Property Rights

New law allows owner-occupied rentals statewide

Utah’s Speaker of the House Brad Wilson said that here in Utah, we have “not only the fastest-growing state in the country we’ve had some of the most aggressive and dramatic increases in housing costs in the country in the last decade.” Anyone who has tried to buy a house in the last year understands this all too well. 

The options on the market have rapidly decreased and consequently, the price of a home has significantly increased. 

Lawmakers and stakeholders are working hard to solve this problem, and there is a wide range of ways to approach this issue. This year, work was done that will not only increase the supply of housing available, but also bolsters the ability of property owners to do what they want with their own property. 

Representative Ray Ward introduced HB 82, which passed through both the House and Senate and was signed by the governor early this week. 

HB 82 makes having an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) within your owner-occupied home a permitted use throughout Utah. In many Utah cities, having an ADU or a mother-in-law apartment is illegal. Restrictions on this practice govern every aspect of the issue from whether or not you can have an ADU, to how large it can be, to where the entrance must be. While many local governments do not prohibit the practice, burdensome regulations can make it nearly impossible to accomplish. 

This new legislation requires most local governments to reduce or eliminate these restrictions in most of their locality. As a result, people will be more free to use their property as they see fit, including converting existing space into an additional living space. 

The price and lack of housing in Utah is a serious problem, and whatever can be done to reduce regulations and therefore increase supply, should be done. Representative Ward pointed out that when it comes to addressing this problem, we should work with the infrastructure we have already invested in. In Utah, that means better leveraging large, single-family homes which are left empty as families develop. 

Most importantly though, Utahns should have the ability to use their property the way they want to. If it makes sense for a family to rent out their basement and they’re not harming anyone in the process, onerous regulations should not stand in their way. 

We commend Representative Ward for working so hard on this issue. Not only was he able to reach a consensus with the involved stakeholders, he prioritized property rights as he addressed the logistical issues of a housing crisis in Utah.