18-year-old evicted from Utah County student housing after landlord says her suicidal thoughts were a breach of contract

(Screenshot) A woman in Orem was sent this letter by her landlord on Tuesday, October 13, 2020.

Editor’s note: This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.

An 18-year-old woman is being evicted from student housing in Orem, with the landlord suggesting she broke her contract because she “vocalized suicidal tendencies” to her roommates last month.

The notice was taped on her door sometime Tuesday, where she found it after getting out of bed. Still in her pajamas, she said, she immediately panicked and tried to start packing up her belongings.

“But I was shaking so heavily that I couldn’t move anything,” she recounted.

The Salt Lake Tribune is not naming the woman at her request for privacy in regards to her mental health. Her identity has been verified, and The Tribune has spoken with a family friend who has also seen the letter from the apartment complex.

Ventana Student Housing, which owns the building, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. But the letter is signed by the landlord and includes the company’s logo, address, phone number and email address at the top.

The woman said Thursday that the notice has made her feel worse, and she’s been struggling more in the past few days with managing her symptoms of depression. She’s moved in with a friend, though, and is currently receiving support.

“The landlord is telling me not to live here because I was having suicidal thoughts,” she said Thursday. “That’s not something I can help. And it’s just hurtful.”

She said she has had depression for the past two years, beginning after her mom died in September 2018. The stress of school and the isolation with COVID-19, she said, compounded things recently. That’s when she decided to confide in her three roommates, two of which she’d known before moving in this August.

She wanted to explain to them why she hadn’t been leaving her room much and, with one of them being a co-worker, why she’d failed to show up to her job. She’d also recently decided to drop her classes at Utah Valley University. She was feeling low and suicidal and hoped they might be able to help her move forward.

A family friend of the woman said she told her that the roommates brushed her off and said she was being dramatic. She didn’t talk to them much after that and stayed inside her room even more.

Then, three weeks later, she found the note on her door.

Her roommates had gone to housing management. The notice from the landlord begins by suggesting that the woman violated her lease contract, pointing specifically to two parameters: breaching the “quiet enjoyment of the premises” and threatening “endangerment of human life.”

“We have been made aware that you have vocalized suicidal tendencies which has caused … stress and alarm to your roommates,” it added. “At this time, we are choosing to terminate your contract, as explained above. We ask that you take the next few days to move out your belongings and find alternative housing.”

It gives her a final eviction date of Oct. 19 — six days after the notice.

“I was completely shocked,” the woman said. “I just didn’t know what to do.”

Nate Crippes, an attorney with the Disability Law Center in Utah, believes that she could take legal action against the landlord, if she wants. He said the eviction appears to violate the federal Fair Housing Act, which protects against discrimination.

That would include someone with a mental illness, Crippes noted.

“This just seems particularly egregious,” he added. “You have a person who is literally and clearly going through something to the point where they’re expressing thoughts of suicide. To then turn around and say, ‘I’m going to evict you,’ it’s just a real problem.”

Crippes said that there’s stigma surrounding depression, and people often view an individual struggling as “a danger.”

“It’s frustrating, and it’s sad,” he said. “It’s just not the case. And I would have hoped to see more compassion."

The apartment complex exclusively houses students at Utah Valley University, but it is not owned or operated by the school. UVU spokesperson Scott Trotter said Thursday that the university sympathizes with the woman, but “we couldn’t even do anything if we wanted to.”

The woman called a friend, who has helped her, and moved her stuff temporarily to their house. And on Thursday, she began searching for a new apartment.

She said she doesn’t want to challenge the landlord, but she fears that this could happen to someone else. “That’s the part that upsets me the most,” she noted.

She has tried reaching the office but hasn’t heard back from anyone there.