Rumors are running wild around the pristine pool, between the treadmills, and down the well-manicured walkways of your apartment. Word is that your apartment’s owner is selling the place. Sally Sue down in apartment 17 claims everyone has to move out by the end of the month, or the new owner will come in and repossess all property left in your apartment. Is Sally Sue right? What can you do in this situation? Read on to find the answers to the multitude of questions likely to be racing through your mind at this moment.
Can I be evicted?
In most cases, no. The sale of a property is not cause for eviction unless there’s a clause in your lease permitting the landlord to terminate your lease upon selling the property. Your lease agreement doesn’t just require you to pay rent for the lease period. It also requires your landlord to rent the apartment to you for the lease period, and neither party can break this agreement without consent or a clause written into the lease.
Laws may vary by state, however. California’s Ellis Act can allow new owners to evict current residents with 120 days’ notice in some circumstances, but it also requires new owners to pay relocation expenses for those in need and also allows for former tenants to sue if the new owner opens up any apartments for rent within the next two years. Basically, this act is designed to allow the purchaser to convert the property from apartments to another use, not to allow new owners to evict and replace tenants at will.
How much time do I have to move out?
As stated, you should not be evicted by a new landlord except under certain provisions. The length of your former lease agreement remains valid unless you sign a new contract with the new landlord. You should be given ample notice if required to move out of your existing apartment.
Is the new owner my new landlord?
Unless a clause is written into your lease agreement that addresses the sale of the building, you are entitled to live in your apartment for the term of the lease. The buyer of the apartment complex should understand that purchasing a property brings with it the responsibility of upholding all existing lease agreements as a landlord. Even if the old landlord doesn’t specifically describe these agreements, the law holds that anyone purchasing a unit already occupied by tenants is assumed to have “constructive notice” of the associated lease agreements. If a tenant is living in an apartment at the time of the sale of the property, the buyer is presumed to have known about the lease arrangement and cannot evade upholding this agreement as the new owner. Basically, it’s the fault of the buyer if he or she failed to investigate the situation and learn about the existing tenants, and you are still entitled to live out your lease.
Do I have to sign a new lease agreement? What if the new landlord raises my rent?
You never have to sign a new lease agreement with a new landlord unless there was a clause in your existing agreement requiring you to do so. A new landlord will very likely try to convince you to sign a new agreement, probably for a higher rent. Don’t do this unless you see an incentive in it for you. The new owner must honor existing lease agreements for their full term and at the specified rental rate. If you sign a new lease agreement, however, it replaces your former contract and you’re now bound to pay the rent specified in the new lease.
Will I get my security deposit back?
Your security deposit must either be returned to you or transferred to the apartment’s new owner/landlord by your former landlord. The latter option is obviously only relevant if you continue residing in the same apartment. As with any security deposit situation, your landlord is required to provide an itemized list of deductions if the deposit is not returned in full. Along with this information, the old landlord should provide you with the exact name and contact information of the new landlord, as well as the amount of money transferred to the new landlord. If your old landlord does not transfer the deposit to your new landlord but does not inform you of the situation, the new landlord is still responsible for returning your deposit at the end of your lease.
What if I want to move out?
Just as your new landlord is expected to uphold your existing lease agreement by providing you with a place to stay, you’re expected to uphold the lease by continuing to pay rent. Getting out of the lease with a new landlord will probably require a similar process as getting out of any lease. However, it might be slightly easier, as the new landlord may be eager to move in some new tenants and raise the rent from whatever price you were paying.
In sum, the sale of the property where you live does not affect your current lease, you will not be evicted, and you do not have to sign a new lease agreement if you don’t want to. If your new landlord tries to pressure you into moving out or changing your lease agreement, consult with your lawyer or local tenants’ rights group. You may want to involve your fellow tenants in your mission, especially if the landlord is pressuring everyone to move out and/or pay more. By buying the property where you live, the landlord takes over your lease, so make sure he or she honors it.