Whether you love the place you rent or have been toying with the idea of moving for months now, the decision to leave or stay should be your decision. But when rumblings start circulating about a property being sold, tenants get nervous. While the rumors may have no validity, they may be real in the future, so it’s important to know what implications a sale has on your security deposit and lease agreement.
Plain and Simple
Whether you buy a house or apartment building with tenants, the same rules apply. No one is going to throw you out in the street without due process, and if they attempt to do so, there are laws and tenant support agencies in place to protect your rights. Whether you have a long-term lease or a month-to-month rental agreement, the new property owner typically has to agree to those terms. A few states have exceptions to these laws, but most leases and rentals are bound by stipulations that protect tenants.
Carefully Review Your Agreement
Start by digging out your lease agreement and carefully going over each section. It should clearly state that the agreement is binding, which means that neither you nor the landlord (old or new) can alter the monthly rent amount or end date unless the terms are changed and agreed to by both parties in writing. This also means you can’t be evicted unless your rent is unpaid and/or you’ve violated set rules, like altering the interior of your unit in major ways without permission or conducting unlawful activities.
Being Asked to Move
In some cases, the new landlord has plans to convert the building into another type of property altogether, such as condos or a retail business. Sometimes they even plan to demolish the old building to make room for new construction. In these situations, you may be asked to move within a 120-day (four month) grace period. To get you out sooner, the new landlord may offer you incentives like free rent for a month or two or a generous amount of money for relocation expenses. Whether you accept those terms or not is up to you, but think long and hard before you sign anything, because any new agreements will supercede old ones and you’ll be bound by law to comply to them.
New Ownership, New Landlord
While the new owner will likely be your new landlord (unless a property manager is in charge), that shouldn’t affect the terms of your original agreement. Until (and if) you sign a new lease, everything must remain the same until the old one expires. Be prepared if you have a month-to-month agreement, though, as the new owner has the option to change the terms of these quite quickly, including the amount of your monthly rent. Decide ahead of time how much of an increase you can bear and hone your negotiation skills. Above all, be friendly and polite when discussing the new terms.
Eventually, your lease will expire. It’s common for new landlords to increase the rent, so again you have to choose the best option for your situation. If the landlord promises new amenities in the building such as upgraded laundry room equipment, more security, covered parking, etc., make sure the new lease includes all those promises in clear, concise writing, including the dates by which they’ll each be completed.
New ownership should not affect the amount of your security deposit, nor should it have an impact on its return when you vacate the property. The old landlord can return it to you directly or transfer it to the new owner to handle the transaction. In either case, you’re still entitled to an itemized list of any deductions taken. Just make sure to brush up on local laws on what is considered normal wear-and-tear so you are fairly refunded.
You may have loved the old landlord and/or have an instant dislike of the new one. Regardless of your feelings, you are as legally bound as them to uphold your end of the deal. You should still give a minimum 30-day notice before moving out and leave the place in good condition. If your new landlord is eager to get rid of old tenants to bring in new ones at higher rental rates, you may be able to negotiate a deal to reduce your final rent payments in exchange for moving out more quickly.
Prospective New Tenants
When you give notice that you’re moving, the landlord will naturally want to show prospective tenants your apartment or house. The same rules apply to this scenario as they do to contractors entering your home. Ideally, you should be home for such visits for privacy and security reasons, and asked well ahead of time if the visit is convenient for you. If the landlord wants to show the property in your absence, they need your written permission.
A change in rental property ownership doesn’t need to be traumatic. In fact, in some cases it can even be a blessing in disguise. Just brush up on the applicable laws and statutes that govern your city, county, and state, and your problems should be kept to a minimum.