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Landlord selling house? Know your tenant rights

Real Estate

Real estate owners can buy and sell as they choose. As property owners, the decision to hold onto an asset or to sell it remains their personal choice. However, that does not mean that a landlord can sell your home out from underneath you without any notice or consideration.

Federal, state, and local governments grant tenants certain rights as property renters. While the decisions that landlords make are wholly their own, they impact the lives and shelters of their tenants. Renters deserve accommodation for appropriate notice to relocate and a refund of any security deposit.

Here’s what you should know about your tenant rights if your landlord is selling your rental property.

Landlord selling house? Know your tenant rights

Do I have to move if my landlord sells the property?

You do not necessarily need to move if your landlord sells the property. For example, the new property owner may simply be purchasing your home or apartment to continue to operate it as a rental property. This scenario occurs somewhat frequently, especially in larger apartment building or multifamily communities. You may need to sign a new lease once the sale of the property is complete.

In other instances, the new property owner may intend to renovate, rebuild, or even remove the building and will ask tenants to relocate. When this happens, landlords need to carefully follow all applicable laws and regulations for eviction and vacancy. Check with your local housing agency to learn more about the rules and regulations in place in your area. The details can vary from city to city or state to state.

When do I need to move if my landlord sells?

When you need to move if your landlord sells the property varies by where you live. In many areas, especially for tenants with month-to-month leases, the short answer is 30 days. Though some tenant-friendly areas, like Seattle, enforce a longer notice period of 60 days. In general, it is a good idea to check your state and city landlord tenant laws before you sign a lease. If you did not check before signing on the dotted line, it is never too late to still learn more.

Many areas enforce laws that respect long-term leases. If you signed a fixed-term lease for a long period of time, say for a full year or more, then you may have the legal right to remain in your rental residence until your lease ends. In places where this type of regulation is upheld, the new owner often must respect your lease even when completing the purchase before your lease ends.

Check for a “lease termination due to sale” clause in your lease

Before signing a lease, check if the document contains a “lease termination due to sale” clause. This type of legal language carves out a specific amount of notice time if your landlord sells the property. For example, if you have 6 months remaining on your lease but your lease agreement contains this clause, you might only have 30 or 60 days to vacate the property after a sale. Take note, you may be able to negotiate for a longer notice period or to fully remove this type of clause before you sign. Yet, it is important to mention that you can only do so before you sign the lease or else you will need to negotiate nullifying your lease and signing an entirely new agreement, which may be difficult.

Know if you have a tenant relocation allowance from your landlord

Tenant relocation allowances are rare and valuable. If your lease includes a tenant relocation allowance, then your contract legally obligates your landlord to either party or fully compensate you to relocate after selling the property. For example, San Francisco entitles residents to potentially receive thousands of dollars from their landlords if the property owner evicts them. While rare, you may want to check if you lease agreement contains this type of consideration or whether your local government enforces a general allowance after eviction.

What happens to your security deposit?

Your landlord is legally obligated to return your security deposit less any expenses for repairs and cleaning beyond normal wear and tear. State laws around security deposits vary. Generally, though, your landlord will need to return your security deposit money within 2 weeks to 2 months. To ensure you receive your full deposit, be certain to treat the property as though it were your own while you rent it. Clean up often and thoroughly and avoid causing any damage to your floors, walls, fixtures, and rented appliances.