If “my landlord is selling the house I rent—what are my rights?” is a phrase you’ve Googled lately, we feel your pain. Since landlords own the property you’re living in, they do have the right to sell it whenever they want. Still, that doesn’t mean that they can just kick their renters out on the street immediately. Tenants have rights, too! Here’s what you should know and how to handle things when a landlord is selling your home.
Do you have to move when a landlord sells?
Don’t just assume you have to vacate immediately. If you’re lucky, your landlord might sell to a buyer who will be happy to sign a new lease with you once the sale goes through. So, check with the new owner. But if that’s not an option, or you’re unhappy with the new lease terms, you might have to move out.
When do you have to move?
If you’re on a month-to-month lease, in most states, landlords are required to give a 30-day written notice to vacate if they decide to sell. Some areas have different laws, though, so it’s wise to check. For example, lucky Seattle dwellers have 60 days; you can check your states here.
If you signed a lease for longer—like a year or two—you likely have the legal right to stay put until your lease ends. Even if the house sells before your lease is up, the new owner has to respect that legally binding contract.
“A lease is tied to a property, not an owner,” explains Lucas Hall, founder of Landlordology. So even if the homeowner changes, the lease remains. “Even a specific month-to-month agreement will transfer,” adds Hall.
Check for a ‘lease termination due to sale’ clause
Also check if your contract contains a “lease termination due to sale” clause. In that case, whatever is stated there stands; even long-term leases might not have any protection, Hall notes.
In other words, if you have eight months left on your lease but your contract says the lease termination due to sale is 30 days, then 30 days is all you get.
One piece of advice—which we’ll admit is information you maybe could have used sooner—is that you can negotiate how much time a landlord is required to give you if he terminates a lease due to sale. The catch is, you have to do it before you sign the lease.
“For example, if the landlord wants the option to terminate the lease due to sale, the tenant could require the landlord give at least 60 days’ notice, and/or require a ‘buyout’ of a certain amount of money,” Hall says.
If it’s too late to put this advice into action this time around, keep that little nugget in mind for the future.
Look into a tenant relocation allowance
It sure would be nice if your landlord paid you to move out, wouldn’t it? Admittedly, it is rare, but there are some circumstances under which your landlord might be obligated to fork over some cash in order to get you to vacate, due to the fact that he’s decided to sell your building or upgrade it to condos.
In San Francisco, for example, under the Ellis Act, each tenant receives $5,555.21 if evicted from a unit. This is known as a tenant relocation allowance, or tenant relocation payment, and should be included in your state’s landlord and tenant laws.
Keep your landlord in line
While you’re still living in the rental, you have basic tenant rights. For example, your landlord can’t cut off your water or electricity, enter your rental without notice (except in an emergency), or hire a remodeling crew to work until 2 a.m. If you think your landlord is violating your tenant rights, contact a tenant lawyer or your local housing authority for help.
What happens to your security deposit
Your landlord is legally required to return your security deposit, sans any needed repairs or cleaning, after you move. State laws vary, but generally a landlord has 14 to 60 days to send you a check after you move.
When the time comes, treat the move like any other. Make sure you remove all of your property, clean the rental, and return the keys to the landlord. If possible, do a walk through with your landlord, and give him a written notice that includes your new address. That way, you can end things on a good note before you move out, and on with life.
| Aug 7, 2017
Angela Colley contributed to this article.