The Appellate Group

Martin v. Kristensen

Martin v. Kristensen, 2021 UT 17 (Lee, A.C.J.)

Family Law; Unlawful Detainer

Wife and Husband lived in a home that was owned by Husband’s Father. When Wife filed for divorce from Husband, Father gave Wife a notice to vacate the home, but Wife refused the vacate the home. Wife then received an order from the divorce court awarding her use of the home pending the resolution of the divorce proceedings. Several years later, a trial was held on the unlawful detainer action, and the court concluded that Wife was guilty of unlawful detainer. Because she was in unlawful detainer of the home for seven years, the damages were over $900,000: over $224,000 for the fair market rental value for the property plus statutory trebling. The court of appeals affirmed. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed, holding:

  • A temporary possession order does not deprive a landlord of the right to the remedies available upon an eventual determination of unlawful detainer on final judgment; the statutory scheme makes clear that the landlord’s remedies are not suspended or affected by an order authorizing a tenant’s temporary possession.
  • Although the damages award is large, the statute requires trebling of damages, and Wife was at fault for much of the delay in resolving the unlawful detainer action.

Read the full court opinion