cases, said a friend who works on the mountain briefed him on the situation.
Since then he has represented the workers to help them get their money back.
“In this case you are dealing with a group of seasonal workers who are clearly being taken advantage of,” Rosing said.
“They paid $12,000 a month together for two months for a one-bedroom apartment that the landlord still has. And now the landlord is refusing to give them back their $7,000 deposit, which seems like a pretty horrible and frankly petty thing to do.”
Rosing said the Utah code, which governs security deposits, requires landlords to return money to renters within 30 days or to write a notice explaining why it won’t be returned. He said neither has happened yet.
Owner Van Perkins could not be reached for comment. A representative of Manager Summit Key could not provide any information on the payment of the deposit.
Rosing said he thinks the workers’ case is particularly strong because the landlord agreed to a lease that he said was illegal from the start because it applied to 12 tenants and violated occupancy rules.
The attorney doesn’t typically work pro bono due to a busy schedule, but said he’s willing to do so given what the J-1 workforce is doing for the city.
“Seasonal workers are an incredibly important part of the economy here in Park City,” Rosing said.
“Skiing makes Park City run and seasonal workers make the season run. So exploiting seasonal workers seems like a pretty minor thing. And I was happy to try to help them.”
Rosing plans to send a letter to Perkins and Summit Key next week demanding the return of $7,000. If they don’t comply, he plans to press charges against them for violating the lease and the state code.