My Landlord is Selling My Rental. What Do I Do?

If you’ve recently received notice that your landlord intends to sell the apartment or home you’re currently renting, don’t panic just yet. Unfortunately, a homeowner – in this case your landlord – can legally sell the home whenever he or she wants. However, you always have renter’s rights as a tenant and your landlord can’t just kick you to the curb. If you signed a lease agreement, your landlord must honor the appropriate terms.

What are my rights if I signed a term lease agreement?

A term lease agreement means you and your landlord have agreed to a rental situation for a designated amount of time. Typically, term lease agreements range from six months to one year, but they can be shorter or longer depending on your landlord’s preferences. If your landlord decides to sell the property you’re renting during your contracted lease agreement, you can’t be forced out of your home earlier than expected. 

If a buyer purchases the property you rent while you occupy the home, they must agree to take over the lease and honor the terms outlined in the lease. Some buyers may ask you to sign a new lease with their own terms and conditions, but technically you are not required to do so as the resident. When your original lease comes to an end, it is up to the buyer to decide if they would like to continue renting the property or not.

The exception to this rule would be if special conditions regarding a property sale are spelled out in your lease agreement. If your state allows it, your lease might contain language that says something along the lines of, “in the event of a sale, the current lease agreement will be void once a new owner takes over the property.” While this type of clause is not common, be sure to fully read and understand any lease agreement before you sign, taking note of terms and conditions that may impact you down the road. 

Another exception would be if you and your landlord come to a mutual agreement to end the lease. If your landlord notifies you they intend to sell and it turns out you have another housing opportunity or were looking to get out of your lease early anyway, you can agree to move out on a designated date without being penalized for breaking the lease. In some cases, you may have leverage to ask for relocation fees from your landlord since you are doing them a favor by moving out early. 

What are my rights if I’m on a month-to-month lease agreement?

While there are certainly pros to month-to-month leases, one of the cons is the lack of security in your housing situation. Many landlords choose to rent on a month-to-month basis when selling the property is on their radar for the future. 

If your landlord decides they would like you to move out prior to a sale or because they have sold, all they are required to do is provide you with proper notice of terminating tenancy and a specified move out date. Most states require landlords to give residents anywhere from 30-60 days notice, informing the resident that the lease will end and the exact date they expect the resident to move out.    

While it can be stressful to learn that you have to move, this may have been one of the factors you considered when agreeing to a month-to-month lease. Notices to vacate are not the same as an eviction, and you can still end your rental tenancy on friendly terms with your landlord by cooperating with requests (as long as you have been given proper notice).

How can I best handle the sale process while still occupying a rental?

If you’re still occupying the property, as is outlined in your lease agreement, you retain the same basic tenant rights. Your landlord is still not permitted to enter your property without notice (unless there is an emergency), hire painting or remodeling crews to work late at night or early in the morning, or turn off any utilities. Be sure to speak up if you think your landlord is violating the terms of your lease agreement. 

Try to keep the lines of communication open with your landlord and remain calm and respectful. In the best scenario, your landlord will be upfront about his or her intention to sell, and keep you informed as to whether or not the interested parties will keep the property as a rental or not. The more friendly and cooperative you are during the process, the more likely your landlord will be to recommend new buyers to keep you as a tenant. 

How do I deal with real estate agents and property showings?

One of the most frustrating parts of living in a rental property that is for sale is dealing with the sudden influx of property showings, inspections, and other upgrades that your landlord chooses to make in order to sell. These activities can be a big disruption to your daily life, privacy, and comfort in your home. While the idea of strangers in your home may be uncomfortable, as long as your landlord is giving you proper notice, there is not much you can do but live with the chaos as a renter. 

Your landlord must give you 24 hours notice (this time frame may differ from state to state) before a real estate agent, inspector, contractor, or anyone else enters your rental. Landlords do not always have to be present during these activities, and they don’t necessarily have to accommodate your request for you to be present either. Keeping the lines of communication open here will benefit you once again if you can come up with solutions where you will feel comfortable and your landlord is still able to sell his home. The more accommodating you are during the selling process, the quicker the disruption will be over.  

Don’t forget that it is not acceptable for real estate agents to show up and enter the property unannounced. They must provide advanced notice, according to your state laws, to enter the property and show it to any potential buyers. If you’re experiencing this issue, be sure to bring it up with your landlord so he can correct the misunderstanding with the agent. 

Receiving notice of your landlord’s intention to sell can seem overwhelming, but it is, unfortunately, a situation that is out of your control as a renter. By keeping in regular contact with your landlord and being cooperative throughout the process, your landlord will return the favor and the process should be easier for everyone involved. When the time comes to move out, treat it like any other move out process: clean your rental, remove all items from the property, and return all keys to your landlord. End things on good terms with your landlord and move on to finding your next place to call home.